Laura B Gschwandtner is married, the mother of three daughters, a writer, magazine editor, artist, and co-owner with her husband of an integrated media business. Her work has appeared in various journals including Del Sol Review. One of her prose poems has been included in an anthology called Oil and Water and Other Things That Don’t Mix, which is a collection being published to support victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf. She has received awards for three different stories from the Writer’s Digest Annual Competition in the mainstream literary category and the Lorian Hemingway short fiction competition, and was short listed for a Tom Howard Short Story Contest. She also founded TheNovelette.com which offers free themed writing contests with prizes for emerging writers. Her first novel, The Naked Gardener is available at Amazon in Kindle and print versions.
1) How did you become a published author?
I had published a lot of nonfiction business books. A fiction writer friend kept badgering me to publish The Naked Gardener as an Indie on Kindle. She wouldn’t let it go. She published her book first and has had tremendous success so I finally acquiesced and I’m very glad I did. We’re working on a book together now. That’s a new experience for both of us. It’s a lot of fun.
2) Agents. Something every writer needs. How did you get your agent?
Actually with the way publishing is going, and the possibilities of being an Indie author, you don’t need an agent anymore. I have used an agent for nonfiction. And I had one years ago for fiction. I met her at a writing conference. That’s probably the best way to make contact with agents. But many don’t go to conferences at all. There are many ways to meet agents but conferences are probably the easiest way because they’re held all over the country throughout the year. I would try to find a conference where the most agents who represent your type of work will be attending.
3) What are three things you wished you would have known about the publishing business?
- To what degree it is a personality business.
- That there is no predictable pathway to publishing a work of fiction. Every author’s experience is different so you can’t really follow someone else’s breadcrumbs.
- How little it is run like other businesses. By that I mean, for instance, the advance system makes no sense whatever. I know writers who got huge advances for first time novels that never paid out. And I know experienced writers who got modest advances whose books did make money for the publisher yet they still don’t get the big advances the other writers whose books did not pay out did and, in some cases, continue to get. There is no rationale behind these decisions and that goes back to #1.
4) Who has been your biggest influence?
Every writer I’ve ever read has had some influence – if their works held me and stayed with me. I had one writing teacher who I met at Iowa and he was a big influence on the craft side. There’s not one big influence. It’s a lot of small things that add up. Writers, books, experiences in the publishing world, teachers, and then the love of reading – the magic that happens when you lose yourself inside a story. I think that’s the big influence, that losing oneself for a time in another world.
5) What has been your favorite author experience so far?
I have really loved being an Indie author. The control is in my hands and it’s been very rewarding so far. My book continues to sell and I can promote it as long as I want to without worrying about a publisher pulling the rug out from under me. What a lot of people don’t realize about traditional publishing is that once you sign a contract, your book becomes their property. And they can do whatever they want – or don’t want – with it and, by default, with your future.
6) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Writing is like playing a musical instrument. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it and the more confidence you’ll create. You have to build up your writing muscle. There are no child prodigy writers. So the advice is – write. Anyone who thinks writing is a glamorous or easy task is naïve. Writing is a tough grind. If you love it, you don’t mind. But if you’re looking for instant gratification, writing is not the way to get it.
7) When you’re writing, what do you have to have next to you?
There’s nothing I really require. Maya Angelou used to say that she had to have a bottle of – I think it was Ouzo but it may have been some other liquor – next to her when she wrote. Of course she also drank it. I’ve never been a drinker and I don’t take drugs. So here I sit with paper scraps, notes, and lists to my left and Roget’s thesaurus, J.I. Rodale’s Synonym Finder, Webster’s dictionary, and a box of tissues to my right. Sounds pretty unglamorous when I list it like this. The one thing I absolutely require is my comfortable chair. It tilts back. I find myself tilting and rocking quite a bit.
8 ) Tell me about your novel, The Naked Gardener:
At a certain point in my life, I knew three women who gardened naked. They all had different takes on why they did it but they all felt it was really important to them. So I began to think about a woman named Katelyn Cross who goes to her garden naked and what that might mean and in what ways it would be liberating for her and important in her life.
The garden symbolizes her world and the rocks in it keep getting in her way. So she has to deal with life’s obstacles, even in her garden.
But it isn’t just that she gardens naked…it’s what her nakedness represents: Katelyn’s desire for independence and artistic expression, her ambivalence about becoming a “wife,” her need to stay in touch with her true spirit. Because she and Maze are summer residents in the sleepy New England hamlet of Trout River Falls, Katelyn has never gotten involved in the problems the town faces, but when the all-female town council persuades her to take them on a wilderness canoe trip, Katelyn’s outsider status rapidly melts away. Can Katelyn help save the town? Can the town save Katelyn? The Naked Gardener has a complex and interesting heroine at a crossroads in her life, sassy and unpredictable friends, and plenty of adventure. It’s a non traditional love story as well as a book about women becoming stronger through a shared experience and sense of community.
9) Have you ever been on a wilderness canoe trip?
I guess that would depend on how one defines wilderness. I’ve been on plenty of canoe and kayak trips where I never saw another person. But I’m not one of these people who would go to Alaska and camp out with grizzlies (shiver). There are degrees of wilderness.
10) If you could meet any author, who would it be?
Today, right now, Margaret Atwood
I am a big fan of her work. It’s not like anything I write. Her world view is fairly dismal as far as what we humans are capable of doing to each other and our planet. And that is not my view at all. However, her skill in making her case to the reader is undeniable. And she creates a complete world in each of her books. I also admire and find great depth in her nonfiction work.
11) Every one knows how much writers love coffee and coffee shops. So I have to ask…what’s your favorite coffee drink?
Actually I’m not much of a coffee drinker. I do like Chai Latte however. Last summer I climbed a mountain (okay, a small mountain) in western Canada. At the top, next to a misty, glacial, waterfall there was a Japanese tea house. They served up the best Chai Latte I’ve ever tasted at that tea house on the mountain. Or maybe it was the climb. In any case, the experience was ethereal. And the Chai extraordinary.