Here’s something to gnaw on as you continue to read my interview with Julie Wray Herman. The 2004 rankings are in and according to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Minneapolis is the most literate city in the United States. New York City, the heart of publishing, is ranked 49th. (Go figure.) The bookloving, self-proclaimed literary capitol of Texas, Austin, comes in at 22 behind Tulsa. My fair town of Houston cruises in at 63, only slightly ahead of Los Angeles—despite their big LA Book Fair—at 58, while El Paso trails in at the end at 79. Cities must have a population of 200,000 or higher and are also judged in the following categories: educational attainment, booksellers, newspaper circulation; library resources; and periodicals published. My thanks to Book Zone Pro’s Newswire for the literary tip.
Now, back to Julie: I loved the story you told yesterday of how the Three Dirty Women Landscaping Service series came into being. Let’s explore the gardening angle a little more today.
2. Your website is called MysteryGarden.com. Why did you choose the idea of a mystery garden versus doing a site with your name or with the series name? Also, I notice you’re a Texas Master Gardener. Did that come before or after the series, and how have you used that in promoting your books?
I chose MysteryGarden because I thought it more intriguing than my own name. An unknown writer’s name is not one that people stumble on accidentally. With this one, I figured gardeners might actually wander by on the off chance that something gardening was related to the site. I did not use Three Dirty Women because I figured I’d get traffic which wouldn’t be of the book-buying variety.
I completed the Texas Master Gardener course at Mercer Arboretum just after I sold the series. It was something I had always wanted to do, but didn’t feel I could take the time to do unless I was going to use it. I have always been an enthusiastic gardener, but an untutored one. This course was so good — I loved every minute of the class and the time I spent afterward doing my service hours. I only wish I still had enough time to continue to work at the Arboretum – it’s a fabulous place. Master Gardener courses are offered throughout the state and vary from location to location. I want to take the Fort Bend County course as it includes beekeeping. I have been able to connect to Master Gardeners in other parts of the country to help with research for the books, an unplanned benefit which has been invaluable.