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LUSH by Ann-Marie Yerks
June 30, 2021

June 2021

LUSH by Anne-Marie Yerks

Purchase Your Copy of Lush on Amazon

Crownstar Rating:

Read through our CROWNSTAR rating system here.

Brief explanation of rating

“Understanding that we too will someday be nothing but dusty fossils of things we owned and used.”

This felt to me like everything the story was about -- living, remembering, honoring, learning -- a testament to the idea that the past is never that far behind us. Isla is a complex, thought-provoking character who readers will fall in love with by the end of the first chapter. She braves and endures so much in order to save not only herself, but all young women in her world. Heartfelt, probing, questioning, and above all else, inspiring our courage to be free…lovers of post-apocalyptic stories will devour this is one sitting.

Really, a beautiful story.

Author Interview - Anne-Marie Yerks

Queenie D had the privilege of talking with Anne-Marie about her most recent novel. We hope you enjoy!

Q: How did you come up with the premise for LUSH?

A: The premise began with short story I wrote and published in Five on the Fifth literary journal. The story, called “Secret Fields,” was about some futuristic hippies who grow a version of marijuana on a hidden farm. They have a few cats who run around in the fields and, as a result of absorbing psychoactive pollen into their coats and licking it off, these cats develop psychic abilities. I wanted to do more with them, so I put the same idea into a novel I’d started about a girl who lived on a farm and wanted to get away. The story developed over time with some elements gaining importance and others losing steam. The cats, for example, dwindled out because there just wasn’t room for them.

There’s actually a lot of my own history in LUSH. My family owned a centuries-old farm, a place I always wanted to understand but also avoided. Like Isla, I grew up with the uneasy sense of living the past and the present at the same time. Experiencing that duality felt shameful sometimes, but as of today I’m sort of proud of it. I now realize it’s not that uncommon of an experience, as some readers have told me they’ve felt the same way about their own families.

Q: How does your previous answer play into the ideas of Cherish the Past, cheather, and the CREIA?

A: I was compelled by the idea that a plant we are familiar with today could become forgotten or extinct during an apocalyptic event. In the case of LUSH, the plant (cheather) is rediscovered by Isla’s brother Perrin and medicinally applied in a way similar to cannabis and CBD. But it’s Isla who discovers cheather’s ability to override the passivity molecule controlling her at the CREIA. The CREIA is one of my favorite aspects of the book. As a kid I always dreamed of living in a far-off place that was all about learning and reading, a place where you could be move ahead of others based on your brains. The CREIA is alluring to Isla in the same way, but the truth is hidden from her.

Q: The friendship between Isla and Esme begins as a central focus of the story, obviously very important to Isla. Does Esme feel as connected to Isla, or is Isla a friend with whom to pass the time? Tell us a little about the evolution of their relationship and where it's going by the end of the book.

A: Esme and Isla’s friendship comes about because they both endure the burden of their historical reenactment chores. I always viewed them as sisters in a way, or cousins. If you’ve ever had a friend you might not choose on your own but sort of got stuck with, you can understand and relate to Isla and Esme. Their relationship was tricky to write and required tremendous revision. My editor thought the original Esme was too inconsistent, so I went back and turned the dials until she was believably abrasive but not completely unlikeable.

Q: I wanted to know more about Isla's sister, Hollis. Do you have any further backstory you can share with us?

A: Hollis is another character who evaporated as I revised. Originally, I had more of her story in the book, but most had to be removed because it was too distracting. The main thing to understand about Hollis is that she tried unsuccessfully to do what Isla does, and that’s leave the farm.

Q: The theme of remembering and learning from the past is strong throughout the story. How do you think this relates to our current world?

A: There’s not a day I don’t marvel at humanity’s shortsightedness. We live with little thought about what came before us, that the details of our existence were built by generations now completely forgotten and physically extinguished. Isla’s role in historical reenactment is her uncomfortable thorn, but it’s also her gift because she understands the power of what lies behind her. If all of us reached backward instead of forward sometimes, I truly think we’d have a better picture of what’s happening right now with climate change and other pressing issues.

Q: In your Acknowledgments, you write, "all the beta readers from Fiverrr who offered criticism and feedback.” Tell us about this part of your publication process!

A: When I first started writing as an MFA student in the ‘90s, the term “beta reader” didn’t even exist. So somewhere along the line I learned authors were supposed to conduct a beta-reading process in which people you don’t know read your manuscript and do a critique. Usually it’s an exchange thing, but since I teach creative writing I read plenty of stories and don’t have time for more. Enter Fiverr, where you can hire beta readers on a budget!

I probably had six or seven beta readers from Fiverr through various stages of LUSH. Their remarks initiated some heavy revision. For example, some said they disliked the dialogue in LUSH because it was so different than how people speak today, more spare and stiff. Other readers didn’t mind and even liked it. I went back and restyled the speech quite a bit, trying to strike a balance.

Q: Are you working on anything now that you'd like to share?

A: One of my YA novels, Not That Fat, is under representation at More Zap Literary. I’m also working on another cli-fi novel called The Breathing Swan, which has similar themes to LUSH but is longer and more romantic. It’s in third person, a relief after writing first person for so long.

Learn more about Anne-Marie:

Anne-Marie on Twitter

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss your feelings on the Cherish the Past exhibit.

2. Who was your favorite secondary character in the novel? Explain why.

3. How are the themes of male dominance and females as procreators relevant in today's society?

4. Would you like to read a sequel to this story? Or perhaps a prequel? Discuss.

Something Interesting...

Anne-Marie never intended to write speculative fiction. Her time as a grad school professor changed that. Read the story in her own words here: On Revision & Reality.

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Until next time, happy reading!

Desiree, aka Queenie D

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