We’re so pleased to have author Lily Velez with us today, on the tour for her latest novel, Lavender in Bloom. Enjoy Lily’s interview, and then be sure to check out the Rafflecopter widget below where you can enter for the chance to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card.
Where did the inspiration for Lavender in Bloom come from?
The story behind Lavender in Bloom first emerged on July 22, 2013. Back then, I was still developing my character Noah Capet, and while doing some free-writing for his backstory, pieces of his forbidden romance with Jeremie began to emerge little by little. The very first ‘telling’ of the story was less than 500 words and written in first-person from Noah’s point of view. Over the next few years, I’d return to Noah and Jeremie again and again, writing snippets here and there that eventually amounted to tens of thousands of words. Finally, I decided 2016 would be the year I brought their story into the world!
How long did it take you to write Lavender in Bloom and what did your writing process look like?
I wrote the manuscript that would become Lavender in Bloom in 21 days. That manuscript was approximately 56,000 words long. It helped that I’d spent the past 3 years getting to know Noah and Jeremie better and writing numerous scenes between them (many of which ended up in the manuscript).
As for my writing process, each day, I woke up early, did my usual morning routine (yoga, prayer, meditation, exercise, a fruit smoothie), and then I’d spend anywhere from 1-4 hours writing. I was guided by a general outline of how I wanted to get from Point A to Point B, and for the most part, I stuck to it, but I still gave myself room to be surprised by new scenes that would surface as well as interactions I hadn’t planned for. In fact, even during final editing, new scenes continued to pop in!
Are your characters inspired by any real-life people?
My characters rarely, if ever, are inspired by real-life people. I will say, however, that Noah is named after my dog, a labrador/pitbull mix, who’s been in my life for over 10 years now. 🙂 I guess you could say this was my way of immortalizing him. Funny enough, my dog Noah’s most distinguishing feature are his eyes (just like Noah Capet in Lavender in Bloom), and while my dog’s personality has grown to be a little more expressive in recent years, back when I was creating the character named after him, they shared similar personality traits. They were both quiet and more on the aloof side.
Where did all the fables in the book come from?
In Lavender in Bloom, you get to enjoy a nice variety of anecdotes. Some, like a king building a chapel simply to house his relics, are quite true. The story of the luck of the horseshoe is a well-known legend. As for the story of the sun and the moon, and the story of how lavender first came into bloom in France…those two are both my own creation. I read a number of fables about the sun and the moon but couldn’t find one that resonated with me so ultimately crafted my own. The lavender story is based on an ‘alternate universe’ story featuring Noah and Jeremie but was slightly modified to fit in with the ending I had in mind.
How do you develop your characters and plots?
I tend to develop characters first. They’re my favorite part about writing a new story, in fact, because my stories are, for the most part, very character-oriented. As aforementioned, Noah and Jeremie have been around in my mind for a few years, so I’ve had ample time to get to know the ins and outs of their personalities. How? For one, I do extensive free-writing for my characters to get in their heads and understand them better. Prior to beginning this manuscript, I had already written tens of thousands of words featuring Noah and Jeremie in different scenes. I also like to create Pinterest boards for characters so I know everything about the way they look, what their home looks like, what their pets look like, how they dress, the type of possessions they’d have, etc. As for plots, I typically let the characters run the show. The story for Lavender in Bloom completely arose on its own one day. I hadn’t intended that for Noah’s backstory at all. But he clearly had something up his sleeve. 😉
What was your favorite part of Lavender in Bloom to write and why?
There were a lot of scenes that were exciting for me to write. I would say one of my favorite scene, however, takes place in Jeremie’s bookshop when Noah has finished helping him ready the store for its grand opening. I don’t want to give away too much so that I don’t spoil it for readers, but toward the end of this scene, Jeremie does something to indicate that he’s begun to see Noah as more than just a friend. To me, it was just a very tender moment in the story, and I think it’s something we can all relate to. We’ve all had those moments when we’ve wondered if the object of our affection feels similarly. It can be scary to make the first move to find out, so I just feel like the scene has a universality to it. I also enjoy this scene because it’s the ‘point of no return’ for Noah and Jeremie. Neither of them can pretend like the moment never happened, and it ends up changing their relationship for the rest of the summer.
