Episode 31

Publishing and Persistence with Author Gabi Coatsworth

Today's guest Gabi Coatsworth was born in Britain but has spent most of her life trying to figure out how America works by living here. She arrived forty years ago to work for six months, but couldn't resist a particular American, so she stayed. Her award-winning memoir about that relationship, Love’s Journey Home, was published last year by Atmosphere Press, who also recently published her debut novel, A Beginner's Guide to Starting Over. It's not her first novel - she has two more languishing in a desk drawer. Writing historical fiction turned out to be harder than she expected. She began the first one on a bus in Vietnam, as a NaNoWriMo effort.

Nowadays she lives in Connecticut in a cottage that's American on the outside, and English inside. If she’s not writing, reading, or traveling, she’s usually to be found in her flower garden, wondering whether to weed, and holding a cup of her preferred beverage, strong English tea – she believes Earl Grey is too weak. Unlike many writers, she only drinks coffee as a last resort.

Gabi runs writers groups in Connecticut, and you can connect with her here. https://linktr.ee/gabicoatsworth


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Kathleen Basi 0:00

Welcome to Author Express. Thanks for checking us out. This is the podcast where you give us 15 minutes of your time and we give you a chance to hear the voice behind the pages and get to know some of your favorite writers in a new light. I'm one of your hosts, Kathleen Basi. I'm an award winning musical composer, a feature writer, essayist, and of course, storyteller. Let me tell you a little bit about today's guest.

Kathleen Basi 0:24

ng Over, came out in April of:

Gabi Coatsworth 1:00

Hi, there Kathleen. I'm delighted to be here. Thank you for having me.

Kathleen Basi 1:04

I love the fact that you share all of the flower pictures and the garden pictures on Instagram. It makes me happy every time I see them.

Gabi Coatsworth 1:11

That's the reason I share them is because they make me happy, especially during the pandemic, when I was inside all the time, I started to look for places I could go that were, that were outside and would inspire me somewhat. And it turns out, there were a lot of gardens around that public are allowed to visit. So, that's what I started doing. And it seems that people were doing it precariously with me.

Kathleen Basi 1:35

Oh, yeah. So, this is just something that you started doing during the pandemic. This isn't a long term thing for you.

Gabi Coatsworth 1:42

I've always enjoyed a garden, but it became more urgent. And I joined The Garden Conservancy, which is an organization that has private open gardens several times a year. And that was wonderful, because you got to see gardens that you normally wouldn't. And

Kathleen Basi 1:58


Gabi Coatsworth 1:58

they were real gardens. You could get ideas for your own one, you know?

Kathleen Basi 2:02

Yeah. So have you always been a gardener?

Gabi Coatsworth 2:04

My kind of gardening, I have to be honest, is if it lives, it lives type of gardening.

Kathleen Basi 2:10

So, you're more of the, you do your own but really, you like to enjoy everyone else's gardens?

Gabi Coatsworth 2:15

Exactly. And I do do my own. But I like to have stuff that takes care of itself as much as possible.

Kathleen Basi 2:20

I have a friend who is I'm sure will listen to this. And right now she will be laughing because she is the person who feels exactly the way that you do. So, I actually got very sidetracked by that normally, the first question that we always ask everyone is, tell me what's the most interesting thing about where you are from?

Gabi Coatsworth 2:36

One of the most interesting things is that being British, everybody in America gives you an extra few intelligence points when you start talking with this accent. But in fact, you get the same intelligence points, no matter which English accent you use, and there are about 40 of them. So, I love that in a way people see me as being very British, they think I know the royal family, personally. So, I'm always being asked, why this? Why that? What do I think of so and so? And I have to make up the answers at this point, because I've been in the United States for nearly 40 years. So,

Kathleen Basi 3:18

and you will not be getting up early in the morning to watch the coronation. Is that what I'm hearing?

Gabi Coatsworth 3:22

Yeah, that's what you're hearing. And I'm very disappointed because my mother did tell me that I could marry Prince Charles, when I was little and sad to say this never happened. So,

Kathleen Basi 3:33

probably best for you all the way around, given what we've learned about what it means to be in the royal family in recent years.

Gabi Coatsworth 3:38

You're so right.

