Don't Forget Your Nose—The Smell Of World Building
As some of you might know, our very own Pub-Crawler Stacey Lee has a book coming out at the end of the month, on December 27th, THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE, about a teenaged perfumer who erroneously fixes the mother of the school soccer star with a love potion, and must correct her mistake before her mother finds out.
Originally, I’d hoped to interview Stacey about her use of smells in writing the book, but she has been a little busy with promotion. But the good news is, I was able to track down her main character, Mimosa, for an interview.
Stephanie: So, I’ve heard your family makes love potions?
Mimosa: Technically, they’re ‘elixirs.’ Mother hates it when I call them love potions, but yes, that’s pretty much what they are.
Stephanie: Just out of curiosity, how do you make them?
Mimosa: Every person is born with a unique smell called a ‘scentprint,’ which is made up of hundreds, sometimes thousands of notes. We use our noses to match a person’s scentprint with notes found amongst earth’s botanicals to create an elixir that represents the individual’s scent. The target is ‘fixed’ with this elixir, and then if the chemistry is right, magic happens.
Stephanie: So, it’s kind of like you’re a modern day cupid, who uses potions instead of arrows. If I wanted one, what would I need to do to get one?
Mimosa: Are you over 18?
Mimosa: Currently single?
Stephanie: Umm, yes.
Mimosa: Any criminal record?
Stephanie: Of course not. Why are you smelling me?
Mimosa: We’re trained to sniff out lies.
Stephanie: What does that smell like?
Mimosa: Like pewter and sourgrass with stale yellow undertones, sort of like a sweaty palm that has been gripping dirty coins.
Stephanie: I can totally visualize that. How do you describe that so well?
Mimosa: I really trust Stacey Lee for that. She’s a big believer in using smell as part of the landscape of her stories. Her nose is very sensitive, which is why Mother and I thought she was the right one to tell our story.
Stephanie: Yes, often writers can depend too heavily on their eyes for description, when we should be using all five senses, that’s something she helped me with too. When I first started writing I just mentioned was seen and heard, and I tended to neglect, touch, taste, and smell.
Mimosa: Ironically, I learned I was relying too much on my nose to the detriment off my other senses. I guess we all have our weak spots!
Stephanie: Why is it so difficult to describe scent?
Mimosa: There are precious few words to describe scent in the English language. My ancestors are quite diverse, and it’s amazing how many more words there are to describe smell in other languages, like Thai, and Inuit. English speakers rely on analogies, like, her unwashed hair smells like rotten eggs. English speaking aromateurs have developed a way of describing scent that relies on analogies to color or hue, combined with numbers to indicate degrees of intensity. If you don’t have the language, you have to make it up.
Stephanie: That is fascinating. Now let’s get back to you and the love potions. Have you ever used a potion to make anyone fall in love with you?
Mimosa: It’s against the rules, though I would be lying if I said the thought never crossed my mind. You’re not going to show this interview to Mother, are you?
Stephanie: I wouldn’t dream of it. Do you date a lot?
Mimosa: That’s also against the rules. Most of the guys who follow me around do so because of my flower dust. When you live and breathe flowers, you can’t help attracting the bees. That’s when our propriety blend of botanicals called BBG (short for Boy Be Gone) comes in handy. One spritz and the boy forgets his attraction.
Stephanie: That’s actually kind of sad, and it sounds a little magical. Is what you do considered magic?
Mimosa: Some call it magic, but others believe what we do is grounded in fact. Some scientists believe we were simply born with millions more scent receptors than the average nose. Magic or science, maybe it’s a little of both, just like love.
Stephanie: I’m going to choose to believe it’s magic. Thank you so much for joining us, Mimosa!
If you haven’t already pre-ordered The Secret of A Heart Note by Stacey Lee, I highly recommend it. Stacey is also hosting a really amazing pre-order giveaway right now, where you can get your own personalized perfume recipes. All the details are on Stacey’s blog, so make sure to check it out.
Now, it's time for me to ask all of you, how many of you would be tempted to buy a love potion from Mimosa and her mom?