ABOUT AUTHOR: Ruth Axtell knew she wanted to be a writer ever since she wrote her first story—a spy thriller—at the age of twelve. She studied comparative literature at Smith College, spending her junior year at the Sorbonne in Paris. After college, she taught English in the Canary Islands, then worked in international development in Miami, Florida, before moving to the Netherlands, where for the next several years she juggled both writing and raising three children. In 1994, her second manuscript was a finalist in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart competition. In 2002, her sixth manuscript took second place in the Laurie Contest of RWA’s Smoky Mountain chapter. The final judge requested her full manuscript and this became her first published book, Winter Is Past. Since then, Ruth Axtell has gone on to publish sixteen historical romances and one novella. Her books have been translated into Dutch, Italian, German, Polish, and Afrikaans. Her second historical, Wild Rose, was chosen by Booklist as a “Top Ten Christian Fiction” selection in 2005. Ruth lives on the coast of Maine where she enjoys gardening, walking, swimming, reading romances, and gazing at the ocean plotting her next romance.

With her next book, A Heart’s Rebellion, (Baker/Revell, March 2014), Ruth returns to Regency London.

Ruth I was wondering how your passion for gardening started? I was also wondering if you included something about your passion in your books.

I first began to take an interest in flowers when I used to visit my great aunt over summer vacations. She lived in Connecticut and had beautiful flower beds. She'd been a member of the garden club and a lifelong gardener. I learned a lot from her, but it was some years before I could put it into practice (except for starting with house plants, even in my college dorm).
Ruth's Flower Garden
When planting my gardens here in Maine, I love watching seeds sprout. Then they become tender green little shoots. By mid-summer it's a lush bed of plants with barely any soil visible. By August it begins becoming a jungle!

My love of gardening began spilling over into my books when I wrote my second manuscript, Wild Rose. All my trials and travails with my first vegetable garden in the rocky, acidic Maine soil came out in that book, in which I have the hero plant a garden, and the heroine, an experience gardener, looking on and seeing him make all kinds of mistakes, before she intervenes.

I love flowers. My idea of paradise? An English cottage garden.

Since I moved to Downeast Maine in the late 90s, I have gardened in earnest. The area is a challenge to gardeners, especially if you’re drawn to English cottage gardens, since the summers are short, they can be damp or foggy, there are lots of bugs, and the soil is rocky and acidic.

Ruth's Veggie
Ruth's Garden Veggies

The first year I attempted my first large-scale vegetable garden, the few vegetables I harvested were stunted. The following year I had the soil tested and began to change the pH with applications of lime. Each year I composted, throwing in everything from kitchen waste to grass clippings, lobster, and clam shells.

Ruth's Big Tomato

Slowly, the soil improved. I also discovered what did well and what didn't (cabbage moths get anything in the brassica family including broccoli). Kale, lettuces, potatoes, all kinds of peas and beans are almost foolproof. But my idea of success is whether or not I manage to get a good crop of tomatoes: heirloom varieties preferred. So far, I've managed to harvest them by late August into September every year! My latest favorite variety is Brandywine. Someone gave my daughter a seedling last spring and it turned into one of the best producers in our garden that summer.

But back to flowers. I've about given up on cultivated roses. But Downeast Maine abounds in wild roses, from the 5-petaled fragrant pink ones to the double, fuchsia-colored Rosa rugosas, whose perfume is almost overpowering.

Over the years I've filled my flower gardens with perennials, only using annuals to fill in gaps here and there. Self-seeding annuals are great, flowers like poppies, candy tuft or black-eyed Susan, which will come back every year. Dill and chamomile are wonderful self-sowers in the herb garden, another kind of garden I've coaxed along over the years.

Flowers have played a role in many of my historical novels, from Wild Rose , where the rose is a key player, to a flower-filled Dutch-style garden at Kensington Palace in A Gentleman’s Homecoming, where a first kiss occurs.
It was a natural for me to feature flowers in my latest regency novel, A Heart’s Rebellion. The hero, Lancelot Marfleet, is an amateur botanist, as is the heroine Jessamine Barry’s father. Both are vicars. One key scene between the hero and heroine takes place during an outing to Kew Gardens just outside of London. This time a first kiss occurs in a hothouse among some very exotic plants. The heroine feels quite overpowered by the humid tropical atmosphere—or is it by the hero’s proximity? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Wow, Ruth. Thanks for letting us get to know you and for giving us a peek into your passion. Thanks for all the fun pictures too! My grandmother loved gardening and spent hours doing it. I never found out where her passion for it started. I enjoyed watching her do it and enjoyed looking at it but never liked doing it. Grin! She lived in Florida where it's hot, hot, hot. Thanks for sharing your journey!

I’m THRILLED that your new novel, A Heart’s Rebellion is featured at THE BOOK CLUB NETWORK this month. The Contest starts MARCH 25th and will run through the end of the month. You have some great questions for readers to answer. I’m looking forward to the discussion.

You can encourage Ruth here but to ENTER the DRAWING you'll have to Join The Book Fun Network It's Free and Easy. Ruth will be at the discussion too!

Nora :o)

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading about Ruth Axell's gardening experiences. I'm hoping to do a little flower gardening this summer and start amending my soil, so I can grown tomatoes.