Kathleen Basi 3:39

Okay, so tell me, and see, and I will confess that I just think that you are a person who's very interesting and so you got this question. If you could have dinner with any four people living or dead, who would they be? What would you chat about? And what would you have for dessert?

Gabi Coatsworth 3:54

Well, one of them would be Charles Dickens, because I love the fact that I can read and reread his books and get something new every time and that the characters although they have ridiculous names are, come across as very real people. People I can recognize even today 150 years later. So, that's one person I would have. I think I might have Winston Churchill to ask him what the hell he was doing during World War II, was he really napping? Or did he really feel inspired to be a leader? And how come the end of the war left so many people displaced all over Europe, which I find, because I'm half polish, a topic of interest. My father was Polish. And he ended up in London not wanting to go back because it was a communist government in Poland then. Now, who else would I have? I need some women.

Kathleen Basi 4:49

Yes, you do.

Gabi Coatsworth 4:50

I think I might have Sojourner Truth because she seems a little mysterious to me. And yet something very indicative of the American spirit and the kind of feeling of independence that many Americans have, and the feeling that they need to go out and have their say in the world. And she would be a very interesting mixture with these two other people.

Kathleen Basi 5:14

Oh, for sure. Yeah. So far, you're on a roll. So, give us one more.

Gabi Coatsworth 5:19

I might have Helen Mirren, because Helen Mirren is also partly Russian. And she is a wonderful example of how to age gracefully, of course. But slightly disgracefully. She tells whatever she wants, and she doesn't care what people say.

Kathleen Basi 5:36

Oh, she's wonderful. And she's beautiful. And actually, believe it or not, you remind me of her. So, there's your compliment for the day.

Gabi Coatsworth 5:43

Thank you so much. I noticed that you wear glasses, and I appreciate that. Your vision may not be perfect. But yes, thank you.

Kathleen Basi 5:52

That is really fabulous. Let's move into talking about your books a little bit. You have published a memoir and a novel in the last year, right?

Gabi Coatsworth 6:00

nistic British company in the:

Kathleen Basi 8:04


Gabi Coatsworth 8:05

point. But

Kathleen Basi 8:06

pretty new

Gabi Coatsworth 8:07

yeah, it was amazing how quickly we became accustomed to having this online calendar and simply checking in and so the thing got done.

Kathleen Basi 8:14


Gabi Coatsworth 8:14

And then it got rewritten. I had an agent, the agent loved it. But the publishers wanted a bit more bookshop in it, because the main character runs a bookstore, and so on and so forth. So, I rewrote it, and sent it back by which time that agent, the publisher who'd been interested, had moved to another publishing company, it was now doing cozy mysteries.

Kathleen Basi 8:37


Gabi Coatsworth 8:39

so my agent said rather, obliquely, do you think you could rewrite this as a cozy mystery?

Kathleen Basi 8:44

Oh, my gosh.

Gabi Coatsworth 8:46

It's so difficult. Cozy mysteries are not easy to do once you've got the hang of it, they get easier. But I said, No, I couldn't. So it came out to be quite a good novel. And I thought, Okay, I think I'm going to just let this one out there and see what happens. And so it's actually been very well received, I think, by people who are quite relieved that it's an easy read. It's not anything very sophisticated or intellectual, but it is about people who I feel are real. And of course, as always happens in books, they reflect a little bit of your own character.

Kathleen Basi 9:21


Gabi Coatsworth 9:21

and those of your friends.

Kathleen Basi 9:24

I love the name of it. A Beginner's Guide to Starting Over first thing, and what I hear in this story that you've just told me is that you have to be persistent. And I feel like, that's something that really characterizes what you've been through as an author, right?

Gabi Coatsworth 9:38

That's true. You know, I started taking my first writing lessons about 20 years ago. And, first of all, I started writing then I started submitting short stories and things to places and nobody wanted them but eventually somebody wanted them and I kept going. And I do have two novels in a drawer that are really terrible. Historical novels, interesting enough, because, you know, I enjoy World War II novels as much as anybody else. Now, of course, we're swamped with them. But

Kathleen Basi:

right, there's lots of them out there.

