by Karen Harrington
I just finished reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLane. This is must-read material for writers and their spouses. The story follows a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway’s courtship and first marriage to Hadley Richardson in the early 1920s. The novel, which was drawn largely from letters exchanged between Hadley and Hemingway before he gained fame, is told through Hadley’s eyes with a few chapters dedicated to Hemingway’s point of view. The reader gets an up close look at her role as supportive friend and spouse to an aspiring writer. I was riveted by the ups and downs Hadley experienced. So often, she felt like an outsider, excluded from her husband’s writing life. (He even rented a tiny office and left each day to write.) Other times, Hadley felt certain she was playing a supportive role in birthing Hemingway’s career. We’ll never know if his early career would have flourished without her, but she was certainly remarkable in her support. Not every spouse would have been as long-suffering and encouraging as Hadley.
In my case, I might have the closest thing to the kind of support Hadley offered – only in male form. Sure, my husband wouldn’t be keen on my going and renting another room to write or moving to
just so I could soak up the atmosphere. But here’s what he has done for this writer’s life: Paris
- Arranged our lives so I could be a stay-at-home mom/writer – which is my dream job!
- He frequently takes the kids out all day so I can have the house to myself to write.
- Each November when I take on the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge, he slides coffee and cinnamon rolls into my office.
- He tolerates notebooks all over the house
- He lets me chatter on about plot twists and problems and character names
- Encourages the purchase of turtle-necks which he calls “writer wear”
- Tells all his friends about my book, often bringing me a few copies to sign for his colleagues
If he’s had an influence in my writing, it’s when he challenges my subject matter. He’s often said, “Why are you writing THAT?” My first attempt at a novel was about a
vet returning home. “What do you know about that? Why Viet Nam ?” Because it interests me, I replied. Viet Nam
Around the time I had my first child, I began writing sketches for what would become JANEOLOGY. The genesis of this story was my curiosity about mothers who kill like Andrea Yates and Susan Smith. I wanted to know everything about their backgrounds; how they were raised; and, did anyone suspect or see anything in their behavior that might predict their infamy? One day, a package was delivered that included the books Mothers Who Kill Their Children: Understanding the Acts of Moms from Susan Smith to the "Prom Mom" and Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?
My husband jokingly remarked, “Just so you know, whoever packed your order at Amazon is wondering if they should have someone check on you.”
He will tell you that at first he thought I was weird to choose infanticide as a subject while I was new to motherhood. Later, he realized that it was my protective instincts as a new mother that drove me to the story. I don’t know that I could have written it so forcefully without that fuel.
Lately, I’ve written about a fanatical cult in
and one family at the center of it. (You should see the books from Amazon now!) Texas
He shakes his head as if to say, There she goes again.
Thanks, Hubby. You make a huge difference in this writer’s life! This post is dedicated to you.
Karen Harrington is the author of Janeology. You can visit her at http://www.karenharringtonbooks.com