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Interview with Caroline Alethia, author of ‘Plant Teacher’




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.

Plant TeacherYou can visit her website at

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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.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Caroline. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I am published in magazines and newspapers. I have also executive produced hundreds of educational radio spots. This is my first novel.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I first worked as a staff reporter for a small business magazine based out of Brussels, Belgium. I showed up for the interview and my future boss sat me down in front of a computer and made me write a news story. I got the job – and the story was published!

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

Plant Teacher is self-published. I look at it as a hobby and, since I work in marketing, I wanted to see if I could market a book for myself.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

Now that I think of it, the first time I was published was in junior high school. I had a regular weekly comic strip that ran in our county newspaper. I remember visiting the editor-in-chief and showing him samples of my work and being rather nervous. I was too young to go out for cocktails when I was published, but I do remember experiencing great excitement.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

As I mentioned, my first adult foray into being published was a staff writer for a business magazine. That was in the days before social media, so there was no additional promotion beyond the simple act of filing one’s stories and seeing them in print every two weeks. Times have changed.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

Plant Teacher is my first formal foray into writing fiction. As a nonfiction writer, I have become faster and more precise at my craft over the years. For fiction writing, I have always dabbled and thought about writing a novel. Plant Teacher was easy to write because of all the practice along the way.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

The publishing industry is changing. There are far fewer publishing houses and imprints, and more and more, except for the blockbusters, it is up to the author to market himself of herself. For these reasons, together with the rise in electronic media, I think we will find more and more quality fiction emerging from non-traditional publishing channels.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

My goal is to entertain, and I’ve gotten some very good feedback about Plant Teacher. Every time someone tells me they have enjoyed the book or even takes the time to write a review, it feels good to know that I have done a good job.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

There are so many venues for being published these days that being published is really not an obstacle. The ongoing challenge is to write something that an audience finds worth reading. Be honest. Be relevant. Be entertaining: Practice your craft.



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