The second novel from USC alum Ekta Garg explores the topic of bringing fantasy into the adult genre as she aims to add depth to the category with her writing.
Garg's "In the Heart of Linden Wood" is a story about a king trying to provide for his kingdom while battling deep-rooted trauma and discovering that healing his broken heart may be the only answer.
Both of Garg's novels are set in a fantasy world, but "In the Heart of Linden Wood," includes magical trees that support the kingdom for centuries. The story portrays themes of growing and overcoming obstacles according to the author, and she hopes readers can connect the message.
The book showcases a king named Christopher facing his troubling self-image issues brought on by his late father, Vincent. After undergoing a period of grief after the loss of the people most important to him, Christopher loses what was left of his confidence. Through Christopher's struggles, Garg poses the consistent question of "how do you overcome a broken heart?"
"Almost every single character you meet, their heart has been broken in some way, shape or form, and they are now at this juncture where they're trying to deal with how do they overcome that," Garg said.
Garg explained the process of novel writing as an extensive and continuous journey and suggested that aspiring authors keep in mind that “you can’t edit a blank page.”
She found the idea for "In the Heart of Linden Wood" from her experience reading "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern, which led her to wonder if she could write her own fairytale. From there, she wanted to look beyond the natural "happily ever after" many fairytales showcase to try examining the "what if?"
Garg credits early steps in her writing journey to her mentor, Peggy Williams, who worked for a writing program called the Pathway to Publication at University of Wisconsin-Madison and guided Garg along the process of writing and eventually publishing two novels.
Williams said that she assisted Garg in “digging deeper conversationally into her characters,” and she has a deep respect for Garg as someone who took her own writing very seriously and felt heavily connected to it.
"Her work was very, very personal to her," Williams said.
Both of Garg's novels were published by Atmosphere Press, which focuses on individual-based publishing and allows the authors to take control of their novels, according to CEO Nick Courtright.
"I wanted to have a press that actually cared about authors and took care of them," Courtright said.
Courtright agreed that Garg is an inspiring writer with an ability to give stories an unseen fantastical twist, which is what makes this novel in particular stick out from the rest.
"I am so proud of this book, and I'm so excited that it's out there for other people (to finally experience)," Garg said.
More information about "In the Heart of Linden Wood" is available on Garg's website, and copies are available for purchase at bookstores across the nation, including Barnes & Noble.
Correction: A previous version of this story said that Garg was inspired by seeing magical identities in everyday objects. The article was updated to say that she was influenced by "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern to explore the fairytale genre.