Gnomes have created these decoys – the garden gnome that we commonly recognize, to hide their true identity from the rest of the world. They have been doing this for so many years and living in hiding; that they have cut themselves off from the other magical creatures and the magic of the forest. Two of the gnomes, Duke and Dale left the clan long ago and are beginning to feel guilty for leaving their friends behind. They meet three fairy sisters who want to join their journey to spread the knowledge of gnome magic. Tragedy strikes back at the clan and the crew decide to go back to their home for the first time in ages before embarking on their journey.
What will the gnomes face when they return home? What will their journey bring? To guide us through the magic of gnomes, Cassandra Wood, author of ‘Getting Gnome: Return to the Forest’ has kindly agreed to chat with me today. Cassandra thanks for joining me today. Gnomes are one of those magical creatures that many people overlook. What initially drew your attention to the look deeper into the lives of gnomes?
The idea came to me as a play on words. I was talking with a friend about the tragedy of becoming famous and how that it would be amazing to never “become known”. We were joking around for awhile about how that sounded like becoming gnome or getting gnome and so on. The seed was planted and I developed a whole world around a clan of gnomes that didn’t want to be known anymore, but consequently forgot what it meant to be a gnome.
*Laughs* That’s awesome that an entire book developed from something as simple as wordplay! I imagine that some very complex personalities must exist within a clan of gnomes that don’t want to be known anymore. Can you introduce us to some of these characters and explain how they developed within the clan?
Dwight was the first one to come to me, and in the beginning I thought it was all going to be told from his perspective. I likened him to the old sage of the forest, so intrinsically linked to the health and vitality of the trees that he is at peace with the universe. He came to me shortly after I had the conversation about “Getting Gnome”. Duke and Dale came to me next as the swashbuckling duo who took on the world by storm. They were not scared of anything, despite the fact that gnomes truly were in danger. The two of them represent the undying spirit of adventure, and that no matter how dire things get they never live in fear. Dawn and Dusty were close contenders to each becoming the protagonist as well, and I fought over many editions of the first draft until I decided it would be more of an anthology than told from one specific perspective. These two gnomes represent very different views on how they should live in their new way of life. The other gnomes and fairies came to me later as the story started to fill out and I wanted to have more of feeling of a clan of gnomes who were friends with other creatures of the forest.
From the swashbuckling to the sage, you have a wonderfully diverse array of personalities here. Did you find that these personalities were so strong that they actually changed the planned plot, or were the personalities shaped by the challenges the gnome clan encountered during the course of the novel?
Fantastic question, but there is a third option that I think my story follows. My story is primarily illustrating a philosophy of life. One that is in tune with nature and with the self. Some characters are already living with this truth, while others must learn it over time. The plot unfolds from that central philosophy becoming the state of being for all the characters.
So you’ve got a mix of things like a sense of self and nature combining together to create this central philosophy. How did you use research to texture the plot and philosophy?
There was a little bit of research at the beginning on the lineage of gnomes in folk tales so that I could be more accurate in my new interpretation. The larger research has been conducted throughout my life on the topics of sustainability, environmentalism, permaculture and spirituality. In many ways, this book fused together my views and beliefs on the world, even if the setting is a magical forest.
Were you also fusing in events from your own life along with your views and beliefs?
Absolutely! There are three more short stories that make up the Getting Gnome Universe, and more of my personal life experiences play out throughout the course of all of the books. However, specifically in Return to the Forest I drew on many of my childhood memories of how I viewed nature then. There are also aspects pulled from my working life in scenes where the gnomes are not working as efficiently as they could. The characters themselves, I think each portray a facet of my personality so there will be moments for each of them that is drawn from a place of personal truth.
When you combine the personal truths of these gnomes together, do you feel that there is a single message that the gnomes are sharing? And if so, can you let us know a little more?
