Romance writers' husbands e-interviewed by Martina Bexte (February, 2003)
Valentine's Day is traditionally a female holiday -- what woman doesn't love getting that special breakfast in bed, or dinner at her favorite restaurant. Then there are the scrumptious chocolates and fragrant bouquets of flowers with accompanying romantic verse from her sweetie, delivered at work, or personally with a long and lingering kiss. Too bad Valentine's Day only comes round once a year! But what's it like living chez Cupid, with someone who has romance on her mind three hundred and sixty five days a year? Let's find out from some of the partners of a few popular romance authors, shall we?
Susan Krinard's husband, Serge Mailloux, was born in the suburbs of Quebec City in 1955. He says, 'being voracious readers led the California-born and the Quebec-born to a frantic letter correspondence in the mid-eighties, pre-email days, and to some flying back and forth until he proposed by phone in 1985'. Serge is a computer programmer for a major bank.
Susan Squire's husband Harry was born in Chicago, Illinois and wants us to know that ... 'Hospital records make no mention of any wise men arriving to witness the event. He attended journalism school at the University of Missouri and film school at U.C.L.A. He s worked in educational television and radio, the insurance industry and software marketing before settling down to write horror, thrillers, and mysteries. His first book What Rough Beast was published by Time Warner and is currently available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble's websites. He and his very tolerant wife live by the beach in Southern California with several large, black dogs, that, by the way, are not incarnations of demonic beings, no matter what the neighbors say'.
Marsha Canham's husband Peter provides this brief bio: 'Accountant (I do numbers) You do words!' Marsha adds: 'Handy Man -- aka Tim the Tool Man (only man I know who can lock himself into a bathroom for three hours while trying to change a doorknob); Racerman (enjoys Formula One racing -- to watch, that is, his only real sporting love); Bowling Man (owns a bowling center with our son); Baseball Man (dragged our butts around for years while the son played, then they coached for a few years together); Grumpy (what the grandchildren call him ... and I'm Grammy LOL); Peter and I had our 30th anniversary last August, have one son, a beautiful daughter in law, and two extremely gorgeous grandchildren who keep us broke, happy, and constantly laughing'.
And last but not least, Lisa Plumley's husband, John says this about himself -- 'when not fulfilling my duties as an official Romance Author's Husband, I moonlight as a staff technical writer and am the father of two. Lisa and I have been married for fourteen years, and keep our relationship strong with romantic sessions of novel brainstorming, book spotting, research traveling, and an ongoing Doctor Mario videogame championship during which neither will admit to "Nintendo thumb" tendonitis'. Now let s see what they have to say about romance and about Valentines Day ...
Q: Gentlemen -- what's it like living with a romance author?
Harry: It's fun. When she's just finished one of the -um- more intimate scenes, it can be a LOT of fun.
John: It's great! It gives me plenty of opportunities to provide support and encouragement through all the many ups and downs!
Peter: It s really no different than living with any other talented person. Each of us has our own talents. Some of us are very lucky to be our own boss, do something we truly enjoy doing and never have to go out into the snow. Mind you, when she's in deadline Hell, there's not too much romance going on, mostly just duck and weave, learning to walk softly and stay out of the way of flying objects. Oh yeah, and don't play scrabble with them, you'll lose.
Serge: I expect it's the same as living with any kind of storyteller: when the writing hits a snag, the writer feels worthless and one has to remind her/him that she/he is not.
Q: Why do you believe romantic fiction, in all its varied genres, continues to be so popular in our society?
Serge: People - women and men - want to believe there is more to a relationship than sex. Romance stories remind us of that.
Peter: Because LIFE is not fair. Where else can you escape from the day to day mundane sometimes depressing world into a world where, in most cases, "They lived happily ever after".
John: People love a good story about people. Unfortunately, too many people want to see "reality" stories that aren't real, love stories that are manufactured (like Joe Millionaire or The Bachelorette), or crime stories about hateful people doing hateful things. Thank goodness there are people making comedies (books and movies) and stories about romance. It gives the rest of us (those who don't like to believe the worst in people) something to read and watch.
Harry: I guess it's like trying to explain why people keep writing love songs. As long as men and women continue to fall in love, there'll be a market. I got interested in the genre decades ago when I read my first Georgette Heyer. Those books are addictive! Of course, the appeal goes back to the very beginnings of the novel in the 1700's. There was horror and the comedy of manners (Jane Austin's books). Those were the two original genres of fiction. So Romance has always been with us.
