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Saturday, May 14, 2011

I'd Like to Say "Thank You" to My Wife for Being Like Gerda Koontz....

So when I said "day off", I meant from fiction, not necessarily writing. Regardless, this post "should" be short.  Notice the quote marks around "should."


This is also different from what I'd been planning (a post about the video of the autistic boy on Britain's Got Talent), because something popped up during discussion in yesterday's Creative Writing Class.  In talking about our next visiting author, Thomas Phillips (author of The Molech Prophecy and the short story Vaccination), the conversation meandered (as it often does) into the use of pen names - the why's and how's, how that looks in today's digital, social network world.

And whenever I discuss pen names, I always bring up Dean Koontz, because it simply AMAZES me that he wrote under so many different pen names early in his career.  And, as I always do when I talk about Dean, I mention the decision he and his wife reached after several years of his trying to write while teaching high school English:  she'd support him for five years while he wrote (because she figured if he couldn't make it in five years, he wouldn't make it), they'd forgo having children, he'd write, and she'd manage his career for him.

At this point, one of my students asked - seriously - "Why would she (Koontz's wife) ever do that?"

I paused.  

Silence descended.

And answered, "Uhh...because she loved and supported to him, knew how much writing meant to him and wanted him to succeed?"

"Yeah, right.  Who does that anymore?"

Chuckles and laughter.


This is when I give my students the benefit of the doubt and hope most of them weren't being too serious.  Yet, for a split second, that one student was being serious.  The idea that Gerda Koontz would choose to make such a sacrifice supporting her husband, for just that second, seemed completely foreign to them.

Now granted, that would've been a big sacrifice to make in any generation.  Plus, it was a much different world and publishing market that she sacrificed in.  Also, she must've been clairvoyant or a REALLY excellent judge of character and talent, because as we can all see, Mrs. Koontz's risky sacrifice has sorta paid off. 

But that small moment made me ever more thankful for Abby and how she's put up with all the quirks that come with marriage to a writer-hopeful-wanna-be.  Luckily, I've adapted to an insane early AM writing schedule, so 90 % of my necessary "alone" time comes when everyone's asleep.  It's not often I have to tell her, "Sorry, babe.  Gotta ditch you and the kids for two hours to finish this."

But, she's put up with the doubtlessly annoying collection of quirks that come with marriage to me.  My obsession in finishing things: whether it be a final draft of Hiram Grange or a blog post, even if kiddie Armageddon is going down around me.  My lamented addiction to handwriting and BIC white-out tape.  That spaced-out look I get when thinking over a story and not listening to her tell me about her day.  Endlessly peppering her with plot questions, sometimes as we're both falling asleep.

Staying home with the kids on my occasional Con trips, dealing with them for three days by herself while I'm having fun. Explaining to her parents when she takes the kids over to visit, "He's writing."   Not complaining and paying for babysitters so I could spend seven hours a day two summers ago, writing Hiram Grange and several other shorts. 

Tolerating book-signings or bookfairs or readings that don't pan out at ALL. Knowing that, even though I occasionally write the non-fiction, slice-of-life "nice story", my realm will forever be the dark and spooky and the strange.  Tolerating my absolute obsession with reading and my tempestuous buying habits, as well my obsessive drive to collect scrap and save cash for Con trips.

She does all this and more, probably even more than I can mention in this post or even remember.  The biggest sacrifice she's ever made allowed me to stay at Borderlands Press Writers Bootcamp my first year, about which I wrote a story for this collection (I get no royalties on this, and the story's all about Abby, so I'm not self-pimping, honest). 

So, my Creative Writing students - people STILL make sacrifices like that, do things like that every single day.  And my wonderful wife is one of them.

Thanks, babe.


  1. Your wife sounds like a lovely person. I hope you never forget her sacrifices for you, never take advantage of her trust, and never take for granted the faith she places in you. I have seen it happen with other writers far too many times. It is a rare gift to have a spouse who not only supports your dreams, but buys into them as well.Treasure it. Much love and hope to you both.

  2. Thanks! And you're right - I've not seen it happen, but have seen the fallout of it. And it's easy to lose balance. So easy.