What was the hardest part of the writing process?
As it happened, the mass shooting in Orlando (the worst mass shooting in U.S. history) took place while I was doing final edits for Lavender in Bloom. I live in Orlando, and the shooting actually took place at a venue just 20 minutes away from my home. That was hard because it emphasized the amount of hate that’s in our world, especially when it comes to who a person loves. Noah and Jeremie’s story takes place in 1802. Although revolutionary ideals (and later, The Napoleonic Code) decriminalized same-sex relationships at the time, it’s not like you could suddenly walk down the street hand-in-hand with your significant other. Objections still ran deep, and just decades before the story’s set, two men were actually burned alive in Paris for being lovers. So the hardest part for me was realizing just how close to home Noah and Jeremie’s story is for countless people even to this day.
Can you share some surprising things you learned while researching this book?
At one point in Lavender in Bloom, Jeremie shares an anecdote about a book in his collection. What’s so unique about it? It’s bound in someone’s skin! As it turns out, this sort of thing happened back in the day. People would have books bound with their own skin upon their death so that the book would serve as a memorialization for their families. I don’t know if those family members ever ended up keeping those books, though! I don’t think I’d want to! 😉
If you could spend a day with a character from your book, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d probably most enjoy spending a day with Jeremie. I would want to join him on one of his literary pilgrimages–probably the one where he visits all the breathtaking libraries in the world. That would be so much fun, and it’s actually a goal of mine as well!
What were your goals and intentions in this book? What do you hope people will take away?
I hope people will take away the fact that you can’t live your life to please other people. This is something I think we all face at some point in our lives. We either do what’s expected of us to make mom and dad (or whoever it might be) happy and proud (but it comes at the expense of our own joy)…or we forge a path for ourselves, break the mold, and live the fulfilling life of our dreams.
It can be scary to do the thing that lights you up on the inside–especially if it’s met with the disapproval of others. No one wants to be an outcast. We want to be accepted and loved. We want to feel like we belong.
But this life you have is your life and yours only. It’s a gift. You’ve been given a unique opportunity to explore the world, to grow, to learn about what you like and don’t like, to develop meaningful and beautiful relationships with others, and to have an overall fulfilling and positive experience until your last day. So why spend a single minute of your life in a job/role/position/relationship/etc. that doesn’t make you excited to be alive?
Your dreams are special, and I hope this book encourages people to go after that thing that’s been tugging at their heart for a while now, to say yes to that opportunity no matter how scary it might be, and to not let amazing and beautiful things slip through their fingers because of fear.
Did you ever consider giving the story a happier, alternative ending?
I did, actually. There were a few days during the writing process when I wondered if I shouldn’t change the ending entirely. Ultimately, I realized that I would be robbing from the story’s truth by doing that. The fact of the matter is that in life, we do experience loss. We experience heartbreak. We experience grief. We make decisions (or choose not to make decisions), and we often have to live with the consequences for the rest of our lives. I think there are plenty of books with happy endings out there, and I love them just as much as the next person. But Noah and Jeremie’s story always had a tragic ending from the beginning, and I didn’t want it to lose its effect. As a writer, I feel that one of my jobs is to capture and display humanity’s universal truths in my stories, so while the truth in this case wouldn’t exactly be warm and fuzzy, I knew this was how it had to be written.
That being said, I’ve written a number of versions of Noah and Jeremie’s story–you could call them ‘alternate universes’, I suppose. Some end tragically all the same, but in others, there are happy endings. In fact, in my favorite version, Noah and Jeremie live in present-day Rome and have a precocious son named Remy. 🙂
Are you working on another book?
Two stories are currently warring within me to become my next book.
