A story with a garden as the main character has finally blossomed into a published novel, years after its first draft was completed as part of a Creative Writing PhD.
Seed of an idea blossoms into a published novel
Dr Tiffani Angus (pictured) originally wrote Threading the Labyrinth, which has been published by Unsung Stories, as her final dissertation while she was studying at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in 2015.
Dr Angus, who grew up in Las Vegas in the US, is now Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Publishing at ARU, as well as General Director of the Anglia Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy.
“Because I love multi-generational stories, the seed of the idea I had over a decade ago was to write about a house and its inhabitants as the building and the social mores changed through the years,” explained Dr Angus.
“However, it dawned on me that a single house isn’t torn down and rebuilt over time, but what does change is the garden. They grow and leave behind traces in layers, one atop another.
“I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer who loves time travel stories, so that became key to my PhD proposal. As I dug around, I realised how many books are out there – mainly kids’ fantasy books – with the garden as a time travel device. Gardens aren’t often used as the main setting in adult fantasy, though, so this is a sort of Tom’s Midnight Garden for adults.
“The stories are ‘threaded’ together on the page and in history as the characters encounter each other – from the past and the future – in the garden. History in this garden is a labyrinth that the reader gets to navigate.
“The most fun part of the novel was the research. I had the amazing opportunity to travel around the country visiting historical gardens such as Sissinghurst, Stowe, Biddulph Grange, Kentwell Hall, and Hatfield House, which was my favourite, taking thousands of photographs.”
After a five-year wait following her PhD viva, Dr Angus wasn’t fazed by an additional three-month delay in Threading the Labyrinth being published in paperback due the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Angus added: “Originally the book was supposed to be published on April 13, but lockdown hit. Unsung Books, my publisher, decided to push the physical book back by a few months but release the ebook to give people stuck at home something to read, especially those without gardens dreaming about being outside again!
“All of the in-person launches and parties were cancelled, too, but luckily social media has been a great way to get the word out: I’ve used Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to show photos from the garden visits, participated in an online literary festival, and done a number of interviews.
“Recently I have been working to finish a new novel about an apocalypse, so working on that in the time of COVID-19 is a bit odd. After that one is done, I am thinking about maybe putting together a small collection of stories – historical fantasy stories about gardening that I’ve already had published along with some new ones, and even a story or two set in the Threading garden – and there is also a new novel idea that I’m toying with. There’s always something new to write!”
Students from more than 185 countries study with us. Our students are at the heart of our University: their educational experience engages, challenges and empowers them to reach their full potential.