Today we welcome back Janis Patterson who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson, and non-fiction and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson. Learn more about Janis and her books at her website. -- AP
The Perils of Having A Writing Wife
I married late, well after my writing career was started, so The Husband knew exactly what he was getting. Sort of.
A down-to-earth and sublimely practical man of science well into a long and honorable military career, he knew I was a writer of fiction. He also knew that writers were thought to be eccentric. He just didn’t know how much.
Luckily he is a courageous and adaptable man, for as our marriage progressed, he learned more than I think he ever wanted to know about the unknown side of writing.
For example, he will leave in the morning after kissing a pajama-clad me in my office, already sitting eye-to-eye with the computer. He will come home some eight or nine hours later to find a pajama-clad me in my office, exhausted and emotional, sitting eye-to-eye with the computer. The laundry is undone, the bed unmade, dinner is a frozen lump still in the freezer, and I will look up in surprise, asking if he didn’t leave just a little while ago.
He has gotten used to me murmuring the name of my hero (or villain) in my sleep.
He has finally learned to accept that when I am asked what I do, I smile sweetly, give the questioner my best grandmotherly twinkle and say in soft, mellifluous tones, “I kill people.”
He no longer becomes alarmed when he finds books on poisons larded among my cookbooks.
He has become accustomed to my handing out business cards (with my websites only – no phone or address) prodigiously and has even learned to carry a few of them in his wallet. Apparently being married to a multi-published novelist carries a certain cachet.
I’m glad, because on retrospect I’m not sure writing is a lifestyle I would have chosen. I believe that almost anyone can write, given enough time, training and work, but that writers cannot help but write – it is an inescapable part of them, like some sort of birth defect. He has learned that when I stop in mid-word, my face goes blank and my eyes focus on some distant point that I am not having a fit, merely an idea. This is usually followed by a frantic scribbling on anything around, from a cocktail napkin to the back of my hand. He now realizes that I carry enormous purses not for make-up or other feminine junk, but to accommodate my tiny notebook computer, which he calls my ‘purse computer.’
Unfortunately, the creation of worlds and populations on little more than caffeine and imagination can be an unsettling process for a non-writer. Currently I am working on a book set in contemporary Egypt about the race to find a lost tomb. One of the side effects is a profusion of photographs of obscure archaeological sites blooming all over my office. Another is that our dinner menu has suddenly leaned heavily towards kushari, kibbe, hummus and tabouli. Luckily The Husband is as big an Egyptophile as I (doesn’t everyone know by now that he proposed to me in Egypt?) and he takes this with equanimity.
I’m not always that lucky. While writing Dark Music before my marriage, I lived in an apartment. The hero was a concert pianist who specialized in Chopin. I played Chopin almost 24/7 for the three months it took to write the novel. Though I tried to be quiet and respectful, before long my neighbors were begging to know when I would finish the book.
When I was writing The Hallow House, a cozy mystery set in 1919, I pestered The Husband about WWI and suitable firearms. Being something of a WWI/WWII historian, he happily complied.
He was less happy when, at a very crowded local gun show, we saw an automatic M96 Mauser Pistol Rifle, the firearm I had decided on for my villain to use. It’s a very distinctive and rather rare piece. I pointed it out gleefully and said to The Husband, “Look, darling, isn’t that what I used to kill Jake?” The gun show might have been packed, but suddenly there wasn’t a single person within arm’s length of me for a long time.
Due to several ancient accidents, I sometimes have a slight limp, especially when I’m tired. In Exercise is Murder, my latest release, the heroine has a severe limp, though hers was caused by a bullet wound. As my tattered and beloved sweatshirt says, “It’s All Research.” The Husband has become accustomed to my asking all kinds of sometimes bizarre questions wherever we go.
I’d like to say I’m strong-minded enough to keep control of my characters, to keep them on the page instead of letting them seep into my life, but I’m not. As every character, good and bad, shares at least a few aspects of its creator, so does the creator reflect – at least temporarily – a modicum of the character. We create our characters from the inside out, and I believe the scientific fact that when two things touch, there is inevitable transfer from each to the other, however small.
I realized that The Husband has not only learned but accepted this, for when I am in full damn-the-torpedoes-and-write-mode, so submerged in the story that I never get out of my pajamas and we survive on take-out suppers, he has developed the habit of peering around my office door and asking, “And who are we today?”
Maybe he’s lucky. He remains faithful, but still gets to live with a wide variety of women, all in one package. He married a writer.
Exercise is Murder
Invalided out of the police, Rebecca Cloudwebb has become an antiques dealer. While delivering some earrings, Rebecca witnesses the brutal murder of Laura Tyler, a harmless widow. Almost everyone connected with the murder has multiple reasons to kill everyone else connected with the murder, but no one had any motive to poison Laura Tyler. A mad mix of politics, big money, extra-marital affairs, blackmail, strong personalities, gambling and assorted secrets, the mystery proves almost impossible to solve, but solve it Rebecca does, and in the process learns something about her own problems since the shooting that crippled her.