Note: Today’s guest blogger is Jenny Gardiner, one of the two finalists for the American Title contest from Romantic Times and Dorchester.
I spent my Sunday at home in domestic bliss–hanging out with my family with a fire in the fireplace, watching forgettable television a little, writing a little on my laptop, doing a whole lot of nothing.
Now, domesticity can be boring–just hanging out doing a whole lot of nothing. But I always tend to find the humor in the mundane.
For example, putting a perpetual crimp in our uneventful Sunday at home was our parrot. Once content to be a prisoner in her cage (which stands about 5′ tall), she’s entered a phase of what I call oppositional defiance. Why not? She’s 16-1/2 years old. Classic teen behavior, right?
So now Graycie is intent on creating havoc if she doesn’t get her way. First thing she does: plinks on a single bar of the cage non-stop until we pay attention to her. Or she drags her beak across the cage, like a prisoner with a tin cup along the iron bars in an old western. She’ll do it for 45 minutes straight. It makes me INSANE.
Her goal? Freedom. She wants the perch opened on top of the cage so she can get out. It used to be I’d gladly do so. But now, when she gets out, she stealthily climbs off the cage and goes on a walkabout in my house. Problem is, the first thing she heads for are the electrical cords and outlets.
Now, she has gotten annoying enough over the past several months that I have fantasized her a la an episode of a Wile E Coyote cartoon, bird on a spit-style. But she has an incredible saving grace: her gregarious nature, which makes us laugh.
When I get up from the couch, only to see a trail of bird doo plopped across my hardwood floors, and I have to corral her back over to the cage while she pecks at my feet, she yells at me. As in: “Come, on, Grace, get in your cage.” or “Stop it. Now!” or “Hello, gray chicken!” Or when one of the dogs gets a little too close, “Bridget, stop it now! You’re a bad, bad girl!”
All in my voice.
So behind my dull day at home, there was a thread of a story weaving itself into my mind, as the bird continued her contrary behavior well into the evening. And despite the rest of the day being relatively uneventful, I was able to walk away with a few good laughs as well.
When I wrote SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, I was interested in exploring this concept of the everyday–the mundane nature of life and love and marriage after a lot of years have passed. So many couples stray onto different paths during the course of their marriage, and many hit a point at which they realize they must decide whether to cut and run, or tough it out and fix what’s gone wrong.
I wanted to take a protagonist who was drowning in the minutiae of her life, with what felt to her like a very non-supportive spouse, and help her figure out how to fix things and reconcile her unfulfilled expectations. And along the way, make sure that she could laugh–instead of cry, really–and be able to find her way out of the darkness and back onto the path she’d chosen with her husband in better times.
I’m not a big fan of melodrama, so it wasn’t in me to make this a treacly story. I wanted readers to be able to laugh with Claire, and even empathize with her (because don’t we all know at least one woman has gone through what Claire has?).
I hope you’ll get a chance read SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER soon, and would be honored if you’d consider casting your vote for it by linking the American Title III contest from the Romantic Times website. It’s been a great experience being in this contest, getting to know my fellow competitors, and am humbled to be in the company of such wonderful writers as Kim Howe, the other remaining finalist in the competition.
Thank you for inviting me to be here today!