I've decided to talk to Laken after falling in love with her beautiful and imaginative fantasy adventure The Chrysillium Tree.
Hi and welcome! Could you please introduce yourself?
Hello. My name is Laken Honeycutt. I am a fantasy author and my debut novel, The Chrysillium Tree, releases in little over two weeks on the fall equinox.
I’d like to jump right into discussing ‘The Chrysillium Tree’. It was such a fascinating and immersive read! One of the things that stood out to me was the lore. Could you speak about the process of world-building and coming up with so many exciting details?
Thank you so much for reading, Alina! I’m happy the lore stood out for you. This is certainly something that is important to me. I love studying ancient civilizations, the more divergent from our current way of being in the world, the better. One thing I’ve learned, that is the same across cultures, is our use of lore; the ability to tell stories to define ourselves, set social norms, and inspire us.
The lore of The Chrysillium Tree (TCT) is a dark one. There is a dark history in this world and there is a great wounding that has occurred. It’s not simple. It’s complex and it permeates the magic system, the ecosystem, the human systems… but that is how it is, in real life, the human system does not stand alone. All these facets of being are interconnected and I wanted that to translate in TCT.
So this is what led me in the process of worldbuilding. How does this wounding permeate this world. What suffers? Who suffers? How do they suffer? What are the stakes? And what needs to be done? I guess that’s getting into plot, but again, all interconnected.
Ulli is a land where magic is part of the ecosystem; it’s natural. Other systems are codependent upon its well-being. Much of my world building centers around this premise. That which is in balance and that which is out of balance. I stay away from good versus evil.
Then, with that framework in place, I let my imagination run wild. There is a pantheon of gods all born of my imagination. There are magic forests: some beautiful and cozy and another that is terrifying. There are four different magic systems depending upon where characters are from. So this is the fun part. But I think having that initial framework is important, to have some boundaries in place otherwise, without that structure, the world building is just an amorphous blob that’s not going to make sense to anyone but the writer. For me, the world building has to have a point, it needs to have a purpose that serves the story being told. Or I don’t mention it. Maybe set aside for something later if I think it’s really cool.
What inspired you to write ‘The Chrysillium Tree’? How did it all start?
I began TCT just days into the pandemic. I had finished my first novel, which remains a WIP (work in progress), and then TCT just started pouring out of me as a totally different story in a different universe than my first WIP.
It began with a dream I had of a beautiful tree. But first, to set some context, I was terrified at this time in my life. The pandemic had just begun. My son’s school shut down. We were living in New York. I was a single mom far away from family and anyone who could help. But more than that was just the fear and how very odd everything felt in those first few weeks of the pandemic: energetically, psychologically.
So amidst all that, I had this dream of a beautiful indigo tree and it was more than the visual beauty of the tree, it was the feeling of it. It was peace and a serenity that was... well beyond this world. It was ethereal, god-like.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the tree and I got curious about it and like I do, I started asking questions about it. As I answered my questions, the initial premise of TCT was born.
I felt that love for the nature and a deep connection to it was an important theme in the story. Is that a reflection of your own relationship with the world?
Yes. Absolutely. I grew up in the white mountains of New Hampshire. This is a place where environmental conservation has been very effective. Here you can still find wild places and I did as a child and now, thanks to the pandemic, I have moved back here and are enjoying these same places with my son.
I think these early connections with nature influences a lot of my work. In my twenties I moved to big cities like Boston, New York, London and then after a very high-stress lifestyle I retreated back to nature. This time into the Green Mountains of Vermont and I did a lot of healing there.
So yes, nature is a place of comfort, familiarity, and healing for me. I personally believe humans were designed to be stewards of nature and we have fallen out of accordance with our own nature in modern times. So I think my connection with nature is something maybe many others might feel too.
For me, I cannot mention magic without thinking of the magic of the woods, the ocean, the desert. These things are intrinsically linked in my writing, in my mind, in my being.
