Gabi Coatsworth is here this week to chat about her memoir, Love’s Journey Home

Author Name: Gabi Coatsworth

Book Title: Love’s Journey Home

Book Genre: Memoir

Release Date: May 7, 2022

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Welcome, Gabi! Please tell us a bit about your memoir.

Love’s Journey Home tells the story of my decades-long love affair with the handsome American I fell hopelessly in love with when I was 25. We forged a thirty-year life together through ups and downs, but I finally gave up when Jay’s alcoholism became more than I could bear. When not long after, he received a devastating medical diagnosis, I knew I’d regret it if I stayed away. So, I returned home to care for him, and unexpectedly found I had a second chance at love.

What was the spark? What drew you to write a memoir? What made you want to tell this particular story?

The death of my husband was the catalyst. In the aftermath of his long illness, I felt the need to figure out my feelings about loving him, and to answer the question “was our love real? Or was I just infatuated as a young woman?” As I wrote, the answers seemed to intrigue my critique partners, who urged me to publish it when it was done.

From your perspective, what’s the hardest thing about writing a memoir?

The hardest thing about this book was to dig down deep into my emotions. I’m British, so this doesn’t come naturally to me. At one point, I was ready to quit, as my critique partners asked, “But how did you feel about that?” They told me to write it as though no one would ever read it, which helped me resume writing. I couldn’t have done it without them.

What’s capturing your imagination these days outside of reading and writing?

The pandemic had one benefit – It gave me time to focus on my writing, and to find a whole new community of writers online. I joined the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, who have been holding daily write-ins, and made many friends who’ve been extremely supportive and knowledgeable about everything to do with writing. But I realized I had to get out of the house too, and began visiting gardens in my state of Connecticut, which I found incredibly calming yet inspiring too. I always return to my desk reinvigorated.

Any new writing projects in the works?

I have a women’s fiction novel out on submission and am working on another based on one of the characters in the first book. Fiction is so much easier to write!

Where can readers find you?

I love connecting with readers, and I always answer emails. Readers can find me via this link. https://linktr.ee/gabicoatsworth.

Thank you, Gabi! Love’s Journey Home is OUT NOW.

Their relationship seemed destined for heartache. A terminal diagnosis would teach them the true meaning of love.

Gabi Coatsworth never meant to fall for the handsome American. And after walking away because he was married, the British single mother thought she’d go forever without seeing him again. But her move to Chicago five years later for a career opportunity led to their reunion, a rekindled romance, and a wedding.

Forging a thirty-year life together through ups and downs, Gabi finally gave up when her husband’s alcoholism became more than she could bear. But not long after, he received a devastating medical diagnosis. Knowing she would regret it if she stayed away, she returned home to care for him.

And unexpectedly learned it’s never too late for a second chance…

This relatable story will resonate with readers who long to know that love can endure despite the many obstacles life puts in its way. Part romance, part medical memoir, all heart, it’s for everyone who needs to know that they can make it through life’s hardships and find happiness again.


Linda Murphy Marshall joins The Spotlight to chat about her memoir, Ivy Lodge

Author Name: LINDA MURPHY MARSHALL

Book Title: IVY LODGE: A MEMOIR OF TRANSLATION AND DISCOVERY

Book Genre: MEMOIR

Release Date: JULY 12, 2022

Publisher: SHE WRITES PRESS

Welcome, Linda! Please tell us a bit about your book.

My memoir tells the story of a woman who returns home following the death of both her parents. In going through her childhood home, she translates the events, memories, and people in her life, using the house and its contents as catalysts for uncovering her identity. In the process, she unwraps the mythology surrounding her family and her place in it, reaching ground truth.

What was the spark?

The memoir began as a 10-page essay I initially wrote as a workshop assignment. The more I wrote about my childhood home, the more I uncovered, and the more I knew I needed to continue that writing journey. Eventually that journey became my memoir.

From your perspective, what’s the hardest thing about writing and researching? And what do you love most about it?

The most difficult thing about writing and researching the book was reliving many of the painful, pivotal incidents, incidents I had previously lumped together as being a result of my faults, character flaws, poor judgment. The more I wrote, the more I realized that I had been — in large part — a scapegoat for what plagued my biological family, and not necessarily at fault for everything wrong about this family.

What I love the most about my memoir is that writing it was ultimately cathartic and healing; the more I wrote, the more I uncovered, translated, and discovered about myself. It was healing to organize my thoughts about my life and get them all down on paper.

What’s capturing your imagination these days outside of reading and writing?

In addition to reading and writing, I am a classical pianist, an artist (sketching and acrylic painting), a docent at the Library of Congress, and a trustee at the National Museum of Language.

Any new writing projects in the works?

