Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
I am very happy to welcome Professor Denise Baden here today and thank her for kindly answering my questions. After reading her answers I’d really love to meet the real Habitat Man and I really need to make time to read this intriguing sounding book!
Where did you get the inspiration for the book/series?
Habitat Man is based on a real life ecologist who retired early and set up a green garden consultancy. He’d like to remain anonymous so I want give his name but he was almost in tears when I gave him a copy of Habitat Man and he read the dedication.
This is dedicated to the real Habitat Man (he knows who he is) who works tirelessly and at no charge to offer assistance to the undervalued nematodes, beetles, worms, springtails and micro-organisms that are the building blocks of life.
I was one of his first clients and his tips for how to create a wildlife friendly garden were so great I wanted to share them with a wider audience. I also thought it would make a lovely TV series – each week he could visit a different house. For example, one week it might be the Wizard of Woolston who wants a habitat for bats and frogs, the next week, Dawn the polyamorist who wants hedgehogs and so on. Then I decided it would be a series of short stories, but when he fell in love, and then dug up a body I found that I’d created story arcs that demanded a novel.
What is your writing process?
I kept changing my mind what Habitat Man was as I wrote it, so I was writing a bit by the seat of my pants. For the sequels I plan to be much more structured and have it all plotted out first – we’ll see how that goes! The moment I had the idea for Habitat Man I knew it was a winner and I have to say I didn’t for one moment experience any writer’s block. It was more a case of finding time to get it all down. I tend to do my thinking during my morning and afternoon dog walks by the river and then write it up when I’m back at my desk. I write quite quickly and leave all the editing and corrections till later. It does mean I have TONS of editing to do at the end, but the first draft was written relatively fast.
Do you write using pen and paper or on a computer?
I speak into my voice recorder on my phone when I have an idea or a bit of dialogue comes into my head, but otherwise I’m sat at the computer.
Who is your favourite character out of your stories and why?
I adore my comic sidekick Jo – she’s the hero, Tim’s best friend. She’s the character that readers most disagree about. Some think she’s hilarious and love her and others think she’s lazy and exploitative and Tim would be better off without her. I mess with my readers a little bit and take them on a journey with her character and their opinions often change over the course of reading the book. I have great plans for her in the sequel I’m working on currently. I also have a soft spot for the deeply sensitive Wizard of Woolston (who identifies as a witch).
If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?
I have to say – Jo again, she has the most fun and on her terms. I also love her entrepreneurial spirit, buoyant charisma and self-confidence. Lori is beautiful and fun but I wouldn’t want her teenage son with a penchant for shooting things or her ex-husband.
How and why did you choose the names for your main characters?
Several of my characters have nature-based names to fit the theme e.g. Fern, Daisy. But unless there is a distinctive reason for a quirky name, I google the most common names of the year they were born and choose amongst those, and try to avoid having two characters with similar sounding names – boring I know.
Read on to find out more about Ms Baden and her book, Habitat Man…..
Worms have more purpose than Tim, and a better love life. They break waste down into rich fertile soil; Tim just makes the rich richer. Worms copulate for three hours at a time whereas the closest thing Tim has to love is his lesbian friend Jo. Salvation comes from Jo’s flaky niece Charlotte who asks him three profound questions. Inspired, he sheds his old life to become Habitat Man, giving advice on how to turn gardens into habitats for wildlife. His first client is the lovely Lori. Tim is smitten, but first he has to win round Ethan her teenage son. Tim loves his new life until he digs up more than he bargained for, something that threatens to bring out all the skeletons in his cupboard.
“Habitat Man is both great fun (with such an engaging cast of characters) and a delightful reflection on the ways we live – and the ways we die! – at a time when more and more people are grappling with today’s environmental challenges.” Jonathon Porritt (Forum for the Future).
“Truly lyrical and a joy to read” Mark Laggatt, author.
“A natural storyteller” Writing.co.uk
“Superbly written romance with a lovely touch of humour” Helen Baggott, author.
“A charming romp that makes you think! Mid-life crisis meets environmental awareness in this rom-com for the 21st Century.” Michael Jecks, author.
“A tale of lust, gardening, love and compost: a hilarious page turner”
Dave Goulson, author of ‘The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet’ and the newly released ‘Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse.’
Author Bio – Denise Baden is Professor of Sustainability at the University of Southampton and has published numerous book chapters and articles in the academic realm. She wrote the script for a musical that was performed in Southampton and London in 2016, and has written three other screenplays. This is her first novel. Habitat Man was inspired by a real-life green garden consultant who helped make her garden more wildlife friendly. Denise set up the series of free Green Stories writing competitions in 2018 to inspire writers to integrate green solutions into their writing (www.greenstories.org.uk). Habitat Man began as an effort to showcase what a solution-based approach might look like, and then took on a life of its own. In between teaching and research, she is now working on the sequel.