Today’s guest is professional writer Caroline Alethia to share a bit of how her novel Plant Teacher came into being and what it’s about.
Caroline Alethia is a professional writer whose work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, on radio and in web outlets. She has worked as a technical writer for the United Nations, a journalist covering European Union business policy in Brussels, and an executive producer of national, Spanish-language educational radio programs. She has edited numerous international publications and has taught business communications at the college level. Her words have reached audiences on six continents. She lived in Bolivia and was a witness to many of the events described in Plant Teacher.
Welcome to Reviews and Interviews, Caroline. Please tell us about your current release.
Plant Teacher follows the lives of American expatriates in La Paz during a time period when the country of Bolivia is turning into a dictatorship. The main characters in the book, Martin Banzer and Cheryl Lewis, are recent college graduates who have come to La Paz for opposite reasons. Cheryl wishes to create a new life and a future for herself while Martin, who is of Bolivian ancestry, is trying to come to terms with his past.
I think it is a bit trite for an Anglo writer to attempt magic realism, but I wanted there to be an element of the magical and the native in this story. For this reason, I had Martin experiment with indigenous hallucinogenic plants and initiation ceremonies at the beginning of the narrative, and the aftermath of this experimentation guides much of the rest of the book.
What inspired you to write this book?
Above all, I wanted to entertain. All of the novels that have impacted me the most were ones that I enjoyed reading. After living for almost a year in Bolivia, I felt that I knew a great deal about this country and enough certainly to tell an exciting story.
What exciting story are you working on next?
The theories of Freud’s greatest rival, Alfred Adler, are little understood. In fact, Adlerian psychoanalysis is a tremendously exciting process. It’s like fortune telling, only real. One of the scenes in Plant Teacher demonstrates Adlerian analysis in action, and I am going to write a self-help book that teaches people how to analyze themselves and one another in this way.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always got top grades in writing in school, so I always considered myself a capable writer. When I was first hired to write for a living – when I worked for the United Nations after graduate school – then I considered myself to be a professional writer.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write most of the time. I work in marketing and a large part of my job is finding interesting people and then telling their stories. I’ve connected with people all around the globe in this capacity.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t wear a funny hat and I don’t have a lucky totem. I am, however, quite compulsive about writing. I set aside a couple of months to work on Plant Teacher, and I worked from sunup to sundown until it was complete. After it had been through some rounds of reviews, I worked from sunup to sundown on the editing, and I finished the rewrite in one long stretch.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always dreaming up public service announcements as a young person: How to save on the water bill; Why girls are equal to boys. I was a bit eccentric. As an adult, I’ve learned that this is a discipline known as “behavioral change communications,” and I happily worked for seven years in this field.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you to all of you who decide to read Plant Teacher. If I entertain you and spark your imaginations, then I have done my job.
Thank you for being here today, Caroline. All the best with your continued writing!