1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
Writing is my third career. I worked in marketing in the telecommunications field for a number of years, then switched to teaching marketing at the college level 25 years ago. My oldest friend swears that I told her I would write a book someday when we were just 14. Around 40 years later, I finally got serious and started writing Jeep Tour, my first novel inspired by a family trip to Sedona, AZ. I truly love writing and am currently on book #6!
2) What inspired you to write your book?
The real life story of Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO) inspired me. FLO is an ancestor of my husband’s- they’re actually distant cousins- and we’ve always enjoyed visiting his parks in Boston and New York as well as the grounds of the private estates he designed, including the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. I read a few of the well-written biographies about FLO and discovered that, acting on a deathbed wish from his brother, Fred married his widow Mary, adopted her three children and together, they had four more. It got me thinking about Mary- what was her story? How did she feel about all of this? Was theirs a marriage in name only or something more? I couldn’t find a story to read, so I wrote it!
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your books?
All of my books carry a central theme: the importance of second chances, the ability to reinvent yourself, to seek a do-over in your life. My main characters vary in age, relationship status and professions, but they all are seeking an opportunity to get the ‘happy ever after’ that they each deserve.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
My first four books are contemporary women’s fiction and my most recent one- Landscape of a Marriage is historical, but each one describes quirky, imperfect women seeking to live their best possible lives. I am inspired by my daughter, my nieces and my amazing women friends as I create these characters that I hope resonate with readers.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
My favorite character so far is Jill Griffin. She was working at the front desk of a motel when we first met her in Guessing at Normal. James Sheridan and his band check in while on tour and he steals Jill’s heart. While not the ideal boyfriend/husband (a wandering eye when it comes to female groupies and some substance abuse issues) he inspires Jill to start her career as a songwriter. Jill returns as an older and wiser woman in Second Guessing. Now wildly successful and the mother of a teenager, Jill seeks a second chance at love and finds it with a young pop star. I would love to talk with her about her life, her choices and the inspiration for her songs.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I am a huge fan of Goodreads. The readers are passionate and are seeking the best books they can find and the platform is relatively easy to navigate. As an author, you can post in groups made up of your target audiences, sponsor giveaways, trivia, etc. I am also a fan of Facebook, but more for branding and name recognition vs. sales.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
What I have learned in the eight years since I finished my first manuscript is that before you start sending out queries to line up an agent, publisher or even beta readers, be certain that your book is as good as you can possibly make it. Hire an editor and/or a proofreader and make the changes they recommend. Know your genre- what is your target audience expecting re: cover designs, storylines and page counts? I’ve heard too many of my peers struggle to describe their books in just a sentence or two, but that is all the time you’ll ever have when communicating with a potential reader.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I am working on two projects- the first is contemporary fiction- Miranda is a disgraced former Assistant State’s Attorney seeking a career comeback when a missing witness from the case that derailed her career resurfaces with a story of bribery and coverups involving Miranda’s ex. I am hoping to see it published within the year. The second is at the very early stages. It is biographical fiction set in the early 20th century, featuring the South’s original power couple. More to follow.
About the Author
Gail Ward Olmsted was a marketing executive and a college professor before she began writing fiction on a fulltime basis. A trip to Sedona, AZ inspired her first novel Jeep Tour. Three more novels followed before she began Landscape of a Marriage, a biographical work of fiction featuring landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, a distant cousin of her husband’s, and his wife Mary.
For more information, please visit her on Facebook and at GailOlmsted.com.