What do you mean when you say that humans are stewards of nature?
I mean that through us nature can thrive, but this is a symbiotic relationship. We do not innately know what is best for nature, we need to listen. Observe with more than just our eyes, how nature functions then develop systems to help facilitate this. I’ve seen this work very well. Our local audubon society, for one, has sculpted the land they own so that nature there thrives. It’s subtle. It’s conscious.
What is the relationship between humans and nature like now? Do you think it will change in the future?
I hope humans' current relationship with nature changes. It would be a big change. I mean we’re talking meta systems thinking change and because of this I have serious doubts. But maybe. I think first capitalism will have to fall. I don’t suggest socialism- that system is just as flawed. This could be a whole other blog post, but I do not believe we will be able to address environmental issues with capitalism as the dominating paradigm. It’s antithetical to systems of balance. It’s a flawed system and always has been. It promotes homogenization which is unnatural and will lead to our demise.
Mass farming is another thing that will have to go. This is perhaps the most gross example of humans distorting our ability to manage and work with the land. There is a book, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn that gets into this idea more and that author believes that humans first fell out of balance with nature with the onset of agriculture.
But I hope the most important change will come from people. People reuniting with nature and what I believe is our natural role as stewards of the earth. People making conscious decisions about what we purchase, how much we purchase, and choosing not to buy from companies that blight the environment.
Is there a message that you’d like your readers to pick up after reading your book?
Readers will interpret the story in a way that they need to. And my hope is that it will speak to people in a way that is needed. So no, I didn’t have any agenda in writing TCT.
‘The Chrysillium Tree’ ended in a way that indicates there will be a sequel. Can you tell me anything about it? How much have you already written and when should readers expect it?
Haha. Hmmm. There is one in the works. I do like the equinoxes. And there will be surprises. That’s about all I can say right now. xo
That's exciting! I guess we'll just have to wait and see :). What do you do for fun?
Write. Read. That’s about it these days. When I can, I enjoy trail running, kayaking, hiking, climbing, surfing. My son is just starting to do these things with me and it’s a lot of fun.
Who are your favorite authors or what are your favorite books?
Rosalyn Briar is amazing. I really enjoy her book A Sea of Pearl and Leaves. E.P. Stavs is so talented and I’ve been loving her Shendri Series. I’m also a fan of K.L. Bone and pretty much anything she writes, although I’ve been listening to The Black Rose Series on Audible and enjoying that lately.
I don’t read very many traditionally published books these days. Honestly, indie books just speak to me more. But I do love Stephen King (especially his Dark Tower series). I’m also a huge Dune fan and can’t wait for the new movie. A few other authors I enjoy are Tomi Adeyemi, N.K. Jemisin, Laini Taylor, and Leigh Bardugo.
If you could visit a world described in one of the books you’ve read, where would you go and why?
It’s crazy, but I’d really like to visit N. K. Jemisin’s dystopian world in The Fifth Season. It’s so fantastical and yet so visceral, I just have to see what it looks like. I would probably die very soon after landing there. LOL. But I can’t help but be curious about the obelisks and the stone eaters.
It's definitely an unforgiving world, but I understand your fascination with it! What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been to?
Nepal. Yes, the landscape is breathtaking and the light there is quite different from here. The smell of incense in the morning, it’s a magical place, but the most beautiful thing about it, is the people. This is beyond words, it’s an experience.
What is your wildest dream?
Oh, that’s a good one! I’m pretty practical. LOL I guess it would be for my writing to one day be sustainable. Maybe own a house. Those things would be nice.
I hope your dreams will come true :) If you’d like to add anything, please do.
Thank you so much for talking with me. I hope I haven’t blabbed too much on here. Your questions are awesome. I didn’t realize I had so much to say. Thank you.
Thank you! <3 It was a pleasure, and you definitely didn't babble. Your answers are awesome, and I'm glad you had a lot to say :) I’m looking forward to your next book!