Lauren K. Denton talks about using gardening as a metaphor for life in her latest novel Glory Road.
Channeling the gardener she wants to be, Lauren K. Denton set her latest novel Glory Road in the fictional, country town of Perry, Alabama. Her main character Jessie McBride lives on the red dirt road named Glory and operates a garden shop called Twig. Jessie lives next door to her shop with her teenage daughter, Evan, and her mother, Gus, is just down the road. Denton uses the unexpected arrival of two men to make Jessie question her happiness. Sumner Tate is a handsome, wealthy businessman who asks her to arrange flowers for his daughter’s wedding. Ben Bradley is her “what if” from high school who moves back to the red dirt road.
In one summer, everything will change for Jessie and her family. The roots they’ve planted on Glory Road will be upended and their strength tested as their hearts are pulled in new directions. We talked to Lauren K. Denton by phone from her home outside Birmingham about how gardening inspired this book and her own green thumb, or lack thereof.
Erin Z. Bass: You’ve said that you don’t have a green thumb. How did the gardening angle for this book come about?
Lauren K. Denton: I first conceived of the idea of these ladies living on this dirt road. I knew I needed something for Jessie to do and that I wanted her to be outside a lot. Gardening is something I wish I could do well. My mom is a really great gardener and she gets so much joy from spending time outside. I love quotes at the beginning of a chapter, and I thought having gardening quotes would be a fun little Easter egg things for readers.
Certain plants can alert us to insect intruders, warn us of coming rain or snow, or foretell an especially warm spring. While there’s no plant or flower that can warn us of major life changes, the very act of gardening can be a solace to us in the midst of those changes.” – Sela Ruth McGovern, The Wisdom of Gardening
EZB: How much research did you do to find the quotes for the beginning of each chapter?
LKD: I did a whole lot of research to the point where if you follow the advice in the little quotes, it’s correct but I sort of massaged it to give hints of what’s coming in that chapter. I thought, I want a quote about something that could go wrong. I started researching along that way and I came across tomatoes and that if you overwater tomatoes they can split and crack. I want the reader to wonder what’s going to be cracking and splitting in this chapter.
EZB: Is Twig based on a place you’ve been or did you scour Pinterest?
LKD: I wanted it to be like a great old potting shed. My mom has a little shed at her house and she attached these two old wooden shutters that were painted blue. This road felt very familiar to me, and I felt like I could see a really quaint, rustic looking shop. You run across gardening shops on backroads. Usually, the person lives next door or in the back and there’s pots everywhere and a cat running around. Twig is a nod to those country gardening shops that pop up on the side of the road. Pinterest gave me a whole lot of inspiration for what these gardening shops could look like.
EZB: The cover is just beautiful. Tell me about getting it right?
LKD: I really like the cover a lot. It came a long way and started in a very different place with a bike on the cover. It’s the same designer that did Hurricane Season and The Hideaway. My covers are really bright and vivid and this one started in a place that wasn’t that, so I felt honored and thankful that they were letting me give them so much feedback. We went round and round. I probably saw 50 covers and I love that we ended up with a red dirt road.
EZB: What connections are you trying to make between gardening and life?
LKD: My experience with gardening is, through no fault or credit to me, some things just work and some don’t. I like the idea of in gardening you start with this sort of blank slate and the hope is beautiful things can come from this dirt, but underneath the soil all this stuff goes on that we can’t see. I like the idea of unexpected things coming from something painful.
I also like to walk with women through situations they’re in and see how it changes them for better or worse. I knew these three ladies were going to have various things come into their life over the course of a summer and wanted to see what pops out of that. Gardening is a good metaphor for that.
EZB: In reviews, readers have said this book feels different, in a good way, from Hurricane Season and The Hideaway. Can you explain that?
LKD: I hope that, as a writer, I’m getting stronger. That practice of a book a year is hopefully making good things happen. I like writing from different points of view, and the book I’m just about to turn in has two points of view. I hope that Glory Road feels deeper and richer and more layered.
EZB: What did your mom think of the book?
LKD: She loved it. She was one of the very first readers before I sent it to my editor and then she just read it again once she got the hard copy. The setting is based on her parents, the road they lived on my whole childhood. It felt very familiar for her and for me. It was a red dirt road until I went to college. I tried to capture the feel of how it’s so quiet, the dirt just kind of deadens and you hear the wind in the trees and you hear birds, and it feels kind of remote.