The first is a contemporary, new adult romance about a young woman who tracks down the family of the organ donor whose heart saved her father’s life a year ago, and finds a group of shattered individuals still in the throes of grief.
The second is an adult historical romance set in the 1800s in Prague that follows a young psychology professor named Gottfried, whose world is turned upside down when a seventeen-year-0ld, would-be anarchist named Dominik Prochazka becomes enamored of him.
About the Book
Title: Lavender in Bloom
Author: Lily Velez
Release Date: July 25th, 2016
Genre: Historical, Coming-of-Age Romance
Purchase Link: Amazon
Blurb: It’s the year 1802 in Avignon, France…
Noah Capet has spent most of his young life living simple and unvaried days in the hushed countryside of southern France. Quiet, reserved, and diffident, his preference for existing is to do so in solitude, keeping to himself both in town and on his family’s farm—a predilection that’s altogether disrupted when a newcomer to town by the name of Jeremie Perreault begins an unremitting quest to befriend him.
Jeremie is everything Noah is not. Charismatic and gregarious, he leaves a trail of charmed admirers in his wake wherever he goes. Expressive and idealistic, he talks without end about his deep love for old books and his spirited dream to one day travel the world on a literary pilgrimage.
Over the course of a single summer, the two form an unlikely friendship, but just as quickly as it develops, it soon entirely dissolves as they’re forced to face the truth of what has unexpectedly emerged between them.
Lavender in Bloom is a tender and tragic coming-of-age story about first love and self-discovery, and a poignant reminder that time is fleeting and always takes with it the choices we’re too afraid to make.
Jeremie’s abrupt materialization not just on the farm but right before him incinerated the last of Noah’s comprehensible ideations. He didn’t know what to think or what to say. He was hopelessly held captive by this unheralded and unforeseen visit such that he could only stand there, rendered mute, utterly immobilized.
Jeremie’s eyes roamed Noah’s face, weary drifters treading familiar lands. They moved in a seamless stream as he absorbed the dark gold of Noah’s hair, the fair tint of his skin, the bone shape of his eyebrows and nose and cheeks and jawline. It was as if he were committing it all to memory.
He raised a hand, and his fingertips fell one by one along the side of Noah’s face, like beads of rain taking to a windowpane. Noah’s eyelids briefly fluttered shut, and in the darkness there was only Jeremie and Jeremie’s touch. It was gentle, delicate.
Jeremie stepped closer. He brought his free hand to the other side of Noah’s face, smoothing a thumb across his cheekbone, as if tracing the path on a weathered map. With his soft, warm palms, he handled Noah’s face with such great care, even more so than he did with one of his rare books, that Noah’s chest swam with emotion—no, drowned in it. He was overcome by the moment, which to him unraveled such tenderness as he had never before known or experienced. He didn’t know whether to laugh or weep, whether to speak or maintain this strange wordlessness between them.
He additionally didn’t know what struck him more: the overpowering silence, or the blatant despair in Jeremie’s eyes, eyes that still hadn’t met his own. Instead, Jeremie closed them, moving closer until their bodies were no longer separated—Noah was immediately as hot as if he’d stepped through fire—and then he rested his forehead against Noah’s, still holding his face. There they remained, breathing in sync, and Noah could almost feel their hearts beating as one. He’d known many states over the past weeks: anxiety, fear, shame. But here with Jeremie, trapped within this impossible capsule of frozen time, all else melted away. In the aftermath, Noah felt only the faintest glimpse of bittersweet peace.
About the Author
Lily Velez has been writing stories since she was six years old. Not much has changed since then. She still prefers the written word and her overactive imagination over the ‘real world’ (though to be fair, her stories no longer feature talking dinosaurs). A graduate of Rollins College and a Florida native, when she’s not reading or writing, she spends most of her days wrangling up her pit bulls Noah and Luna, planning exciting travel adventures, and nursing her addiction to cheese. All this when she isn’t participating in the extreme sport known as napping. You can learn more about Lily and her books at:
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