The first time Jackie told me that she was a writer was not long after we met. We were out having our first dinner and she very casually told me she’d written a novel and had lots more on the go. She had also written a sitcom and was working with the BBC’s Comedy Unit on developing it. I got scared! How the heck was I going to compete with that… “I wrote a poem in Primary 5” just didn’t cut it.
Well, the rest as they say is history. 15 years later and I am officially Jackie’s groupie, editor and pseudo agent.
I’ve met some of the most amazing people I am now proud to call my friends, including other authors, book bloggers and journalists.
So what is it like being married to a crime fiction writer? Hopefully this will give you some idea…
- I’ve come home from work only to find Jackie pouring over virtual autopsies – and subsequently been drawn in to all things gory and fascinating at the same time.
- She’s always learning about some weird thing. I’m getting quite used to asking what she’s doing, only to be told something like, “I’m finding out about different types of knife blade.”
- I’ve attended star studded cocktail parties with the creme de la creme of authors and mingled with book sellers from all over the US.
- I’ve unexpectedly taken delivery of smoke bombs (ordered by J for research purposes). Just try setting off a smoke bomb in your kitchen (which of course, she had to do) ….the police helicopter arriving overhead was a bit of a scary moment.
- I get awakened in the middle of the night (way too often) with a new angle on a storyline that J has dreamt about. “What do you think…” she’ll eagerly ask at 3am.
- We have literally stayed up all night trying to come up with titles for her forthcoming and future books and it does become competitive. Please note, I did come up with Toxic’s title as opposed to Jackie’s “The Arbroath Book.”
- I’ve watched as J has taken us to remote locations using Google Earth, from the dusty streets of Turkey, to taking a drive through Havana and along the Cuban coastline, to the canals of Berlin (and, of course, Dundee and Arbroath).
- I’ve had to calm J on the occasions she has had her research requests accepted… such as her request to sit in a train simulator or a tour of Arbroath Football club.
- I get to pick the names of key characters …. Yup Donna Davenport .… all me.
- I get to decide who lives and who dies (oh, the power).
- I’ve sat in the Directors’ box in Arbroath Football Club which equated to lots of whisky and pies.
- We’ve shot guns together thanks to Stewart’s Armoury Services …. and I have to say it was one of the most hilarious days ever. J screamed and jumped 10 feet in the air on firing her pistol. I was rather good, though, I must say.
There are also those qualities that make a crime writer, such as….
A fascination with the obscure and macabre:
- When the story broke about the world’s first head transplant, J was beside herself with excitement. She spent hours looking into the proposed surgery, all its details and implications. In the wee small hours one night, I felt a nudge and heard the all-too familiar, “Are you awake?” It was J wanting to talk about head transplants, and in particular, what might happen if the head was attached the wrong way round! She spent the rest of that night in hysterical laughing, while I tried to get some elusive shut-eye;
… or a dogged determination (the sort needed to complete something as big as a full length novel); although in J’s case it can get us into trouble:
- like the time she saw THE writing desk she had to have. It was perfect in every way, and the fact that it wouldn’t fit into our car was not going to stop her from bringing it home. We stuffed the part of it that would fit into the boot, with much of it dangling precariously over the edge. The desk mustn’t be damaged, so I ended up lying in the boot, hanging onto it for dear life, screaming every time J pressed the breaks or turned a corner. How we managed that trip through Glasgow at 10 mph without coming across a police car, I’ll never know!
On a serious note, I have learnt so much about the social issues J always chooses to write about .… she wants to raise awareness in her novels. We watched video footage of the Indian Bhopal Disaster which featured as the backdrop story in Toxic, we read about it, talked about it and cried about it.
I know much more about human trafficking, organ harvesting, religious cults and mental health issues than I ever would have (not to mention stabbing, shooting, drowning.…).
I secretly love the middle of the night storyline breakthroughs but most of all I love seeing my wife produce what in my mind are pieces of genius. I know Jackie is in her happy place when she is writing – and she is always writing.
I think that most of all I love getting to read the very first drafts and give a critique .… and I don’t hold back. We debate storylines, inconsistencies, character development and book titles often for days on end (and, yes, often right through the night).
So to sum up what it is like being married to a crime fiction author … it’s very like being on an adventure that never ends.