Landscape of a Marriage, Guest Post by Gail Ward Olmsted

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 isthe story of Mary’s journey and personal growth and the challenges inherent in loving a brilliant and ambitious man. 

Author’s Inspiration

My name is Gail Olmsted and I am an author of historical and contemporary fiction and I even have the business cards to prove it. This is huge for me, identifying myself as an author. Even though I have been writing for 10 years and my fifth book Landscape of a Marriage is now on the shelves, I have always referred to myself by my day job- college professor for 25 years and a marketing executive in the telecommunications industry for 16 years before that. Yes, I am that old. I finally began adding, ‘of yeah and I write too’ several years ago, but today I say ‘I am a writer, and oh yeah, I teach a class here and there’. I am an author!

I love every stage  of the writing process- the first draft, the character development, the editing (okay, that’s a  lie, only editors actually love editing) coming up with initial designs for the cover and the launch plans and the marketing. I love to participate in book fairs and sell my books  at local  events. But mostly? I love to write. Once In an interview, I stated that I began my writing career long after AARP began targeting me and I have to make up for lost time, as I have a  lot to say.

On the topic of inspiration, I have quite a lot to say as well. My inspirations are many and  I can describe them in their order of importance  to me: family, friends and natural beauty.

I am inspired by my family! My husband is the finest  and kindest man I have ever known and to paraphrase Jack Nicholson’s  character in As Good as it Gets -he makes  me  want to be a better person. For whatever reason, I feel I can accomplish that, in part, through writing. My daughter and my son inspire me as well. My love for them is empowering and makes me feel like I can do anything. And way back when, two brothers – Aaron and Benjamin Olmsted began families of their own. Their progeny included Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO), the renowned landscape architect and the subject of my latest book, as well as my husband Deane Hayden Olmsted. I am proud to be part of the Olmsted clan and I wrote Landscape from wife Mary’s perspective. We both married well!

Friendships inspire and  sustain me;  always have, always will. I enjoy spending time with my close friends and their partners and extended families as well as one on one time over coffee. My friends appear in some way in all of my books. My main characters are women;  Jackie was divorced in Jeep Tour and re-married in Driving on the Left. Jill was enjoying the early stages of romance in Guessing at Normal and Second Guessing provided her with a second chance at a happy ever after. Mary was a widow with three small children at the beginning of Landscape of a Marriage before she married her former brother-in-law  FLO. My current work-in-progress features a woman who has always focused on her career and she celebrates and treasures her single life as she is about to turn 40.  Divorced, married, single, widowed; my point is that all of my female lead characters are totally different, but they have one thing in common- they all have the privilege and the joy of close friends. In Landscape, Mary has her dear friend Anne, who is as a source of comfort, strength and unconditional love. Anne provides a shoulder for Mary to cry on, a heart for Mary to take comfort in and an ear to make certain that Mary is heard. Friends are the family we choose and I treasure each of them.

Regarding natural beauty, I am fortunate to live on a beautiful lake in Central Massachusetts.  My home office offers arguably the best view in the house. I sit for hours each day no matter the  season and marvel at  the beauty of the  lake and its tree-lined shores.  And somehow, I  get a lot of writing done as well.  Not quite as close to home, FLO’s beautiful parks have always filled me with wonder. The trees, shrubs, rolling hills, open pastures, bodies of water and wandering walkways are a joy to behold. While the iconic Central Park in NYC garners the most attention, I have always been thrilled by the ‘naturally man-made’ beauty of interconnected parks in Boston. My visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC several years ago was  memorable  and  demands a repeat performance and soon. And last, but not least, Forest Park in Springfield, MA. We lived a short distance from  this park and enjoyed  its beauty during all four seasons for nearly 30 years. It is a true ‘beating  green heart’ in the  center of the  city, an oasis for locals and visitors alike,  just what  FLO envisioned 150 years  ago.

So  here I sit writing, surrounded by family pictures and memories looking at a lake I love, reflecting on the people I love, imagining myself  kayaking with my daughter or sailing with my husband. One piece of advice that writers always get is to ‘write what  you know.’ I would like to offer my own twist on this  by encouraging would-be writers to ‘write what you love.’  And hopefully you’ll love what you write!

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Meet Gail Ward Olmsted

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.

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