If there’s one thing I love more than a retelling, it’s a retelling with a spooky twist! I was delighted to have the chance to chat with author Amber Logan about her upcoming novel, The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn. This retelling of The Secret Garden is full of mystery and dark secrets.
Tell us a bit about The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn?
It’s a retelling of the children’s classic The Secret Garden, but for adults. The story follows Mari Lennox, an American photographer still grieving the recent death of her mother. Mari (who lived as an expat in Japan as a child) is offered a grant to photograph an old Japanese inn. When she arrives, however, she discovers a web of mysteries—including an overgrown, abandoned island with a dark past that seems intricately tied to her own.
What inspired you to create a retelling of The Secret Garden?
I loved The Secret Garden growing up, but always found myself secretly wishing there actually was a ghost in the house. So when I was trying to decide which story to retell next (I love retellings), I found myself thinking of The Secret Garden and asking “What if there was a ghost? What if instead of moving from the East to the West (India to England), my character moved from the West to the East (US to Japan)? What if the garden was an overgrown Japanese garden and the robin was a red-crowned crane…and then my mind just took off running.
What did you have to research in order to write The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn?
Lots. While I’ve been to Japan many times and have visited Japanese gardens around the world, I still spent a lot of time researching ryokans and gardens for this book. I pored through lovely photography books about Japanese gardens and traditional architecture, and visited gardens in the US (it was during the pandemic, so I couldn’t travel to Japan). I also watched movies and videos, trying to get a sense of the sounds Mari would experience walking through the gardens. Since photography is a big part of the book, I also had to do research on photography, and asked a photographer friend to read over all my camera details to make sure they were accurate. I hired a Japanese cultural sensitivity reader to provide me feedback over the whole novel as well, which was invaluable.
Has your experience as a freelance editor and university professor influenced your writing?
My many writing/editing/teaching hats definitely feed off of each other. I strongly feel that one of the best ways to improve one’s writing is to edit someone else’s work, whether it be a student or a client or a critique partner. Noticing the errors, the clunky sentences, the believability issues in another person’s work gives you a sharper eye when you look at your own work. Reading the piece out loud is something I always recommend my students do with their papers (you can catch SO many problems that way!), and it is something I practice myself. When I am editing my own work, I read each sentence aloud every time I make a change.
What was the path for publishing The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn?
It was a fairly long path, I’d say. I wrote and queried several books before I found an agent, and then the first book I went out on submission with never sold. We then went out on submission with The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn, and it took over a year for it to get an offer. I’ve been really pleased with the publisher (CamCat Books) it landed with, though—they are such a wonderful bunch of people and my editor, Helga Schier, really helped me take my novel to a whole new level. So it was worth the wait!
What a piece of advice you’d give to aspiring authors?
Always be working on the next book. That was what helped me keep my sanity during the querying process (and the submission process). I would query a book up until I had the next book ready to query, and then I would cut my losses and immediately move on to the next book. The same with being on submission. By the time my agent and I decided to shelve my first novel, my next one was ready to go out on submission. Just keep looking and moving forward.
Where can people preorder The Secret Garden of Yanagi Inn?
My publisher, CamCat Books: https://camcatbooks.com/Books/T/The-Secret-Garden-of-Yanagi-Inn
Where’s the best place to follow you?
You can find me on Twitter (@AmberAnnLogan), Instagram (@AmberALogan), and Facebook (@AmberAnnLogan). Or find me on my website: www.AmberALogan.com