Spotlight & Author Interview: The Seekers’ Garden + Excerpt

the seeker's garden


The Seekers’ Garden
By Isa Pearl Ritchie
Genre: Women’s Fiction

If you stand still for long enough, the past catches up with you…
Leaving behind the fragments of her old life, Marcia Reed-Wilton crosses the world to return to her dilapidated childhood home and dig up the weeds of the past.

Next door, Mrs Everglade struggles to maintain her independence in spite of her increasing frailty.

Sixteen-year-old Lea escapes into her poetry to cope with depression until meeting Alex, a much more potent distraction.

Meanwhile, Iris leaves her career on a whim to embark on an adventure of an entirely different kind, moving to a sleepy seaside town to write a book.

On the other side of the world in opposite seasons, Zane, vocalist for a popular band is haunted by cryptic dreams that lead him home.

A few twists of fate and a buried secret leave these individuals deeply and unexpectedly connected.

The Seekers’ Garden is a lush and captivating exploration of loss, growth and spirituality, revealing the way connections form in unlikely places.


If you stand still for long enough, the past catches up with you. The phrase came back to Marcia Reed-Wilton as inevitable as the sun rising. She took one final look around her home. Her eyes came to rest on the wall clock, its antiqued second hand obscuring the view of the first as it struck VII. She listened to its grandfather in the hall chime seven times as she assessed the things that were left in the room, relics from the past twenty years of her life: her mahogany furniture and beautiful hand-sculpted pottery in bright turquoise, olive, tamarillo, butternut, all of these familiar, comforting things.

William’s possessions were still scattered deceptively here and there: car magazines on the coffee table, overcoat hung next to the door. She was afraid to touch them. Anyone looking at the scene would assume it was a home in which a man and a woman lived. How wrong they’d be; he hadn’t lived here for months, and she hadn’t felt alive since his death.

She said goodbye to the Impressionist paintings she loved and that he had gently mocked although he had surreptitiously relegated his grandmother’s flowery watercolours to the guest room and hung her bolder tastes on the proudest walls in the main living spaces. She focused her attention down at the suitcase at her feet, packed with bare essentials, tools and trinkets small enough to carry halfway around the world. Something stirred in the back of her mind.

Marcia had dyed her long, dark hair with bright red henna, leaving the grey streaks a striking garnet. She brushed it away from her tear-stained face, walked towards the cherry-wood hallway table, pulled open the lowest drawer, and extracted a small wooden box. She opened the lid, revealing beautifully painted cards. She cut the deck and stared for a moment at the picture: a young, vibrant being playing a pipe and walking merrily off a cliff over a ravine, a dog following happily behind. The card was numbered 0, the Fool.

An obviousness dawned on her, painted lavishly over the calm façade she had been wearing these past months. At some point, fear becomes irrelevant. You have no choice but to trust the universe and take the leap: surrender. It was something she had been telling herself for years, but at that moment, it was real. She looked back down at the printed card in her hand. This is the first step in a journey. She spilt the cards out on the floor and selected the twenty-two major arcana. Then she quickly put them in order, back in the box, and into her bag as she heard the horn of her taxi sound outside. She hurried out into the thick London summer night, all sentimentality forgotten.

Marcia clutched her boarding pass tightly as she walked through the terminal. She distracted herself by gazing at the horizon out of the wall-to-wall airport windows where she was confronted by a ghost. Every time she recognised his jacket, his cologne, his hair cut, she was faced with the impossible reality of William’s presence. For the first few months, she had seen him everywhere, as if her mind was reaching out for the familiar, trying to fill the space that he used to occupy, which was now a bottomless pit, a black hole that destroyed and consumed everything around it until she felt it was all she was. The figure stood at the airport window, silhouetted in a posture that was as familiar to her as breathing. Something irrational stirred in the back of her consciousness, hope that was buttery and light, but as he moved, the glitch in her mind vanished, and she was empty again. How long will it take…? She wondered, before all the pieces of me realise he’s gone forever?

She felt her nervousness building as she boarded the plane, flanked by blank-faced flight attendants. As she took her seat, the anxiety was unbearable. What about her herbs? What about the mail? She comforted herself in the knowledge that she had good friends who she could call upon, understanding friends who knew the importance of her leaving even if they could not understand her motive. They thought she was running away from her grief, and indeed, this did feel a bit like running away, but where she was going, she had no friends or comfort, nothing. She was not escaping the past but following her intuition, and, holding tightly to the last shred of sanity she had left, she was going to face her past head-on.

Author Interview:

1.What inspired you to write this book? OR Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

The inspiration for this book came to me one day as I was gardening in the front yard of an old family house. I was digging up old bottles and unidentified chunks of metal from decades past and it struck me that there was an apt metaphor here about the old baggage that families often carry and try to bury, but that burdens later generations. The idea came to me for Marcia, a character struck by sudden loss who crosses the world to confront her family’s past and finds herself in her old childhood home, digging up weeds. The weeds themselves are a metaphor for different kinds of emotional issues.

The characters and plot came together, sparked by my own curiosity about people in different life-stages, and about how people utilise spirituality to get them through hard times, and to help themselves to cope, grow and thrive.

