Saturday, December 21, 2013

Marriage is a Mystery

by Julie Kramer

What's it like being married to me?

Or any novelist for that matter?

I just returned from Mayhem in the Midlands, a marvelous mystery conference sponsored by the Omaha Public Library. And while the panels I appeared on - true crime as inspiration, forensics across nations, and genesis of the thriller - had their share of laughs...the most fun panel I listened in on featured spouses of Jan Burke, Zoe Sharp, Sean Doolittle, Marilyn Meredith, and Radine Trees Nehring confiding what it's like being married to the likes of us.

Oh their pain. Oh our guilt.

I wasn't the only author in the audience cringing as their tales unfolded of treading lightly around us on deadline, making excuses to friends and family for our unsociable - okay snarly behavior, and doing their best to avoid interrupting our muse with unnecessary questions such as "How long should I cook the green beans?"

The husbands and wives who go to work each day, leaving their significant other home in front of the keyboard, certainly seem to have an easier life than those who work under the same roof or who are simply trying to enjoy their golden years within the same walls as the one they vowed to love, honor, and cherish.

Those of us who are writers think we have it hard, cranking out a book in a year...yet have we given any thought to what our loved one endures? How uncomfortable it makes them to find books of poison on the kitchen counter?

Some author spouses complain they are constantly being badgered for immediate feedback on the pages as they're printed; others complain the writer they live with is too secretive, not wanting to share their work until they've reached The End.

Neither my husband nor I have real jobs these days...after a long career as a newspaper reporter, he recently took a buyout. Now we're both living the freelance life, so at times it feels like he's watching me try to write a book. While I suspect there are times he feels I love him only when I need help with the computer.

While friends and family think because I wrote a book, money is flush and the limo pulls up for me. He knows he's the limo. And he understands the poor struggling writer side of being an author.

When his friends heard I'd written Stalking Susan (paperback out June 23), they nudged him, leering as they inquired whether it contained any hot sex scenes. Well, no... That action happens off screen. (Hey it was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, what do you expect?) But I sensed he worried this buddies might think if my book had no sex, that he wasn't getting any either. And that his reputation as a stud could be threatened.

What might be worse, he later conceded, would be if my book did contain hot sex scenes describing exotic techniques he was unfamiliar with.

In Stalking Susan my protagonist is a widow. Should my husband read anything into that?

My second book, Missing Mark (coming July 14), deals with a wedding gone wrong, a groom gone missing. The most visible reminder of their troubled relationship is a wedding dress the bride is trying to sell.

Which introduces a prime book club question for readers of Missing Mark: Do you still own your wedding dress? What would it take to make you part with it? Anger? Grief? Economics?

My husband can take comfort that my wedding dress still hangs in my closet - evidence perhaps of the strength of our 22-year marriage. I take some comfort that author Marilyn Meredith and her husband, Hap, have been married 58 years. The applause that greeted that news at Mayhem might be the best evidence that if their relationship can survive Meredith publishing twenty books, there's hope for the rest of us writers. For better or for worse.

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