For the past thirty-eight years, I have been a Mrs. Even though I held a job, actually ran a department at Stanford University, hubby was a hotshot performer. Being with a rock and roll band, a jazz duo, and with other musical skills, he outshone me. That left people always asking, “what’s it like to be married to him? It must be heaven to hear his singing all the time.” Occasionally, I would step down from the perceived cloud, sit in the background, smile, ever charming and demure, ever appreciative of his many talents. And if I could help a little with the load-out after the gig, so much the better. Simply put, at times being his wife was pretty much my raison d’être.
But through the years it changed. Now I am a published author with fans who actually spend their hard-earned money to buy my books, for which I am unendingly grateful. I am a minor cause célèbre. I use more French words to make it sound grander than it is. But I think you take what you can get in this life.
I’ve also noticed there’s a price to be paid for stepping into the spotlight. People feel compelled to tell you every detail of what they don’t like about your books, even if it’s only from their own frame of reference. For instance, my upstairs neighbor, a lovely lady of around 85 years old, read my books, mainly because I gave them to her. I don’t think she would have bought them, otherwise. But it was the neighborly thing to do, doncha know. She loved them, she said, and passed them on to her daughter. Of course, it would have been nice if she encouraged her daughter to buy them, but as I’ve mentioned, you take what you can get in this life.
Where was I? Oh yes, lovely upstairs neighbor. She called to tell me she didn’t think anybody would cut up a bridesmaid dress at a wedding the way the protagonist did in A Wedding to Die For. As it was based on personal experience – I did just that, myself – I thanked her for her insight, threw in some small talk, and hung up.
Several months back at a dinner party (remember those?) someone had thoughts and feelings to lay on me about my books. Trapped at the table without a drink in sight, I listened to :
“Okay, Heather, I read your first book and I’m two-thirds of the way through the second, and because it’s a mindless read, I go back and forth from that to my more serious books. As I say, it’s pretty mindless, but I wanted you to know I am enjoying it very much, just like I enjoyed the first book. They’re mindless but very good.”
Now, I don’t know what any of you would have said, but I found myself stymied for a reply to the ‘mindless’ side of the comments. A part of me wanted to say, “Well then, as you have no mind, they are a perfect read for you” or “It took a mind to write them, toots.” Or on a less flippant note, “I think ‘lightweight’ is the word you’re going for.” But I merely smiled and said, “Thank you.”
Not done, she blathered on ending with, “Now that all your friends and family have bought them, how do you plan to get anybody else to read them?” Squelching the desire to tell her she should never consider going into diplomatic service, I said, “People are reading them, but I blog, Twitter, Facebook, do promotional stuff like –”
“Right,” she waved me off. “But you’re not famous and nobody knows you, so how does that make anybody buy your book?”
“You know,” I said rising, “I can see hubby needs a little help with his load-in. Will you excuse me, please?”
All I can say is thank God for husbands.