When you hide yourself from the world, you ultimately get lost within yourself. In order to be connected to everything else in the universe, you must be your authentic self in front of everyone and in the privacy of your own mind. The gnomes and fairies are not in touch with their magic. So they can’t “see” the magic of the forest, not because it is not there but because they have closed off the magic within themselves. It is more visual to express that the magic is gone in a fairy tale story, than to explain how humanity in general has become lost and distanced from themselves.
Do you feel that this comment on how humanity has distanced themselves from themselves is primarily topical today, or do you feel that this will continue to become more pronounced in the future?
When it comes to fiction and fantasy, a lot of what people write about can have this timeless quality that could actually resonate more with future generations than the present. I’m not entirely sure what my answer would be, but I think it is a very pertinent topic when you consider how many self-publishing writers there are now. How future generations will ingest this content is something I think about a lot, and I hope that at least for what I have been writing about there will always be some significance to them.
Writing something with significance for those in the future is a true challenge, and something that is only really borne out from the test of time. As we can’t guaranteed that our writing will be significant in the future, a writer should always take rewards from the writing today. Where have you found the most satisfaction from bringing this tale to life?
Some of the most rewarding parts of writing this book, were watching the characters in my head take on the full weight of their own being. It was wonderful to reread the book once it was all done and see that so many of my deeply held beliefs were presented in a fantastical way. It was truly liberating to have this come out of me and onto the page.
What have you learnt from this liberation?
Ongoing patience, the work is never done. The story never ends and then you have to try everything you can to get people to read it!
If you could take what you know now and writer this novel again, what would you do different to help yourself progress through all of the work?
I would have written it sooner, it was mostly done years ago. I’m really glad that I finally let it happen.
I’m glad you let it happen too! Now that you’ve let it happen once with success, no doubt there’s a new writing project in the works. Can you tell us a little about it?
I just finished writing the next three short story books for Getting Gnome, they should be coming out soon. There are a lot more one-off stories I would like to do in the coming months. I see a lot of the characters I introduced in this series could be fleshed out into something that goes over their story alone.
It sounds like we haven’t seen the last of the magic in the forest! What is it about writing in general that keeps pulling you back to the page?
It is an integral part of my life. I write every day be it journals, songs or stories. I write because it helps me make sense of my thoughts and the world around me.
As you’re writing in multiple genres and formats everyday I’m imagining many many notebooks to keep track of all of your ideas. Would I be assuming correctly?
I have a couple. I tend to have a binder/notebook per idea. Not all of them are purely story driven, some ideas are more vague concepts that I want to come back to later. A lot in the world of Getting Gnome, came from many of these diverging interests.
How do you merge these diverging interests in a new storyline? Are you doing a detailed plan to lasso the ideas together?
The story unfolds as I go along. It follows the loose framework of my outlines, but I am usually surprised where the story lands finally. I sometimes even feel like a spectator as I’m writing.
It must be handy being a spectator and just documenting the action of the clan around you. How do you get yourself into spectator mode?
I’m still finessing the writing process. When I was wrote Return to the Forest, I had a timer set for how much time I would spend on the outline per chapter and then how much time I would allocate to actually write the chapter. This went out the window as I took more and more time on the outline, and then proceeded to throw away a lot of what I had prepared. The only constant is that I listen to relaxing music that puts me in a certain headspace and I usually write in bed. I like to be able to flop around as I write.
*Laughs* The ability to flop around in bed while being productive is one of the many benefits of being a writer that people just don’t talk about enough! What kind of music gets the relaxation going?
What I listen to mostly is meditation music, usually positive frequencies that cut out all of the noise that happens around me. Eastern music in general I find very good inspiration for this series. In the past, the soundtrack to Braveheart was my main writing music.
Do you ever find that Braveheart and the Eastern music fail to reach the optimal level of comfort for productivity? How do you reset yourself for a better chance of reaching that productivity?
I go for a long walk, or do some form of exercise. I’ve been lucky that the writer’s block usually hits when I’ve been writing for several days straight, so to take a weekend off is usually all I need to get focused again for the next session.
