Guest Blogger: Susan DiMickele
As a non-fiction author, I tend to air my dirty laundry. After all, it’s my choice whether or not to share personal information with the public, isn’t it?
Enter my husband.
Does the spouse of an extrovert writer have a say in what gets published? I happen to be married to a very private person. When I told him I was going to write a book about my journey as a working mother, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Please leave me out!”
So I tried my best. And I almost cut him completely out of the first draft of Chasing Superwoman. Then I got “the call” from my editor.
“Susan, if you’re going to write a credible book about your life, you have to include your husband.”
Rats! She noticed.
Now What Do I Do?
Was I supposed to put my writing career ahead of my marriage? I was already knee deep into a manuscript and a publishing contract—a contract that gave my publisher editing rights.
How could I be so naive? Why didn’t I have this issue resolved before signing a contract?
I was both inexperienced and idealistic. As first time authors, we shoot for the stars, hope for the best, and tend to put our heads in the sand. But I had a decision to make. Should I risk my most important relationship and ask for forgiveness on the back end? (“Sorry honey, I couldn’t help myself. You know how I am! You’re the one who married me!”)
Or should I write a superficial memoir that wasn’t acceptable to my publisher? (“I’m sorry, I know I signed up to write an authentic memoir, but my husband has drawn a line in the sand.”)
Enter the Editor
There’s no easy answer. But two heads are usually better than one, and this is where a wise, experienced editor is invaluable. My editor and I agreed readers are pretty savvy, and we couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room. So we tackled the elephant head on. We explained up front—in the introduction—why my husband wasn’t featured as a prominent co-star. I truthfully told my readers that he would absolutely kill me if I shared the intimate details of our relationship. And in the process of not talking about my husband, I actually got away with saying a bit more than I had planned. Pretty clever, huh?
I’m Still Learning
I solved the issue with my husband, but there are other people in my story, and I probably played loose with a few facts and didn’t consider the impact on several relationships. And after publication, I had a few sleepless nights worrying what certain people thought about my writing. But I let it go. Rather than wallowing in regret, I decided to learn from the process.
I pay close attention to other memoir writers. I notice the good ones make the reader feel like an insider instead of an intruder. They don’t mince words. Nor do they seem to overly-censor the content. And they don’t exploit relationships for the sake of ego.
Frankly, I still struggle with protecting relational privacy while maintaining an authentic dialogue with my readers (it’s called blogging!). I still have much to learn. But after releasing Chasing Superwoman, my husband became my greatest cheerleader and biggest fan. And I can live with that.
Do you struggle with personal privacy, particularly when it comes to your closest relationships? And if you plan to publish, do you have a plan before you face this dilemma?
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Susan DiMickele writes about the working mom’s stuggle to live out an authentic faith in a complex and fast-paced world. Her first book, Chasing Superwoman, released in 2010, and she is now working on her second book, Working Women of the Bible (Leafwood Press, 2013).
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Rachelle’s post today over at Books & Such: