I am delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for Habitat Man by Denise Baden. I am thrilled to be sharing this book, plus an exclusive guest post with you all. Firstly, thank you to Rachel at Rachels Random Resources for the invite.

About the Book

Habitat Man by Denise Baden.

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Worms have more purpose than Tim, and a better love life. They break waste down into rich fertile soil; Tim just makes the rich richer. Worms copulate for three hours at a time whereas the closest thing Tim has to love is his lesbian friend Jo. Salvation comes from Jo’s flaky niece Charlotte who asks him three profound questions. Inspired, he sheds his old life to become Habitat Man, giving advice on how to turn gardens into habitats for wildlife. His first client is the lovely Lori. Tim is smitten, but first he has to win round Ethan her teenage son. Tim loves his new life until he digs up more than he bargained for, something that threatens to bring out all the skeletons in his cupboard.

Purchase Link – https://books2read.com/u/mVa19A

Praise

“Habitat Man is both great fun (with such an engaging cast of characters) and a delightful reflection on the ways we live – and the ways we die! – at a time when more and more people are grappling with today’s environmental challenges.” Jonathon Porritt (Forum for the Future).

“Truly lyrical and a joy to read” Mark Laggatt, author.

“A natural storyteller” 
Writing.co.uk

“Superbly written romance with a lovely touch of humour” Helen Baggott, author.

“A charming romp that makes you think! Mid-life crisis meets environmental awareness in this rom-com for the 21st Century.” Michael Jecks, author.

“A tale of lust, gardening, love and compost: a hilarious page turner”
Dave Goulson, author of ‘The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet’ and the newly released ‘Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse.’

Guest Post

HABITAT MAN AND THE PERILS OF WRITING PEOPLE YOU KNOW.

They say write what you know, and indeed Habitat Man is based on a real life Green Garden Consultancy that was set up a few years ago run by our local Transition Group. You donate a tenner to the green charity Transition, then a local ecologist visits your garden and provides tips on how to make it wildlife friendly. Note: ponds are good, mow less, instead of taking garden debris to the dump, leave it piled up at back to create a habitat, home compost, no pesticides and plant stuff pollinators like. Anyway, back to the story, I loved the idea of a man having a midlife crisis and chucking in his job to do his bit for nature. It also occurred to me that having my character visit different gardens was a lovely premise for a book and originally I thought of it as a series of short connected stories. For example, one story he might visit the Wizard of Woolston who wants a habitat for bats and frogs, the next week, Dawn the polyamorist who wants hedgehogs and so on. Also of course he has to fall in love with a client. But then, when he dug up a body while digging a pond, I found that I’d created story arcs that demanded a novel.

My hero is very much like X the original Habitat Man (aka local green garden consultant) in terms of what he does, but I’ve been required to make it clear that he’s very different in terms of character. As with all superheroes X likes to hide his real identity, but I could tell he was secretly pleased when I handed him the first copy ever of the book and he read the dedication.

This is dedicated to the real Habitat Man (he knows who he is) who works tirelessly and at no charge to offer assistance to the undervalued nematodes, beetles, worms, springtails and micro-organisms that are the building blocks of life.

It’s tricky though writing from real life. It was awkward my hero falls in love with his first client, when the hero is a real person and the garden being talked about is pretty much mine. I did have another character based on a friend’s rather controversial brother that I decided in the end to take out, as he was just too close to the real person. I am also ashamed to admit that I daydream sometimes about making people who’ve upset me, baddies in my next book. A slightly womanising part time lodger has become a gay Albanian who cries at Downton Abbey re-runs. Rom coms aren’t his thing, and maybe it’s a good job. Then again, part of me longs for him to read it and see himself transformed. I’m sure he’ll find it amusing (well, almost sure). Then again, some people beg to be in my sequel. My adorable hairdresser made me promise him a part, and as he had scissors and the fate of my hairdo in his hands, I couldn’t refuse.

In reality, I’ve taken the most interesting, fun and quirky characteristics of the most interesting and fun people I know or used to know and shuffled them up and re-dealt them among my characters. Very few are clearly based on just one person (except the dog and my polyamorous neighbour who was delighted to be in it). What is so interesting though, is how wrong most people get it, and it can tell you a lot about their self-image as to what characters they think might be based on them, especially when a person you think is wonderful is fearful that a less likeable character is based on them.

I also hadn’t counted on my own reactions to how readers see my characters. My favourite character is Jo – a comic side kick. She’s lazy, funny, takes the mick out of the hero Tim constantly. She’s also a little ambiguous and Tim (and the reader) is often led to wonder whether she truly has his back or is just exploiting him. Some readers find her hilarious and others really hate her. They see my expression then hasten to explain that they like hating her as it makes her an interesting character. Some would love to have her as a best friend, and others couldn’t bear it. As Jo is based on a combination of three people from my distant past I adored, I find myself getting upset when readers think of her as a baddie, when in my eyes she kind of is but more like Toad in Wind in the Willows, naughty but lovable.

Spending time with these characters warded off loneliness through lockdown and for a while I revelled in the feeling of control I had over my fictional world, when we had so little control over the outside world. Now though, the characters are exerting control over me and insisting upon a sequel – several sequels. The back story to some of Jo’s antics is revealing itself to me and demands to be told. Similarly, the secret from Habitat Man’s past comes to light at the end of the story, but there are ramifications and implications that demand to be played out. A few interesting characters have also entered my world over the last couple of years, and I can see some of their strange ways and issues seeping into a character. I know it’s wrong but perhaps if I make him a her and change the hair colour, he/she will never know!

About the Author

Denise Baden is Professor of Sustainability at the University of Southampton and has published numerous book chapters and articles in the academic realm. She wrote the script for a musical that was performed in Southampton and London in 2016, and has written three other screenplays. This is her first novel. Habitat Man was inspired by a real-life green garden consultant who helped make her garden more wildlife friendly. Denise set up the series of free Green Stories writing competitions in 2018 to inspire writers to integrate green solutions into their writing (www.greenstories.org.uk). Habitat Man began as an effort to showcase what a solution-based approach might look like, and then took on a life of its own. In between teaching and research, she is now working on the sequel.

Social Media Links – @DABadenauthor, www.dabaden.com


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