Please join me in welcoming Gail Ward Olmsted to the blog today to chat about her new historical novel, Landscape of a Marriage, based on a true story!
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.
LANDSCAPE OF A MARRIAGE
GENRE: Historical/Biographical Fiction
PUBLISHER: Black Rose Writing
RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2021
A marriage of convenience leads to a life of passion and purpose. A shared vision transforms the American landscape forever.
New York, 1858: Mary, a young widow with three children, agrees to marry her brother-in-law Frederick Law Olmsted, who is acting on his late brother’s deathbed plea to “not let Mary suffer.” But she craves more than a marriage of convenience and sets out to win her husband’s love. Beginning with Central Park in New York City, Mary joins Fred on his quest to create a ‘beating green heart’ in the center of every urban space.
Over the next 40 years, Fred is inspired to create dozens of city parks, private estates and public spaces with Mary at his side. Based upon real people and true events, this is the story of Mary’s journey and personal growth and the challenges inherent in loving a brilliant and ambitious man.
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Hi Gail! Welcome to the blog!
Gail: Summer!! Not the 100 degree days, but I’m a water person and love to swim, float, kayak, paddleboard, boat and sail on warm, sunny days.
Carrie: My brother & his family are water people so they would be right there with you. I am not lol
Gail: Definitely coffee for the aroma, the flavor and the caffeine!!
Carrie: If coffee tasted like it smelled, I would definitely be a fan!
Gail: I am a loyal Diet Coke drinker, but you could probably substitute Pepsi and it’s unlikely I would even notice.
Carrie: I bet you would! Diet Pepsi tastes a lot flatter to me (also a loyal DC drinker haha)
Gail: E-books! I have really become a convert over the years for the convenience. I also love being able to look up definitions for words that I’m unsure of and to highlight passages to review later.
Carrie: Me too!!
Q: Around here I like to say that reading is my superpower. If YOU had a superpower, what would it be?
Gail: I am super-organized. Give me a messy cupboard, desktop or closet and I’ll have it back to rights in a flash. I won’t even wait for you to ask me!
Q: Who is your favorite book character from childhood?
Gail: It would have to be a toss-up between my two favorite series featuring clever young female protagonists . I was crazy about both Trixie Belden and Donna Parker. Somehow, I never got into Nancy Drew, but they were all popular in the 60’s.
Carrie: I loved Trixie Belden & Nancy Drew but never read any Donna Parker books…I’ll have to fix that 🙂
Q: If I sneaked a peek in your purse right now (which I would never do, I promise!), what would it tell me about you?
Gail: Probably that I have a borderline compulsive obsession that I will end up with dry lips or nothing to write with. You would find between 6 and 10 Bonne Bell LipSmackers and about the same number of purple pens. You can never have enough of either in my mind!
Carrie: I’m totally with you on the purple pens!
Q: Which of your main characters in Landscape of a Marriage is most like you?
Gail: I was surprised to learn how much I have in common with the main character Mary Perkins Olmsted. We are both passionate about loving and protecting our families and we both make time for our friendships with cherished friends. I invented a close friend for Mary with a real-life character- the wife of her husband’s partner. With large families and husbands who were frequently away or otherwise consumed in their work, I wanted both women to have someone who would hold their hand, have their backs, share confidences with, reveal their inner thoughts to and to offer a shoulder to cry on during times of sorrow. I feel the same way about my close women friends.
Carrie: I love that – those kind of friendships are to be treasured 🙂
Q: Did you have the whole plot outlined before you started writing, or did you let the characters dictate what came next?
Gail: Since my characters are based upon real people, I started by outlining a timeline beginning with their arranged marriage in 1859. From there, I documented everything of note in their lives- the birth and loss of children, Fred’s career and the impact it had on the family, the times the family moved- from New York, to Washington, D.C., to California, back to New York and finally to a Boston suburb. Then I factored in the major events of the time period- the Civil War, Lincoln’s assassination, the Gold Rush, the rise of the corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, the women’s suffrage movement, the invention of the telephone… so much was happening in the second half of the 19th century in America. I let the characters determine how they felt and how they reacted to everything going on. That was the fun part for me as a writer. I decided that Mary would not initially be drawn to the suffrage movement like her best friend and her daughter. I chose Fred, based upon what I could glean about his politics, to encourage his wife to get involved. He chides her saying, “I would think that as a woman and a mother of two daughters, you would be more interested in the rights of women!” Ultimately, she agrees with him and becomes more involved. But her number one priority is always her family.
Carrie: I think that’s a great way to achieve a natural blend of fiction & fact for a novel
Q: What do you most want readers to take away from Landscape of a Marriage?
Gail: Despite all of his many accomplishments and the positive impact he left on America, Frederick Law Olmsted is not all that well known. By sharing his life from his loving wife’s perspective, I would love to encourage readers to learn more about this amazing man, a true visionary. There are a number of excellent non-fiction books written about him that I name in my book and by Googling- ‘parks designed by Olmsted’ one could easily develop a long list of places to visit that demonstrate his talents for creating a ‘beating green heart’ in urban spaces. The other point I would like to make is that despite this story being written about a man born 200 years ago, the challenges we face today- balancing work and family, getting a second chance at a ‘happy ever after’ were very much concerns back then as well.
Carrie: Wow – Central Park, the World’s Fair in Chicago, the grounds of the US Capitol & White House, Biltmore… and even a park in one of my fave neighborhoods to drive through in Atlanta. He definitely deserves to be more well-known!
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Gail: I am working on something new- it’s contemporary fiction featuring a disgraced Assistant State’s Attorney who loses her job, boyfriend and home all in the same week. She is attempting a career comeback when a missing witness from the case that still haunts her returns. She has to decide how much she is willing to risk in order to right some serious wrongs from her past and to learn who she can actually trust in the process.
Gail Ward Olsted is offering a signed, print copy (US only) of Landscape of a Marriage to one of my readers and one ebook copy (open to all except where prohibited by law or logistics) to another! This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What is your favorite park to visit? What makes you want to read Landscape of a Marriage by Gail Ward Olmsted?