  1. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

I learnt a lot about character development when writing this book, and about how to weave multiple stories together to create one big story.

  1. What surprised you the most in writing it?

It surprised me how the characters seemed to appear in my mind, like imaginary friends with whole personalities. I also was surprised when writing this book how it almost seemed to flow through me at times, as if it came from somewhere else.

  1. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?

It’s a bit of a play on “The Secret Garden” but the relevance is that in this book, the characters are all seekers, they are all searching for something, for purpose.

  1. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

Aspects of characters come from people I have known. They kind of get smushed together into their own person. One minor character is based on a friend and I let her name her character.

  1. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

I think it has quite a few lessons and morals, not just one. There are lots of ways of looking at a situation.

  1. What is your favorite part of the book?

I love the part when all the stories in the book converge into one big story.

  1. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Probably Mrs Everglade because she’s quite different from me. I find characters like that more challenging.

  1. What are your immediate future plans?

I have another book coming out soon, a non-fiction called Food, Freedom, Community, which draws on my PhD research into food sovereignty. I have a few other projects on the go but none are quite ready to share yet.

About the Author

Isa Pearl Ritchie is a New Zealand writer with a PhD in social science. She writes novels for adults and for young people. Her novel Fishing for Māui was named one of the best books of 2018 in The Listener Magazine and was a finalist in the NZ Booklovers awards2019. She has also written articles for The Spinoff, Pantograph Punch and Organic NZ. Isa lives in Wellington.

isa pearl ritchie


Spotlight & Author Interview: Where Are We Tomorrow + Excerpt

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Where are We Tomorrow_FRONT

Where Are We Tomorrow?
by: Tavi Taylor Black
Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction

For a woman working in the male dominated world of rock ‘n’ roll touring, pregnancy is not an option.

Alex Evans, a thirty-six year old touring electrician, discovers through an accidental pregnancy and then the pain of miscarriage that she truly wants a family. But to attempt another pregnancy, she’ll have to change both her career and her relationship; her partner Connor, ten years her senior, isn’t prepared to become a father again.

When Alex is implicated in an accident involving the female pop star she works for, she and three other women on tour rent a house together in Tuscany. While the tour regroups, confessions are made, secrets are spilled: the guitar tech conceals a forbidden love, the production assistant’s ambition knows no limits, and the personal assistant battles mental issues.

Through arguments and accidents, combating drug use and religion, the women help each other look back on the choices they’ve made, eventually buoying each other, offering up strength to face tough decisions ahead.



INSIDE THE CONCRETE arena, programmed lights whirred and spun in rhythm; eleven thousand fans watched, mesmerized, as vibrant magenta and violet beams sliced through midnight black. On stage, the band regurgitated the same set as the night before, and the night before that. They’d performed the set in Mexico City and Guadalajara. As far south as Santiago and Lima. The road crew for Sadie Estrada’s Home Remedy tour knew each dip in volume, each drop in the beat. They knew exactly, down to the second, how much time it required to step outside and suck down a Marlboro. These time-zone travelers planned bathroom breaks by the songs’ measures; no one missed a cue to mute the stage mics, to hand out room-temp bottled water for set breaks, to pull up house lights.

Behind heavy velvet curtains, separated from the frenzied pace of the show, Alex unscrewed the cover of a moving light to expose the core: circuit boards and capacitors, motors connected to color wheels. Deep bass, feedback, and the fevered pitch of collective voices penetrated the curtain, the familiar, almost comforting reverberations of life on the road. Alex continued her diagnosis, removing the light harness as a mother removes a soiled diaper—routinely, with a touch of tenderness. While she located and replaced the broken part, she kept an ear to the music, alert to the final measure of the set, ready to repack her multi-wheeled toolbox, move on to the next city, set up again.

Alex ran the light through all its functions, testing and retesting once she’d replaced the gobo wheel. The body of the light panned and tilted, working fine. A small victory.

“Sure you know what you’re doing, little lady?” Alex turned at the familiar voice of the tour’s production manager.

“Funny,” she said. “Very original. For that, you get to help me put it away.” Alex waited for another barb, one about her not being able to lift the seventy pounds by herself, but Joe simply helped her flip and crate the unit, a harder task for him at 5’2” than it was for Alex, a good five inches taller.

The arena crackled in anticipation of the show’s climax. Thousands of voices swelled and surged, a unified congregation. The body of the moving light settled into the carved Styrofoam, and Alex tucked its tail inside the handle. As she slammed the case shut, Joe’s laminate got caught inside the box, and he was jerked down by the lanyard around his neck. He freed the latches and yanked it clear, smoothing the wrinkles from the photo of his two young children, a wallet-sized clipping he’d taped behind his backstage pass. Joe caught Alex eyeing the photo.

“When are you gonna give in and pop out a few yourself?” Joe asked. Alex breathed slowly, letting a brief sadness settle into her body, though her face wore a practiced, blank expression. She gestured into the smothering dark, into the roar of the crowd and sweat-filled air. “And give up all this?”

Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.

The idea for this book came at a writing retreat with some grad school friends almost twelve years ago now. I had just stopped touring with bands because I was pregnant, so I had a bit of distance from the life. I was trying to look at it from a new perspective. I always wanted the story to be about the women I had toured with when I was on the road with Norah Jones. Having several women on a tour was pretty unheard-of at the time (2005-2008), at least in my experience. The first draft was written in all 4 women’s POV, first person.

2.  What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?

As my mentor, A.J. Verdelle, often says, “it’s not over until it’s between the covers.” I can’t tell you how many drafts this book went through. As I mentioned above, it changed from 1st person to 3rd person omniscient, but I also revised from past tense to present tense then back to past again on the suggestion of various editors. The manuscript started at 130,000 words. I cut and built, cut and built. It’s interesting because one of the things many reviewers have said is that the novel is short and they would like to know more about the other women in the book (besides Alex, the main protagonist). Well, I’ve got plenty of their stories that have been cut from the final draft. If anyone wants to hear about Kat or Brooke or Lily I’ll happily share their stories!

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?

The writing didn’t surprise me as much as the response I’m getting now. The book is doing exactly what I’d hoped to do; people–particularly women–are connecting to and identifying with the struggles of Alex, Lily, Kat and Brooke. Readers who have reached out to me have fallen nearly as in love with the women as I have. When you’ve worked so long on something, you start to despair that you are wasting your time, or that maybe your work won’t be as good as you hope. So, what surprised me were the yeses I received. Writers get so used to ‘no’s that when that yes comes, it leaves you a bit dumbstruck. TouchPoint Press really took a chance on me. Somehow, they saw the beauty in the book that many many many others passed over. And the incredibly positive response continues to be a wonderful surprise.

4. What does the title mean?

“Where are we tomorrow?” is a question that is asked nearly every day on a road tour. When you move from city to city, you don’t always pay attention to what’s coming next. Often, you only see the inside of an arena–you don’t get to see the city at all. Like the characters Alex and Kat in the book, I would often try to get out for an afternoon walk, just to get my bearings (and some fresh air). So, at the end of the night, when you’re all packed up and climbing onto the tour bus, a common question is “Where are we tomorrow?” Just so you know where you’re going to end up when you roll out of your bunk in the morning.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

Yes! So many of the characters were inspired by real people. The 4 women are all based on real people who know (see attached photo). The real women aren’t exactly the same as the characters, of course, who are fictionalized. The women they are based on have been incredibly gracious. I did warn them ahead of time, but still, I think it was very strange for them to read this book. For instance, the woman that Kat is based on is a guitar tech (and a damn good one) and she rides horses, but she’s not gay. So there was a bit of awkwardness around that. The woman who Brooke is based on (Mia Adams) is a singer and actress, but she’s not overtly ambitious at the expense of all else!

Other, more minor characters might recognize themselves, at least some traits, but I haven’t mentioned it to them. I guess I’ll find out what they think soon 🙂

For the record, the pop star character, Sadie, is absolutely nothing like Norah Jones, who is about as cool and sweet as you think she might be.

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?

A lesson or moral? No. Not exactly. I don’t think it’s the job of an author to preach. I think our job (at least for literary works) is to pose questions. To make people feel or think. To let people know that pain and fear, joy and contentment–every emotion–is fairly universal. We are all just trying our best to reconcile ourselves with our past and find a little happiness in this life.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?

No one has ever asked me this before! People have mentioned their favorite parts, but I’m really having to think about this.

Ok, it’s such a small moment, not at all pivotal to the story, but I love the scene where the mothers are dressed in their daughters’ clothing, looking ridiculous and all getting giggly because Sadie is paying attention to them. To me, this says so much about our culture’s addiction to fame. Even these women, these mothers who are there to support their daughters, get caught up and starry eyed around a celebrity.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Alex, the protagonist, was definitely the most challenging because she was too close to home. When I started out, I had another woman in mind as Alex, but slowly she took on my traits. My love of poetry, my search for a home and family. I wanted Alex to be more like my friend, Sharon Huizinga, who I had toured with around the same time. In my mind, she still looks like Sharon, but she acts more like me. I’m not someone who loves to talk (or write) about myself, so I had to come to terms with how much Alex represents my own journey.

9. What are your immediate future plans?

I am really invested in getting out to talk about this book. I have a number of readings and book signings set up and would love to visit with book clubs. I also have two other novels I am trying to place– a historical novel set on an estate in coastal Maine, and a middle grade fantasy that I wrote with my daughter.

About the Author

Tavi Taylor Black lives on an island near Seattle where she designs sets for the ballet, works as the tour manager for a musical mantra group, and has helped found an anti-domestic violence non-profit organization. Before earning an MFA from Lesley University, Tavi spent 14 years touring with rock bands. Where Are We Tomorrow? was the 1st place winner of the 2016 PNWA Mainstream Fiction Contest and was also a finalist in the Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature. Several of Tavi’s short stories have been shortlisted for prizes, including Aesthetica Magazine’s Competition, and the Donald Barthelme Prize for Short Prose.

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