When my book was released back in May, I was on a local radio show (full broadcast here) and my husband Chris tagged along for support. At one point in the interview, the host directed a question at Chris: “What’s it like being married to a writer?” Chris was not expecting any questions at all, so he was completely caught off guard. I think he said, “It’s . . . good.” This still makes me laugh.
I don’t think Chris had any idea what he was getting into when we started dating. I told him I wrote books, but I hadn’t had anything published, so I think he equated my writing to a knitting hobby (which, I guess, it was). Then I got my book deal and he came along with me on the journey to publication. He attends all my events, and he lingers in the back like a creeper and asks questions as if he doesn’t know me: “So, how much research did you have to do for this book?” “Some people love your main character, some hate her–how do you feel about that?” In the words of my sister, “he’s precious.”
I never really thought about what it was like to be married to a writer. I guess it is kind of a weird thing. He has to listen to me hem and haw about made-up people. I request his help with figuring out logistical issues with my plot (most recently, I panicked and shouted, “How can she rent a car if she doesn’t have her driver’s license?!”). I wake him up in the middle of the night when I turn on the light to write down ideas on Post-it notes. I interrupt nearly every episode of Dateline to say, “What if that happened to [character name]?” I cry to him about my frustrations with the publishing industry. I ask him questions I don’t really want him to answer: “Why am I doing this? Should I quit?” It’s very. . .fraught.
Note: I recommend checking out this blog post for “The Spouse’s Survival Guide to Being Married to a Writer.” It’s very accurate and hilarious.
So, I interviewed Chris to gain insight into the spouse’s experience. I suggest every author do this because it’s good fun. My comments are in green.
What did you think when you first found out your now-wife was a writer?
I didn’t think much of it at the time. If I knew then what I know now about the writing profession and how difficult it is to break through in the industry (he never would have married me?), I may have tempered my enthusiasm a little, but I was (and still am) happy to be with someone with some pretty cool creative gifts that I’ll never possess.
What’s the best part of being married to a writer?
The celebrity! (I’m pretty sure he’s saying this sarcastically.) Amazon reviews, book tours, articles in the paper, strangers asking for Kim’s autograph. It’s been fun to hear from all the people that appreciate Kim’s work.
What are 3 things you’ve learned about the publishing industry via your wife’s experience?
Getting a book published can be a harrowing task. There are days of unbelievable excitement, but also days of horrific disappointment. (He gets it, he really gets it.)
1) There’s no money in writing (we were kind of hoping to be millionaires), so a writer had better appreciate the journey more than the destination.
2) The agent and publisher can make or break a writer’s career.
3) The success of a book can be more about who you know and being at the right place at the right time than about the quality of the story and the technical abilities of a writer.
Do you feel the desire to respond to any of your wife’s negative reviews on Amazon or Goodreads?
At first I did, but now I find most of the negative reviews to be funny. One person wrote, “I cannot recommend this book to anyone I care for.” Funny, right? (This came to me as a Facebook post and I really did think it was hilarious. I was going to write, “Can you recommend it to people you hate? Thanks!” but I decided to “go high,” per Hillary Clinton.) Lots of weird people out there, can’t please everyone. For the most part though, she’s received overwhelmingly positive reviews.
What advice would you give someone who is getting involved with a writer?
I don’t think all creatives are inherently poor at accepting criticism (umm . . . yes, we all are), but I would say that it must be tough for a writer to have his/her work be judged in such a subjective way. Just like with music or any other form of artwork, some people get it, some don’t, and most of the time the critiques have little to do with the writer’s technical abilities. In fact, a book’s success (if you use the number of copies sold as the main criteria for success) seems to have so little to do with the quality of the book and so much more to do with extraneous factors that are out of the writer’s control. For control freaks (and I’d imagine most introverted writers are control freaks) (that might be just me, but I’ll let him think it’s everyone), this must be maddening. So, be prepared to cheerlead, a lot. (Like, a lot.) Remind her of the successes.
Are you a reader?
Indeed. I read box scores all the time. (Ba da dum.)
Do you read all of your wife’s writing?
Usually multiple times. (This is true. I feel for the guy.)
How do you give your wife criticism?
Criticism? My writer is amazing! (I don’t often LOL, but when I do . . . ) One thing I try not to do is complain or criticize something unless I’m ready to get involved in finding a solution or at least make recommendations to fix it. (Pretty sure my therapist gave him this tip.) This said, I’m usually not bashful about expressing my opinions. (He’s not.) The delivery varies depending on my mood and the amount of patience I have in that moment. (Meaning, I shouldn’t ask him to read something when he’s tired.) I try to be respectful and sensitive (he really does), but it doesn’t always happen that way. (No, it’s just that I’m extremely oversensitive. Like I said, I feel for the guy. I’m so lucky to have him.)