I recently completed the first draft of a second memoir — Through the Windows of Words: A Memoir — which will also be published by She Writes Press. It continues my journey of discovery by taking the reader on my real and emotional journey, on numerous perilous trips to Africa. During the course of these trips, I gain an even better understanding of my identity.

Where can readers find you?

lindamurphymarshall.com

Thank you, Linda! Ivy Lodge is out NOW.

After both her parents die, Linda Murphy Marshall, a multi-linguist and professional translator, returns to her midwestern childhood home, Ivy Lodge, to sort through a lifetime of belongings with her siblings. Room by room, she sifts through the objects in her parents’ house and uses her skills and perspective as a longtime professional translator to make sense of the events of her past—to “translate” her memories and her life. In the process, she sees things with new eyes. All of her parents’ things, everything having to do with their cherished hobbies, are housed in a home that, although it looks impressive from the outside, is anything but impressive inside; in short, she now realizes that much of it —even the house’s fancy name—was show.

By the time Murphy Marshall is done with Ivy Lodge, she has not only made new discoveries about her past, she has also come to a new understanding of who she is and how she fits into her world.


Susan Speranza joins us this week to talk about her latest novel, Ice Out

Author Name: Susan Speranza

Book Title: Ice Out

Book Genre: Literary fiction/Magical Realism/Women’s fiction

Release Date: May 24, 2022

Publisher: SWP

Welcome, Susan! Please tell us about ICE OUT

Ice Out is a powerful tale of one woman’s journey from grief to acceptance and forgiveness after a tragic accident shatters her near-perfect life.

What sparked the idea for this book?

I have seen many people’s lives turn on a dime. What was a perfect, happy, fulfilling life changed in an instant, and those people found themselves in circumstances they never dreamed of. They then acted in ways they never anticipated. I have always been interested in such events, how it changes people, how people react. This is what I wanted to explore in Ice Out. I also wanted to explore the process of grieving and the idea of forgiveness.

Years ago there was a ferry accident in the English Channel. Many of the men got out, many of the women were left behind. It was thought that it took some physical strength to escape the underwater ferry and make it to the surface. I wondered why many of these men in their rush to the surface didn’t help the others. Did they leave behind friends, partners, spouses? When I began crafting this story, I thought of this incident and wondered, could you forgive your significant other for leaving you behind in a life or death situation? Should you? What would make someone do this? I used a snowmobiling accident because I live in Vermont, and as a snowmobiler myself I have seen some of these dedicated snowmobilers do crazy things. It’s a wonder there aren’t more accidents! All of this inspired the story.

When structuring this story, I used a somewhat non-linear form. The action moves from the present to the past and back again over and over as the story advances. Since the concept of time in Ice Out is very important, this framework aptly accentuates it.

However, this prevents the reader from knowing the full extent of what is going on, until the end, and even then, I leave it up to the reader to decide what really happened. This technique was inspired by a movie called Jacob’s Ladder. In the film, it is very effective as I believe it adds to the dramatic moment at the end when the viewer must decide what has happened – was this a dream, an hallucination or did it all really happen?

What drew you to this cross-genre of magical realism matched with literary suspense fiction?

I’ve always been attracted to fairy tales, fantasy, and allegory. These are wonderful devices a writer can employ to tell a dramatic and meaningful story. In many ways, Ice Out has a fairy tale-like quality to it. In the more realistic first part, which is Francesca’s story, she doesn’t seem quite real, neither does her “perfect” life.

What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?

I’ve never thought about this. Perhaps because being an “author” is not something I one day chose to be. It is simply something I am and always was, even as a child. In the same way I am a certain height, have a certain eye color, a certain sound of voice. Even as a child, I was attune to the drama of life, saw in it the comedy and tragedy of human existence. This might issue from my never-ending wonder and dismay at life, and the fact that all of this exists, that I exist. My writings are a reflection of my experience of having lived in the world. What I do find challenging is reaching readers who understand and share this vision.

If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read ICE OUT?

People read books for many reasons, for entertainment, for knowledge, to escape their own lives. But many of us seek out books and stories to find someone whose vision of the world broadens ours, and who can articulate what we can only feel. This makes us seem less alone to say, after reading a story, “Yes, I see what you see, I know what you know.” Ice Out will not resonant with everyone – no book ever does. But for those who are willing to look beneath the surface of the narrative and to contemplate life, death and reality in a metaphysical way, this book is for them.

What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?

What has most astounded me is how twenty people can proofread a manuscript and still not find that typo! The publishing process is always stressful because every publisher and every author proceeds with the assumption there is a market for the book about to launch. But truly no agent, publisher or author can really predict which book will click with the public and which will not. To me, success as a published author (which is different from success as an author) is akin to buying a lottery ticket. You have to be in it to win it, but it is largely luck that brings success. Theodor Geisel is one of many examples. His first book was rejected by 30 – 43 publishers (by his own varying account). One day, he was walking down a New York City street with the manuscript in hand (he claimed he was going to burn it) when he bumped into an old acquaintance who worked for a publishing company. The rest is history. I often wonder, what if he chose to walk down another street? The world would never have known Dr. Seuss.

