Working Stiffs welcomes guest blogger Kate Gallison.
Thanks for the guest spot on your blog, far from New Jersey. It gives me the chance to sneak away from my parochial little hometown and talk about stuff I don't usually discuss with my closest associates, for fear of scaring them to death. You all know what I'm talking about, you who are writers. The might of the pen. That moment when you tell an acquaintance you're working on a book, and he or she turns pale and says, "I'm not in it, am I?"
One evening many years ago Harold and I went to dinner at the home of friends. The husband was a writer who had been married to another writer. They had broken up unpleasantly. The ex-wife had written a book, which was a tremendous critical and financial success, as sometimes happens. It was a Book-of-the-Month Club alternate. Of course Harold and I had found a copy and read it from cover to cover. He recognized nobody in it. I had never met the woman.
We arrived to find our friend Bob (let us call him) sitting at the dining room table, his face ashen, holding his head in his hands. "Have you read it?" he said.
"My ex-wife's book."
"The portrait of a marriage," he moaned.
Well, poor fellow, I was sorry for him, he was clearly suffering, although having read the book I wasn't quite sure why. Maybe it was the scene with the roaches. But suddenly I realized that this same power was mine, not the tremendous critical and financial success part, alas, but the power to cause my ex-husband suffering. I, too, was a veteran of an unpleasant breakup. I could get him back for some of the unpleasantness he had heaped on me, maybe even cause him to sit at his dining room table groaning, ashen-faced, holding his head. The prospect was delicious.
But I stayed my hand. Ten published works later, I have never yet put the first husband in a book. (Notice I say "yet".) I discovered that each time I published a novel he ran out and bought it. I imagine him paging through, searching for insults to himself. As long as he does this, I have at least one sale guaranteed. And the suspense! Think of it. Hanging around for thirty years, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I spent an evening Googling myself last week. You should try it sometime. It's refreshing, if you ignore the bad reviews. Along about page 34 there was a link to the Rutgers Alumni Bulletin from 2009. Thumbnail biographies had been sent in by members of the class of 1959. My ex mentioned me by name and class (Douglass '61), and claimed that after we broke up I wrote a series of murder mysteries in which he figured as the villain.
Well, that's just not true. I guess he was being funny. But you do want to watch out how you offend a writer. Or anyone who might secretly be a writer. I know of a janitor in a small town not far from here who was fired by the city clerk, for reasons of mutual personal antipathy. He was quite cross. He is also a brilliant writer. From his irritation came the following pearl. Read it and tremble.
Born in Philadelphia, Kate Gallison has been at various times a store clerk, a bill collector, a computer programmer, a technical writer, and a museum docent. As Kate Gallison, her writing credits include three private eye novels and five traditional mysteries. Under the name of Irene Fleming, she writes a series about silent movie production in the early twentieth century. The first of these, The Edge of Ruin, came out at the end of April 2010. The critics were pleased with it. The second, The Brink of Fame, will be released in August of 2011.
Kate has three grown sons and a bachelor's degree from Thomas Edison College. She lives in Lambertville, New Jersey, with her librarian husband and their cat. There she divides her time among her family, her writing, and various civic pursuits. She is a member of the Author's Guild, the MWA, Sisters in Crime, and St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. She is descended from a convicted Salem witch.