Holly Ringland: ‘Fiction is the lie that tells the truth’

When the auction for this book in Australia reached its heated peak, I wrote to Holly, saying that this was exactly the novel I had been looking for; that as a publisher, I needed to have an emotional response to the book – without that, there’s nothing – and on reading the first page I felt it, that thing, that little prickle at the back of your neck, when you think ‘yes’. Just, ‘yes’. I was
immediately captured by this deeply romantic novel, so beautifully written, utterly appealing and completely original.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories; those we inherit, and those we select to define us. In this powerful and deeply moving novel Holly has laid down layer after layer of gorgeousness, like she’s creating a mother-of-pearl shell; pouring into the novel all her deep love and awareness of the power of stories, the resonance of familiar fairy tales, the irresistible language of native flowers, and the cleansing power of fire. This is a complete original; a beautiful, rich, deeply intimate, and very moving novel, so full of pain, beauty, tenderness and all the messy stuff of life.
We’ve had an extraordinary response to this novel. Now sold to over 19 territories worldwide, I know readers everywhere are going to fall in love with this romantic and powerful novel.

The genesis of this novel was trauma. I’ve lived with male-perpetrated violence for a lot of my life, which silenced my voice, courage and the dream of being a writer I’ve had since I was a child. In 2012, I started a PhD in Creative Writing. My research looked at traumatic experience and the process of writing fiction. It was through this research that I discovered Tom Spanbauer’s concept of ‘dangerous writing’, which is the idea of going into the sore place we all have inside of us, and writing from that place; using fiction as the lie that tells the truth. I realised that I’d never written from the sore place. If anything, I’d written around it, aside it, in spite of it. Never from it. So, my research became my own call to arms, but threw up all kinds of questions for me. What would become of me and my life if I wrote the thing I was most scared to write? What story would emerge, and how might it live in other people’s hearts, if it ever saw the light of day? What else can trauma be made into, other than unrememberable memories? These kinds of questions are why I wrote The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart.
I started writing the novel in May 2014. I’d had an immediate-family bereavement and the madness of grief and being so close to mortality drove me to find the strength I needed to be bigger than
my fears and just start. I sat at my writing desk in Manchester, uncapped my pen, and wrote the first line as if I knew it by heart. I handwrote the first 11,000 words over the following month.
Possibly the most beautiful part of writing this novel was the enormous honour I had of creating the Thornfield language of flowers. I spent the first years of my life often playing in my grandmother’s abundant garden that grew alongside her house and as I grew up I watched my mother turn to coaxing flowers from dirt in her own garden. After I moved to England in 2009, I came across the Victorian language of flowers for the first time. As I read about this 19th century floral craze that swept across Europe, a spark came to life in my mind. It remained there,
flickering in the background, until 2014 when I started writing Lost Flowers. I knew from being in the gardens of the women who raised me that Australian flora often thrives under harsh
conditions, in extreme landscapes and weather. Thornfield and its language grew from there, as I considered the ways we find to use our voices even when we’re not able to literally tell our stories.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is for every reader who has ever felt like their voice has been silenced. For women who doubt the worth and power of their story. For readers who love their fiction infused with a sense of wonder, and love pageturning fiction driven by messy characters who make the wrong choices with the best intentions.
This book is for readers who believe that stories can be the kind of magic that has the power to change our lives.

The Lost Flowers of Alice HartThe Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

After her family suffers a tragedy, nine-year-old Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak.

Under the watchful eye of June and the women who run the farm, Alice settles, but grows up increasingly frustrated by how little she knows of her family’s story. In her early twenties, Alice’s life is thrown into upheaval again when she suffers devastating betrayal and loss. Desperate to outrun grief, Alice flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. In this otherworldly landscape Alice thinks she has found solace, until she meets a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

Spanning two decades, set between sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart follows Alice’s unforgettable journey, as she learns that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

Posted on April 25, 2018 by

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"Holly Ringland: ‘Fiction is the lie that tells the truth’"

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