Any words of wisdom you give your pre-published writer self (or to a new writer)?

The advice given new writers is write what you know and write with your audience in mind. To the first, I say that don’t take this literally – we know things in many different ways. You don’t need to write a story about a woman growing up in Brooklyn with divorced parents, because you are a woman who grew up in Brooklyn with divorced parents. Rather, write a story about someone stranded in a desert in Africa. You “know” this because this is how you felt growing up in the desert of the urban landscape when your parents’ divorce made you feel abandoned.

And to the second adage, I say in order for you to find your audience – people with whom your work will resonant, you must first write for yourself, otherwise your works will come across as superficial and inauthentic.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

My “other” but equally important life is as a breeder and exhibitor of champion Pekingese. I have equal passion for my dogs and my life in dogs as I have for my writing. On some level the two are connected. To be a breeder is to see the whole of life unfold in a short span in one’s living room. From the joys of a planned breeding, to the disappointment of a false pregnancy, to the thrill of a litter’s birth to the devastating loss of a puppy or litter or even worse, the mother, to the joy of training new pups to the sadness at the death of a faithful old companion who gave so much during his or her short stay here – all of this is life in its entirety, sped up and repeated over and over, eliciting the constant wonder and questions that inform all my writing – why are we here? What will happen to us? What is this all about?

Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.

I am obsessed with the larger questions of life, my next book will explore these questions. I’m hoping to make the form more experimental – in the tradition of Italo Calvino, for example. Not sure when it will be available, but in the meantime, readers can avail themselves of my previous novel, The Tale of Lucia Grandi, the Early Years.

Where can readers find you? 

GoodReads: www.goodreads.com/susansperanza

Twitter: @SusanSperanza

Facebook: www.facebook.com/susansperanzaauthor

Website: www.susansperanza.com

Thank you, Susan! Ice Out is available everywhere.

Francesca Bodin has a near-perfect life as an accomplished music teacher and professional flautist living in the country with her husband, Ben and their four-year old daughter, Addie. This ends suddenly when a snowmobiling accident traps the three of them in a frozen lake. Ben gets out, leaving her and Addie to die.

Francesca believes she sees their dog pull Addie from the lake and drag her into the nearby woods. Desperate to help her daughter, she struggles to emerge from the icy waters, and follows them. Once she enters the forest, however, she finds herself trapped in a sinister dream-like world where night never ends, where Addie’s whereabouts remain hidden from her and where she encounters a group of women who, like Francesca, have been left to die and now seek to unleash their revenge on those who have harmed them. When they have Ben in their sights, Francesca realizes that if she is ever to escape this nightmare and save her daughter, she must first save the husband who abandoned them.


Karla Huebner joins The Spotlight this week to chat about her novel, In Search of the Magic Theater

Author Name: Karla Huebner

Book Title: In Search of the Magic Theater

Book Genre: Literary/Women’s Fiction

Release Date: 6/1/22

Publisher: Regal House

Welcome, Karla! How would you describe In Search of the Magic Theater?

In Search of the Magic Theater follows two alternating narrators, the fortyish Kari and the twentyish Sarah, in their search for creative and personal growth in the worlds of experimental theater (Kari) and classical music (Sarah). Along the way, they grapple with their own past relationships (husband, family), form new connections, and in many ways redefine who they really are.

What sparked the idea for this book?

I was at a point in my life where I was getting ready to move on from dead-end jobs and a not-quite-right relationship, and it occurred to me that it could be interesting to write a novel about a woman at a similar crossroads.

How long did it take for you to write the book? Did you do any research?

While I had the initial vague idea of a novel about a midlife woman leaving her marriage some years before I actually began writing (in the meantime I began work on a PhD in art history!), and so the idea had been rattling around in the back of my mind, the actual writing did not take long. I wrote nearly the whole novel in about three months. I was nearly done with my PhD dissertation–just making edits and cuts, really–and felt able to return at last to writing fiction. It was a wonderful time. I did next to no research for the novel; the only research I can recall doing was some investigation into composers who had written duets for guitar and cello.

What drew you to literary (or women’s?) fiction?