It actually sounds like your incidents of writer’s block is just your mind and body requesting a weekend! When you do return after your breaks, is editing on the writing tasks that you dig into yourself, or editing better left to the professionals?
I do a large bulk of the editing myself, especially since I’m just getting started. However, I did enlist the very generous help of my mom to read through all my books. She has a background in English literature and so I trusted her to make sure that grammatically I wasn’t making any faux-pas.
Awww, your mom has been wonderfully generous to read your books and the dreaded prevent faux-pas! To make sure you aren’t making faux-pas in other areas of your writing career, have you started to think about developing a strategy for self-publishing?
This is something I am thinking about a lot, but as I am really just getting started this is still more of an intention than anything I can explain as a successful process or strategy. Ideally, I would like to have a thematic story arc that follows all of my future books that will in some way take place within the same universe I created with Getting Gnome.
Even though you haven’t executed any overarching strategies yet, have you still garnered some self-publishing tips that you could share with the audience?
You need to see yourself as two different people, or one person wearing two different hats. There is the author, who handles the story, the final edit and gives the approval for all creative content. There is the publisher, who handles the promotion, correspondences and considers the timing, implementation and all marketing strategies. If you are serious about self-publishing, your real work begins only after the book is written. You can be the best writer, but you must also get your book out there or else know one will ever know.
That is very true, if your book is never found then you haven’t been able to share the gift of writing talent, which is such a waste. But you haven’t wasted your talent so far Cassandra, and to find out a little more about the author behind the gnomes, I’d love to toss you a few questions from our quick fire question round, starting with:
What is your favourite word?
What is your favourite quote?
“It’s the fear of what comes after the doing that makes the doing hard to do. But you can almost always live with the consequences.” — Tony Kushner, Angels in America
What is your best tip for authors?
Start with an outline, even if you throw it out the window later.
What is your occupation, and how does it influence your writing?
I was previously a production coordinator working in VFX and animation. This showed me how to breakdown the creative process into “departments” so that I don’t get overwhelmed by the many tasks that need to be done. In essence, I am coordinating myself and viewing the whole Getting Gnome world as a project.
Could you see yourself returning enjoying other forms of creative project based work like this?
Honestly, I could be an amazing cleaning lady.
*Laughs* You know a cleaning lady doesn’t sound so bad. At the end of your job it would smell nice and clean, you can easily see your progress through the job, and there’d always been satisfaction on a job complete. What is the future cleaning lady’s philosophy on life?
Your thoughts are your reality. Happiness is chosen.
As you believe happiness is chosen, where do you choose to drawn the line between insanity and creativity?
The line is more of a sinusoidal function between sanity and insanity.
You’re probably right about that. When you think about it there usually isn’t a straight-line slide into insanity, so the sinusoidal function would probably be a better representation. If they made a movie from your book who would you choose to play the main characters?
Duke – John Lithgow
Dale – Jim Broadbent
Dwight – Bill Nighy
Dusty – Kenneth Branagh
Connie – Naomi Watts
Beanie – Natalie Portman
Squish – Amy Adams
Dawn – Rachel McAdams
I really want to see that cast in action now! If you could breed two animals together to defy the laws of nature what new animal would you create?
A flamingo llama.
*Laughs* Does that combination lead to pink fur? I hope so! What is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?
Chocolate chip mint
Yum! As we’ve almost reached the end of our gossip of the greats of gnomes, I was hoping you could leave the readers with a little taste of ‘Getting Gnome: Return to the Forest’?
Being alive, having life at all is like being a leaf on a vine. You are one expression of life, but you are still just one leaf sprouting from the root source. That connection is in everything, everywhere and is why we are here. To just get the chance to be alive.
Cassandra, thanks for sharing the connections between gnomes, magic and nature today, and I hope you are able to share more opportunities of life in you next novel.
Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Getting Gnome: Return to the Forest ( ASIN: B072YV7XSN )‘.
Want to find out more about Cassandra Wood? Connect here!