Gabi Coatsworth:

In those days, they weren't quite so common, but they weren't very good. And it wasn't until I did personal essays and creative things, some got published, some didn't. But I just kept persevering. And I think what happened in the end was that it wasn't until my husband died and I felt I really had to write something and it became a book. It didn't start as a book, it started as essays. And I wrote it by hand, and so on, I could have given up and just left it in the drawer like I did with my first two novels. But there's that sense that time is passing, of course, as you get older, and that if you don't do something soon, you might fall under a bus tomorrow. So maybe might as well keep going and do it. And the same was true with the novel with the rewriting and the writing. And now I've got another couple of sequels. So haft, but I must persevere to get them done.

Kathleen Basi:

You must persevere. That's right. So what is it about writing that brings you the most joy?

Gabi Coatsworth:

Funnily enough, for a lot of people, it's getting the original ideas down on paper. And I do like that, but what I really like is going back afterwards and making them better.

Kathleen Basi:

Oh, yeah, me too.

Gabi Coatsworth:

I think it's as if I were making something in the woodwork class, a nice table or something. And I can see that it looks like a table. And it's useful as a table, and so on and so forth. But it's when it's all polished, and shiny, and beautiful, the wood grain has come up as you hoped it would, and all of that, then you feel that you've really created something that you can offer to other people. And that's the satisfaction I get from editing.

Kathleen Basi:

That is absolutely lovely. So, where is the best place for people to find you online?

Gabi Coatsworth:

The easiest way to do it is by Googling my name, Gabi Coatsworth, because it's an extremely unusual name. In fact, the only other one I know is someone who stole it and tried to use it to sell some sort of products. So, I'm very lucky in that respect, and it is my real name.

Kathleen Basi:

So, spell that for us. G-A-B-I and then spell the last name.

Gabi Coatsworth:

Okay, it's G-A-B-I, Coatsworth is C-O-A-T for Tom, S for Sam, W-O-R-T-H.

Kathleen Basi:


Gabi Coatsworth:

It's probably at the bottom of this podcast.

Kathleen Basi:

It is at the bottom of the podcast. Yes. So in closing, tell us what book or story inspires you the most.

Gabi Coatsworth:

I have many that I reread. And I'm not sure that they're inspirational exactly, but they make me happy when I'm feeling a bit down. And they are not anything sophisticated. They are P. G. Wodehouse, who is, any book by him almost. He's a wonderful writer in terms of his style and his knowledge, I always have to look things up that I found in there, but his humor is why I read the books. And I think that it's because I have a sense of humor myself. But I like to see the way that he gets it into a book sort of organically, without having to make a real effort. And so, I think there is humor in my books as well, even the memoir, which was in some way sad, but people enjoyed it all the way through. And so that's one of the people. But in terms of an inspiring book, I like the poetry of Billy Collins, because it's very human, relatable poetry. So, I can't give you a title of a specific book. But one of my favorite poems of his is very appropriate for Mother's Day. It's called, The Lanyard. And essentially, it's about a boy who's saying that his mother has given him life, and hope and food and education. And he has given her a lanyard for Mother's Day that he created in the Boy Scouts. And if you can find the little video of Billy Collins reading this online, you will see what a wonderful poem it is. And you should immediately send the link to your mother.

Kathleen Basi:

Oh, very good.

Gabi Coatsworth:


Kathleen Basi:

All right. Well, we will all go do that. So, thank you so much for being on Author Express, Gabi Coatsworth.

Gabi Coatsworth:

It's been terrific fun. Thanks so much.

Kathleen Basi:

Thanks for joining us today. We hope you'll take a second to give us some stars or a review on your favorite podcasting platform. We'll be back next Wednesday. And in the meantime, follow us on Instagram, @Author Express podcast to see who's coming up next. Don't forget, keep it express, but keep it interesting.

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Shawna Rodrigues

Shawna Rodrigues, Founder and Director of Impact at Authentic Connections Podcast Network, Host of The Grit Show (https://podcast.thegritshow.com) and Author Express (https://bit.ly/AuthorExpressPod) and coming in 2024- Authenticity Amplified. Shawna is a Podcast Mentor, Internationally Best-Selling Author (www.shawnarodrigues.com) and consultant.
Find her on Instagram @ShawnaPodcasts.