I’m not really fond of categorizing fiction, but I recognize that it helps readers find what interests them. Here I need to define my terms because people don’t always agree on what is literary fiction or what is women’s fiction. Regarding women’s fiction, I’m taking the definition that WFWA uses, which emphasizes a focus on character and emotion. I wouldn’t call all of my writing women’s fiction, but In Search of the Magic Theater is strongly focused on two women and their emotional and creative lives. Regarding literary fiction, I define that as fiction that is well written and takes some risks–for example, when literary fiction follows a formula or fits a genre, it usually does so in unexpected, often playful, ways. Literary fiction can also address themes that might be more philosophical than are typical for genre fiction. In my writing, I always pay close attention to language and voice, and some of what I write is a bit experimental or plays with expectations.

What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?

I love most things about actually writing–the ideas, the discoveries along the way, the fine-tuning and perfecting. I would write for most of most days if I could! What I find challenging about being an author is the need to be my own publicist and marketing manager. Not that I don’t enjoy parts of publicity and marketing–it’s fun answering questionnaires like this and it’s fun doing readings–but these days new and even established authors have to put in crazy amounts of time and effort at publicity and marketing, and that’s tiring and is really a whole additional job that not every author is comfortable with or can afford financially. It’s not uncommon to spend more money on promotion than will ever come in from royalties.

If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read In Search of the Magic Theater?

I try to tailor my pitch to the person I’m speaking to. I might mention that it’s a novel about strong and creative women; I might mention that it has a sub-theme of generational tensions. I might mention that it’s about theater and music and that I hope it’s a fun read, never depressing

What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?

I’m not sure any part has been very surprising–I’ve been writing and publishing for a long time by now even though this is my first published novel–but I did not expect that I would find the promotion to be quite so exhausting or so expensive.

Any words of wisdom you give your pre-published writer self (or to a new writer)?

To a new writer, I would say learn as much as possible about the business of being a writer. Don’t expect that just because someone else successfully writes at 5 a.m., or can outline a novel before beginning it, you should also do these things. Find what works for you in terms of style, technique, genre, time of day, etc. Be flexible. Be true to yourself and your ideas. Join writers’ groups and writers’ organizations. Learn how to recognize what you or an agent need to negotiate to improve any contract you are offered.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

I most recently worked as a professor of art history, specializing in Czech surrealism and history of gender and sexuality, so I have some pretty interdisciplinary scholarly interests that are a lot of fun to delve into. I’m a genealogist too, and sometimes give talks on DNA genealogy and on how to get started researching Germans from Poland. I enjoy hiking, camping, biking, dancing, and downhill skiing, but in practice don’t do very much of any of those although I recently bought a very cool little trailer that is fun to take to the park and write in even when I can’t camp. I also always have a couple of adopted house rabbits and advocate for rabbit rescue.

Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.

Yikes, I always have a bunch of projects! I recently completed a middle grade novel about a girl who wants to be like Harriet the Spy. Right now I’m working on a novel whose narrator becomes somewhat obsessed with the question of what became of a super-talented artist friend from college–why isn’t this friend famous, where did she go, what happened? The narrator and friends dig into who their friend really was and seek to find her.

Where can readers find you?

www.karlahuebner.com

https://kh-magneticwoman.blogspot.com/

https://www.instagram.com/karlahuebnerwrites/

On Friday, June 10th, I’m giving a talk on the gender-ambiguous Czech surrealist artist Toyen at the High Street Gallery in Dayton, Ohio, at 7pm.

On Saturday, June 18th, I’ll be signing books (along with Erin Flanagan, Valerie Nieman, and Jess Montgomery) at the Barnes & Noble in Beavercreek, Ohio, 1-3pm.

More events in the planning stages… links on past Zoom talks on Toyen are on my website.

Thank you, Karla! In Search of the Magic Theater is out NOW.

Why, the rather staid young cellist Sarah wonders, should her aunt rent their spare room to the perhaps unstable Kari Zilke? Like the nephew in Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, Sarah finds herself taking an unexpected interest in the lodger, but she is unable to stop at providing a mere introduction to Kari’s narrative of mid-life crisis and self-discovery, and develops her own more troubled tale of personal angst and growth, entwined with the account Kari herself purportedly left behind. Generational tensions, artistic collaborations, and even a romance steeped in Greek myth follow as Kari and Sarah pursue their very different creative paths in theater and music. And while Kari seems to blossom post-divorce, Sarah must grapple with the question of what the role of mothers, fathers, aunts, mentors, and male collaborators should be in her life as a young musician.

Bio: Karla Huebner has lived on a boat and worked in factories, offices, theater, publishing, oil refineries, private investigation, and adolescent drug rehab. Over the years, her fiction has appeared in such places as the Northwest Review, Colorado State Review, Magic Realism, Fantasy Macabre, Weave, and Opossum; she now teaches Art History at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and her prize-winning book Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic is available from University of Pittsburgh Press. Her novel In Search of the Magic Theater just came out from Regal House and her collection Heartwood was a finalist for the 2020 Raz-Shumaker award.

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