the actor and the housewife will be in paperback in the US in 2 weeks! Check out the new digs:
Since publishing the actor and the housewife, many people want to engage me in a discussion (or lecture) about married women becoming friends with other men. They make assumptions about my point-of-view, and are usually wrong. And it's made me realize that so many readers don't know or haven't thought through what it means to be a writer.
the actor and the housewife is about...an actor and a housewife, actually. They're both married to other people but they become friends. Many readers assume, therefore, that I wrote this book with the intent of teaching a lesson about how, contrary to popular belief, married men and women can be friends.
The truth? I have no strong opinion on the matter.
But wait! How could i possibly write a book on the subject and have no opinion about it?
Well, first I don't think that is the subject of my book. This is not a non-fiction book, representing years of research and clinical trials. This is a novel about fictional people and their own unique lives. That's all I ever wanted it to be. I don't have any intimate male friends, my husband doesn't have any intimate female friends. This isn't a personal issue for me. I don't have an opinion about other people having this kind of friendship. I've heard many personal stories about it working beautifully for entire lifetimes, and others about infidelity and heartache that follows. It's not for me to decide if people should or shouldn't have such friendships. That's up to them and the spouses, of course. I also didn't have an opinion about Becky and Felix's friendship when I began the book. I was simply interested in these two characters and in seeing where their friendship would take them.
That's where it started, of course, but a story becomes much more than the premise where I began. This book was fascinating for me, to explore issues of family and marriage, and friendship too, motherhood and daughterhood, and all the different niches the people in our lives take. At no point in the writing of the book did I ever consider it a treatise on the question of men and women being friends. And I never came to any global conclusions on the topic. I didn't try to, I didn't want to. I did form opinions about the case of Becky and Felix, of course. After two and a half years of immersing myself in their story, I came to know and understand them intimately, and love them too, and I was very excited to share their story.
Naturally the discussion of opposite gender friendship will come up as people read it. And that's a wonderful thing! One of the purposes of literature is to read about other lives and reflect on our own, form our own opinions.
I know some people will be offended by what I've said. They will think I'm being careless. They will say that a story has power (it does!) and that it's a writer's job to use that power carefully and only write stories that are morally uplifting (absolutely not!). Really, do you want to trust anyone with your morals? That's impossible! I can't possibly write a story that will be in keeping with everyone's personal morals and world views. I have offended people with every single one of my stories. Yes, every one. I get emails regularly about the abhorrent morals in princess academy, the obscenity of goose girl, the vulgarity of book of a thousand days, the lasciviousness in forest born, etc. We're all so different. There's no one way to see the world, no one kind of right story, no perfect character. I would be a fool to attempt it. Besides, it goes against every thing I believe in. We all want stories to change us, don't we? I can't change you. My book can't change you. The story you tell yourself from my book can.
SHANNON'S FUNDAMENTAL WRITING BELIEF
2. It is an author's job to tell a story that is true to the characters and the world they inhabit.
2. It's the reader's job to give that story meaning.
Of course I do a lot of work to allow for meaning. I do many drafts so that I can create layer upon layer of story. But I will never attempt to write a story that comes prepackaged with morals and universal meaning. It would be a sorry excuse for a book. And meaning is ONLY possible when the reader creates it for herself. You can teach facts. But no one can teach meaning, morals, understanding. The chemical reaction happens in the reader's head, not on the printed page. Book is dead, so the story is only alive inside the reader. If I tried to write uplifting stories that can change the world and teach people how to be, then I would fall flat on my face. I would cease to be what I should be - a writer. A story teller. A defense attorney for the characters. An objective observer. A person thrilled by the wonder of people I'm not and places I don't live.
Not everyone needs to love the stories I tell. Certainly not everyone does. But I am always grateful for those who do. It makes me feel less alone as a writer to write stories that fascinate me about characters who I love, despite their flaws, and then find readers who are willing to go on that journey with me and are happy they took it. Thanks a bunch. I wish I could give you all a great big hug. Or make you a pie. Which is basically the same thing.