Q: Do you read all of your wife's books? Do you ever collaborate with ideas or make suggestions that you think might make her stories better?
John: I read all her books. I think they are really funny throughout and always touching in the end! Almost every page produces a chuckle, a belly laugh or a tear. I always joke with her that she's turning me into a big girly girl since I get choked up each time at the black moment. As for brainstorming, I am just there to listen and help her work through her ideas until they all fit together. She will reject things out of hand sometimes and often I can retrieve the useful bits and not let her give up on some good stuff too early.
Peter: I have read every one of them at least once because I think of them more as "Romance Mysteries" than regular Historical Romances. On occasion, I have been asked for ideas when she's stuck, but I tend to only give advice when asked (I think that comes with successful marriages). I believe I once gave some unsolicited ideas which (needless to say) never made it into print. If I have time at the "manuscript stage" I read the completed novels to help out with the coherence and continuity (not to mention some of her weird spelling -- she tends to make up words that she thinks should BE words).
Harry: Since we both write, we help each other a lot, talk story over cocktails in the evenings and critique each other's manuscripts. We even survived being in the same read-and-critique group for several years.
Serge: I've read all of my wife's stories because I love her 'voice', not just because she's my significant other or because she needs someone to catch what's wrong. I'd like to think I've made suggestions that helped, but that is for my wife to judge.
Q: Which of her romantic heroes is modeled after you? All of them? None? Your wife spends a lot of time with the heroes she creates -- ever find yourself getting a little concerned about her often spending large portions of her day with those other guys ?
Serge: Probably none. I've never asked her. I wouldn't mind looking like actor Hugh Jackman though, because then I'd be sure that I am the model.
John: She says they are all me, in some way. She sticks to that story (even though I am not remotely handsome or heroic), and even dedicates each book to me. We found true romance with each other, so maybe that lets her believe in her heroes and heroines finding their perfect mates, too.
Harry: Well, I hope there's a little of me in all of the heroes, but I'm afraid there's some of me in the villains, too. *sigh* Writing fiction is a very self-nurturing thing to do, so I don't begrudge her the time or flights of fancy. No one can possibly live up to someone else's fantasy, (not all the time, anyway) but we're all doing the best we can, given our limitations. As long as we can understand the difference between fantasy and reality, we'll be okay.
Peter: Secretly I think a small part of each hero is modeled after me, although none of them have small parts. None of the heroes bear my name, but at the same time, my name and our son's name is always somewhere in the story. I enjoy trying to find if I am a ship or a tavern or a street or a drink or even sometimes a famous pirate captain. I don't really worry about "those other guys"; after all, they're only fiction ... right? Right? Mind you, I spend a lot of time reading what "those other guys" are doing to their young heroines. I only get concerned if I read "something" that I cannot relate to.
Q: Valentine's Day is coming up - is it special around your house or do you treat it like any other day?
Harry: "... any other day?!" Living with a romance writer?!!! Hey, I may be a guy, but I'm not that dense. I'm ordering the flowers today. (Don't let her see this.) Now, if I can just figure out where she'd like to go to dinner ...
Peter: I try to treat it like any other day because it is a big commercial money grab. On the other hand, I don't dare treat it like any other day because a few years ago I did treat it like any other day and I've been paying for it ever since.
John: Every day we get together is special (corny? sappy? over the top?... yeah, but I don't care, it's true). Some are more special than others, though. Our anniversary, her birthday (she's big on birthdays, but I couldn't care less about mine), and yes, Valentines day. I sometimes forget to tell her all the mushy stuff, so V-day is one more opportunity for me to get in touch with my romantic side.
Serge: It depends on things like my wife's deadlines and how busy she gets. But we make it a point to go to one of our favorite restaurants.
Q: Do you believe that a bit of 'romantic imagination' is a good thing to incorporate into any relationship -- and not just on Valentine's Day?
Peter: Hallmark & Carlton have convinced us that it is OK to go running around saying Happy VD. Seriously, a bit of "romantic imagination" is a good thing but it is even better when it is not on one of the more predictable occasions.
Harry: Very good point. The thing that I think that kills most relationships is taking your partner for granted. It's important to express appreciation and love, to do and say little things, surprise them now and again. That applies to both men and women, of course. The problem is that everybody has to work so hard these days just to make ends meet and to take care of family obligations, that we have less time than ever to do relationship maintenance. So we have to make an extra effort to set aside time for such things. And try to remember why we got together in the first place.
Serge: Of course. Never take anything for granted. Always remind the other of what brought you together in the first place, even if it's just a peck on the cheek when one comes back from work.