Caroline, welcome to Hardcover Feedback!
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to take part in this event.
Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I had an unusual upbringing. Both of my parents worked overseas and I spent five years living abroad. My family was also big into traveling, and I had been to about 40 different countries by the time I was in high school.
What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
I have to credit both of my parents. They were very into early learning and reading. I knew the alphabet by nursery school and I remember reading my first books by myself when I was in kindergarten. My parents inspired a love of the written word in me.
What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
I wrote a book before Plant Teacher that was about people milling about in a coffee shop. This was at a time when I was living overseas and I had never seen the television show, Friends. I would like to revisit and rework that first effort of mine someday. I haven’t tried to publish it because I don’t think it is “quite there” yet.
Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
When I want to write something I am focused to the point of compulsion. I can write from sunup to sundown with only a few short breaks. I wrote Plant Teacher from start to finish in less than two months. Then I put it down, went back to it later, and also revised it in one long session.
Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
I think all of the characters in Plant Teacher are sympathetic. No one is a bad guy in this story – although it is impossible for everyone to get along. Martin Banzer is the main character. He makes a stupid, youthful mistake at the beginning of the book and spends the rest of the manuscript trying to come to terms with his error. I admire him for his tenaciousness and his maturity to accept that he has slipped up, but move on.
What is the best gift you have ever received and who gave it to you?
Again, I think of my parents. They gave me a golden retriever puppy when I was six years old. She came in a cardboard box that was shaking and bulging and clearly held something exciting. When she jumped out, we were immediately best friends, and I love the memory of that dog to this day.
What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven't gotten around to it yet?
I would really like the opportunity to work first-hand in health outreach. I’d like to start as a “promotora” and then move on to managing and evaluating health campaigns.
What is your all-time favorite book?
I love Gun, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. He takes a complex question, How do we explain the differing rates in the development of civilization?, and he reduces his answer, very convincingly, to geography. His work is the best rebuttal you will ever find to racism.
Other than yourself, who is your favorite author?
I’m going to have to go with the Bard. I think Shakespeare has written the most beautiful lines the English language has ever been privy to. As a young person, I used to love to memorize his soliloquies.
If a TV show was based on your life, what would the theme song be and why?
This is a hard one. I’d like to pick Ode to Joy because I think I have, at times, been profoundly happy.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to travel. I like to study foreign languages (I’ve spoken six). I like to take long bike rides, and I love photography.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Definitely, definitely a night owl.
What is your favorite TV show and/or movie?
My favorite movie is Blade Runner. The cinematography is haunting. The characters are haunting. The plot, like good science fiction, makes you think in new directions but is ultimately explorative of the fundamentally human.
If you had the opportunity to go anywhere you wanted, at anytime in history, where would you go and why?
I’d love to see the Roman Empire at the height of its power. I’d want to walk through the streets of Rome and visit the markets and the Forum. I would, however, steer clear of the Coliseum; all the deaths and maiming would be far too gruesome for me.
If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fictional or real, dead or alive) who would you invite?
Fictional… that makes this exercise especially fun. Mr. Tom Sawyer would have to be there. I’d also like to meet Brutus and Cleopatra. (I’ve heard she was the smartest woman to ever live.) I’d also like to meet Moses and Abraham. I wonder what those Old Testament prophets – who have been embellished by so many millennia of myths –would be like in person.
What are you currently working on?
I am actually helping a friend to edit his own novel about Latin America.
Where can people connect with you online?
They can visit www.PlantTeacherTheBook.net.
Thank you so much Caroline for being on Hardcover Feedback!
My thanks go to you.
ABOUT PLANT TEACHER:
Hailed by Huffington Post contributor Joel Hirst as a compelling and powerful story, Plant Teacher begins in 1972 when a hippie in Oakland, California flushes a syringe of LSD down a toilet. Thirty-five years later, the wayward drug paraphernalia has found its final resting place in Los Yungas, Bolivia, the umbilical cord between the Andes and Amazonia.
Enter into this picture two young Americans, Cheryl Lewis, trying to forge her future in La Paz and Martin Banzer, trying to come to terms with his past in the same city. The two form an unlikely friendship against the backdrop of a country teetering at the brink of dictatorship and revolution.
Bolivia sparks the taste for adventure in both young people and Martin finds himself experimenting with indigenous hallucinogenic plants while Cheryl flits from one personal relationship to another. Meanwhile, the syringe buried in the silt in a marsh in Los Yungas will shape their destinies more than either could anticipate or desire.
Plant Teacher takes its readers on a fast-paced tour from the hippie excesses of Oakland, to the great streams of the Pacific Ocean and to the countryside, cities, natural wonders and ancient ruins of Bolivia. It reveals- the mundane and the magical, and, along the way, readers glimpse the lives of everyday Bolivians struggling to establish equanimity or merely eke out a living during drastic political crisis.
Caroline Alethia is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, on radio and in web outlets. 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.
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