Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of reading this amazing book called Hothouse Flower & the 9 Plants of Desire by Margot Berwin. The story is about an AD executive named Lila who ends up going on the adventure of a lifetime in the Mexican jungle: panthers, snakes, karma, some fruit and of course men.
But don’t be fooled by the name of the novel, or the idea of the scantily clad, because Hothouse Flower & the 9 Plants of Desire is anything but that.
Meet Lila Nova — she’s over worked, divorced and lives inside of four white walls in Manhattan. Her home is how she finds her life: cold, plain, boring and very empty.
Walking through The City’s garden market one day she stumbles upon a handsome plant seller named David Exley. He opens her entire world up to new possibilities, she once thought dead: colour, light, life, sex and a vibrant lust for life. Soon after Lila finds a Laundromat and sees a fern so highly prized that a very tiny cutting is worth thousands of dollars. Mesmerized, and with the help of Exley, she learns about plants. It leads her to hear about a legend, something so far-fetched she hardly believes in it: the nine plants of desire.
Legend has it, that the person in possession of these nine plants will acquire fame, fortune, immortality and most of all, passion.
The owner of the Laundromat, Armand, presents Lila with a test: if she can make her cutting of the prized fern take root, he will show her what’s in his secret locked room. Lila, however, too trusting, and too passion-filled, makes a terrible mistake. One thing leads to another and the AD exec from the concrete jungle of New York City, finds herself in the Mexican jungle battling giant snakes, scorpions, monkeys and shamans. Not to mention the fact that along the way, she comes across the sexy, heart-stopping and oh to exotic, Diego.
Mystery, chick lit, adventure, fantasy and a little romance all make up the properties of Hothouse Flower & the 9 Plants of Desire.
Personally, I absolutely loved this book. It was so intriguing to read. Each chapter had me begging to go onto the next. It’s an easy read and it’s one of those perfect “pick me up” stories if you’re having a bad day. Berwin is excellent in her illustrations of Lila and the Hothouse adventure; you are truly transported into book.
And by the way, for my girls out there — if you do decide to read Berwin’s novel, and I hope you do, just be prepared to come across one of the most creative and sexiest kisses in literary history between Berwin’s pages. It’s between Lila and Diego and I’m not telling you anything more about it. You’ll have to read to find out — but take my word for it. You’ll hand your boyfriend the book and be like, “here, learn this.”
I understand there is a movie coming out soon as well, with Julia Roberts starring as Lila — let’s just hope it lives up to the splendour that is the book!
Pink Book’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
1. Where did you come up with the idea for Hothouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire? Is it real?
I made up the myth of the nine plants of desire. I researched magical things about plants. It turns out there are a lot of mythology out there. I tried to think of the nine thinks people want the most. Then I looked for plants to fit in.
I had a desire to write myth. It was really fun. The weirdest thing about this book, is that there was a real Laundromat â€“ and it was filled with plants â€“ all over the place. They were planted over the machines.
There was a weird Colombian man. He gave me a cutting. I made friends with this guy too.
It was like the entire story just came to me.
2. Was there much research involved?
I did, I researched plants. I went to Guatemala â€“ Southwest USA â€“ Utah, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.
I lived in Mexico for a year in a half.
I live in a house called Casablanca in Mexico. It was so many years before, but I never thought I would use it.
There were really scorpions all over the place. In the South of Mexico, there are so many scorpions that when we got to Casablanca, we were in the house for less than 5 minutes and my husband was bitten by a scorpion.
Yes â€“ I actually walked around with a spatula like Armand. People carry them around with them. You just get used to it.
Scorpions are really slow moving â€“ not the ones in South Mexico â€“ theyâ€™re big. Theyâ€™re the size of the bottom of a coffee mug. They hide to get you, they donâ€™t chase you.
3. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Was there some calling that facilitated you out of the AD world?
I always wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a writer since I was 6-years old. I always knew I was going to be published at some point.
I wrote two books before this.
I always had a full- time job. I used to write in the morning before work and then again at night.
I just kept going, because this is what I wanted to do with my life. Whatever it takes, one day I will be published.
