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Linda Richards: You've written some gardening books too.
Merilyn Simonds: Yes. Gardening for me is a very sensual activity. I go through phases. Like last year I decided I wanted to plant a garden that would tell a story. I'm not going to tell too much about this because it's in my next novel, but by choosing plants of certain names, you could actually have a garden that is a novel.
What about verbs?
There are verbs. And one year I planted a historical garden. I tried to find plants that had been in women's gardens in Canada. Another year I planted flowers that were all about love. So there was "kiss me over the garden gate" and "love lies bleeding" and "mourning bride" and so on.
Gardening for me is one of those acts of faith like writing, you know: you plant a seed, you get a plant. Which is unending magic. But it also has all these other associations and colors. I had my white garden, my red garden and the mixing of colors and shapes. And I have a shade garden now and I'm just loving the interplay of hues of greens. It's so exciting!
That would be pretty.
It's astonishing when you do it. The colors of green which range from a deep, deep blue green to the freshest May apple green.
So everything in the shade garden is in the shade, or shades of green?
Both! It's actually how I got the idea.
Do you have a big garden?
No, I have the tiniest little garden. In my life I've had huge, sprawling gardens. The middle story, "Taken for Delirium" is set in Northern Ontario when I was sort of doing the back to the land thing. I grew all our food: you know, canned a hundred jars of tomato juice, and we grew everything. Enough for the whole year.
But now I have this little city lot that's 33-feet by 90-feet, and the house takes up most of it, but the back is the back of a quarry. So on the south and west sides is a 20-foot limestone wall which I've banked with raised beds on the bottom and then planted the whole wall vertically. But because it's south and west it gets no light. It's a grotto in there. That's where I have my little table and chair to write in the summer. And then all these wonderful, wonderful plants.
What are your tools when you're out there? Your writing tools.
I always write longhand. Usually pencil. I use a computer, but I use it like a secretary. I write and then transcribe into the computer, print out a draft and then keep writing. There's always another editing layer that comes at the time of input. It varies a little bit, but what I hate about the computer is change is very easy. That's great and I love that because it continually improves the writing, but you lose the step before. I love having in the margin of the page the 20 different words for the color green as I'm trying to choose the exact one. I like being able to trace back through the words because I spend a lot of time choosing a word that has all the right nuance. I'm very conscious of the subterranean reverberations of words and cadence.