I wrote two memoirs. These were totally different.
When I wrote this book, I thought to myself, I really wanted to write a â€œstory.â€ Pure imagination could really be fun.
You can only take so much of yourself, I really wanted to make up a story. So thatâ€™s what I did.
4. Are any of the characters based on anyone you know? Even a little bit?
Armand is based on someone I know very well. He was my therapist. I wanted to work some of the teachings I got from him into a story.
So when I met the guy from Colombia, I thought of combining the two and creating a character.
Lila is not based on someone I know, but I used the name of one of my best friends. I was really broke and she gave me a beach house for free soÂ I could write to finish my novel. I named my character after her.
The beach was the inspiration for the beach house.
Half of this book I dreamt.
Writing is so unconscious you never know what you are writings.
I wanted to have fun with writing. The book is a mix between a memoir and a book.
5. The black panther and the scorpion as pretty â€˜darkâ€™ creatures, was there a reason you chose them specifically?
Well the black panther is special. Ever since I was a young child I dreamt about this animal. Every once in awhile, and Iâ€™m young, and there is black panther. They are always positive.
This animal to me is a part of my life.
In my apartment, I have a few statues of them. Iâ€™m drawn to the animal.
6. Diego kisses Lila in a rather unique wayâ€¦itâ€™s pretty sexy, has someone kissed you that way before? Where did you come up with that?
I just imagined that. He wanted to kiss her â€“ he wanted too â€“ I wanted their first kiss to be outside, and sexy and I donâ€™t know, that just came into my mind.
It seemed really sexy to me too.
7. If Diego really loved Lila as he admitted as the end of the novel, why did he tease her so much? Thatâ€™s kind of a selfish thing for a man to do, isnâ€™t it?
I think Lila has these different expectations of the speed of relationships â€“ because sheâ€™s from New York. But she was so fast â€“
He was slower; that was his way.
She wasnâ€™t able to go with him, the way she wanted too. She was burned by Exley, she had a chip on her shoulder.
I think she wasnâ€™t in a great a place. And that Diego was just going to be another kind of creep.
When she got the mandrake root, she just wanted to turn him on, she thought he wasnâ€™t into her â€“ but she gave him too much.
When I wrote it, he was being really sexy, just not as her speed. She wasnâ€™t understanding his way. He was more sensual person. She wasnâ€™t use to a man like that.
Generally, that’s how people are in big cities.
She didnâ€™t feel like she had control of the situation. Sheâ€™s a bit of a control freak.
8. If your book was made into a movie â€“ what actors could you envision playing your characters?
It’s in production right now with Sony Pictures actually â€“ they have their star â€“ the screenplay has been written: Lila will be played by Julia Roberts.
I thought it would have been great if someone kind of unknown played the role as well. But, you know what, I also really liked Reese Witherspoon, she seems possible, perfect for the advertising role at the beginning. Did you see Sweet Home Alabama. Yes, that!
I would love to see â€“ Javier Bardem as Armand or Woody Harrelson.
Cristiano Ronaldo for Diego â€“ but heâ€™s not an actor. Or better yet, Gilles Marini from Sex and the City the movie. Thatâ€™s the look I would picture! That look is what everyone gravitates too.
Sonali is for my friend Sonal. I didnâ€™t have a vision of the person though. I never thought of her ethnicity. I would her to be played by an Indian, a South Asian, now that I think of it.
Not to many people know that name is Indian. Some people think its Spanish or Japanese. A good Indian actress. Sheâ€™s not that young, sheâ€™s in her 40s or 50s.
9. Will Lila ever return to Mexico?
Yes, they want me to a sequel. I am thinking of doing it.
10. If you are a budding writer â€“ how do you get published?
Try to get short stories published. On a blog, online, in a book of short stories.
Itâ€™s easier to get a novel published if youâ€™ve been published before â€“ people have heard of you. I started as a secretary and I worked my way up to being a copyrighter. I offered my services for free â€“so they could give me a shot.
You can purchase your copy of the novel here.
Sasha Muradali runs the â€˜Little Pink Bookâ€™ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida (â€™07)Â and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami(â€™08). She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima.