Mr. Hendrix: Yes. Yes, I can.
I’m married to Lisa Hendrix, most recently the author of the ongoing Immortal Brotherhood series of paranormal-historical romances for Berkley. In the past she’s written contemporary and western romances, as well.
Whew. I hope all the questions are this easy.
Mr. Hendrix: Hi, I’m Dave, and I’m a nerd. Did one of you bring coffee?
I’m an IT guy by day and independent software developer by night, and thus pretty much a fellow of just a single dimension.
My formative years were spent growing up in Southeast Alaska, so I only enjoy the outdoors if it’s cool, damp, and overcast. Tromping through the woods on 100+ degree summer days trying not to step on rattlesnakes just doesn’t have the same appeal. I much prefer walking through a lush, quiet, moss-covered rain forest, canoeing in a glacier-fed river, or sailing on salt water.
Apparently I’m also not very bright because we have nothing like that where we now live.
Mr. Hendrix: Hmm… I don’t know if I can tell that story that goes with the first question. Readers may be shocked. Or not.
We met and became friends while she was a student of my first wife, who was a part-time belly dancing instructor.
A few years later, after my first wife and I had divorced, Lisa finished a second round of college and was passing through Portland where I was living at the time. She needed a place to stay for a little while until she started a new job teaching English in Japan, and I had a spare room.
Things got more serious after she returned from that teaching job, and we’ll have been married 23 years as of next month.
What convinced me she was the one? Well, the belly dancing outfit sure didn’t hurt, but she doesn’t wear that very often. Or at least not when I’m at home. There are lots of excuses about it being too uncomfortable to be conducive to writing, and how it gets in the way while shopping. When she goes to the coffee shop to write, I think the baristas try to get her to use the fancy coin belt to help them make change.
Sorry, back to the question. There were lots of other things, too. She laughs at my jokes, and sometimes tolerates my lack of focus when answering questions.
She isn’t afraid of technology.
She doesn’t mind that when I cook, I start by sautéing onions and garlic, even before looking to see what else we might have on hand. Oh, and she actually eats what I cook, even when I’m being “creative”.
If I had to pick just one thing that made me fall in love, though, I’d say it’s her big, beautiful brain.
Mr. Hendrix: Hmm… That’s a tough one. I’m sure I was at work when she got THE CALL.
It happened a few years ago. I know she got a serious strong request for the book while at a local RWA conference, but of course they didn’t actually commit to buying at that point—that came later, after the obligatory, nerve-wracking waiting period. I know it was after our son was born, but before our daughter came along, but all that kid stuff in the intervening years seems to have blurred some of the details. Probably just for me, though – I’m sure she remembers exactly who was where, and what they said.
I do know I was pretty excited, though possibly not quite as much as she.
I was naïvely hoping it meant I could immediately retire to be her research assistant. Do a lot of travelling: scout locations, sample local cuisine, drink with the natives to get a sense of the place. You know, that kind of stuff. I’d phone in reports from the field while she stayed home to write.
As it happened, though, the first book was a historical western, so it was going to be a bit more complicated. Did I mention that I’m not a fan of rattlesnakes?
Anyway, I’ve been working on the time machine ever since. So far, I’ve figured out how to go forward in time, but only a little bit, and I have the grey hair to prove it. I’m confident I’ll be able to travel back in time, too. I actually had grey hair at my temples in high school, which must be some kind of proof. I didn’t spend that long in fourth grade, even if it felt like it.
After she finishes this series, I’m hoping that the next one involves a lot of time on a sailboat visiting places with tasty tropical drinks, so I can be ready for that next cover shoot. I’ll be one of the big white reflectors the photographer uses to reduce shadows on the models.
Mr. Hendrix: Oh, definitely answer “a” — just like me. A cursed warrior, spending half his time in human form, the rest of the time as a bull…
Sorry. Make that “b” — the opposite of me. A non-cursed, non-warrior, spending half of my time in a non-human form, and the rest of my time as a non-bull…
Wait, what was the question? I’ll take “Wrong Answers” for a thousand, Alex.
Mr. Hendrix: Uh oh. Probably “e” – the one that’s in the deep trouble right now, because I’m not sure I can actually remember what constituted our first date.
It could have been a visit to Casa-U-Betcha for tacos, followed by a stop at the Blue Moon Tavern, and coffee and dessert at Papa Haydn’s in Northwest Portland. Or it could have been going to listen to a friend play classical guitar at the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House. It was definitely in Portland. Or that pub that had the really good Irish Coffee and hard cider near Beaverton. Or maybe it was Lake Oswego.
Oregon for sure.
I’m struggling here because I’m not quite sure when things changed from just being friends going out to actually “dating” as a couple. Things just sort of evolved, which in retrospect seems like the way things were supposed to happen.
We still drink espresso. I’m sure that’s because of our romantic beginning, not because either of us actually is addicted to caffeine.
So, which Prince? Sorry, no clue. Is there a Prince of the Royal Order of the Espresso Bean or something?
Mr. Hendrix: Ball? Ball!
I’d have to go with answer “e” again – none of the above.
Our daughter just got a new puppy, so “ball!” means playing fetch. I’m still having trouble with the whole concept of bringing the ball back, though I usually do chase it when she throws… I think the pup and I are both learning at about the same rate.
Mr. DiPasqua: How long have you been a RH? (Romance Husband). What advice would you give new RH’s about what you’ve learned being married to a romance author? What should a new RH do or not do when his wife is under deadline?
Mr. Hendrix: I’ve been an RH for 23 years. Even though Lisa wasn’t a published Romance Writer when we were first married, she’s always been a writer.
Advice? You could be barking up the wrong lily pad, here. It seems like every writer is different. Sometimes very, very different. I do have a couple of suggestions, though.
It’s important to remember that she’s a writer all the time – not just when she’s at the computer or sitting with a pen in hand. I’m not saying that just because she might find a way to immortalize something stupid you might eventually do in a book (in a completely anonymized way, of course). I’ve never heard of that happening.
Writers do get lost in their own world, though. A lot. After all, they’re the ones creating everything in it.
Just because they’re watching television it doesn’t mean they aren’t creating. It’s apparently about a lot more than typing. Who knew?
They’re always writing the current book, or the next one, or the one after that. They hear voices, too. There seem to be lots of voices in there we husbands don’t usually get to hear until they come out in print, and many of them I certainly wouldn’t have guessed were in there. If you’re new to this, prepare to be amazed.
(Aside to fellow husbands: just because she doesn’t seem to be paying attention, don’t assume that this would be the best time to tell her that you’ve put in an order for that custom sailboat she always wanted – even if it really is for her. Which it definitely isn’t, because you know she’d never settle for letting you finalize the sail handling systems on her sailboat.)
In the case of my writer – and perhaps for most writers –it seems that one of the keys to good writing is being a constant, keen observer and having something to observe. If there’s nothing exciting going on, don’t be surprised if she feels the need to verbally poke some random couple next to you in the restaurant just to see a reaction she can use later in some book.
Also don’t freak out when she starts filling a bookcase with titles like “The Writer’s Guide to Poisons…” and “How to Murder Your Nerd”. If she wanted you dead, she certainly wouldn’t be leaving them on bookcases where you could see them.
(Ignore the previous paragraph if the interview happens to be published posthumously.)
In some parts of the programming world there’s this idea that you can often solve hard problems by explaining them to a sock puppet. It doesn’t have to be an actual sock puppet – almost any inanimate object with some kind of recognizable face will do, and even another live human will suffice as last resort. Talk to the puppet out loud, and describe the problem in every detail.
It’s surprising how often you’ll come up with the solution you needed to find. Even if, and perhaps especially if – the puppet doesn’t talk back.
What does this have to do with the care and feeding of your writer?
Sometimes, you’re going to just need to be the sock puppet.
It’s amazing how helpful it can be to just shut up and listen. I don’t mean that kind of listening you probably learned how to fake in school – that kind where you listened to the teacher just enough so you would be able to repeat the previous bit of the lesson if you’re called on. That won’t cut it. This is full-contact, no-holds-barred, active listening. Yes, it matters.
Here’s where the sock puppet metaphor changes, though. Your writer has to be able to tell that you’re actually listening and paying attention, and thinking about what she’s saying — not just sitting like a lump. Put down the remote, stuff the sock puppet in your mouth if necessary, and listen.
Again, in the case of my writer, once in a long while it might be acceptable to actually answer a question if it’s asked – but it’s hard to know in which instances that will work. Depending on how close your writer is to the deadline, it might also be okay to throw some suggestions out there that you know won’t help if there’s a problem she’s not getting past. It may distract her enough to let her come up with a completely different idea that could actually work.
But I wouldn’t bet on it, and I’d always be ready to beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen to make a couple of cappuccinos.
Oh, and remember it’s not always about you. That’s good advice in almost every situation.
So, on to “what should a new Romance Husband do or not do when his wife is under deadline?”
Uh… Jeepers. First of all, hang on. It might be a bumpy ride.
There are some obvious things you can do to help, and staying out of the way is a really good start.
Any grown man ought to be able to cook, do the dishes, and know how to find and use the washer and dryer. Maybe you resort to picking up dinner on the way home. If you can’t stand the sight of a kitchen floor that hasn’t been mopped, you’d better figure out how to do it yourself. I would not, however, recommend trying to use this as a way to justify purchase of more power tools.
If you’re not at least trying to help out with some of the basics you may find that much more than the deadline is missed, and that copy of “…Guide To Poisons…” spends a LOT less time on the bookshelf.
Deservedly so. Buck up, dude.
There are also some things you shouldn’t do, but the ones I know of are so obvious that I hesitate to mention them, and they don’t just apply to writers. (Deadlines are particularly bad times to ignore these, however.)
Don’t forget to tell her that your parents mentioned that they are going to be visiting for a week, and that you didn’t get time off from work while they’re going to be staying with you.
Don’t forget that you really need to be on the 5:10 ferry home so you can be the one to take the kids to baseball/soccer/fencing.
Don’t forget that you told her you’d pick up the mail at the post office, or get the groceries, go to the bank, or get the kids from school.
I guess a lot of it comes down to not forgetting stuff. Not that any of these have ever actually happened to anyone I’ve ever known.
If she wants you to proofread, by all means, help if you can. It turns out that I’m fairly worthless as a proofreader, and haven’t been asked to help in that way for a couple of books now. Maybe it’s just Lisa’s storytelling, but I miss a lot of fairly basic stuff because I get completely drawn in by the story and can’t turn the pages fast enough. I think I got fired for completely missing duplicated paragraphs or something that should have been similarly obvious.
Most of this is just common sense, and if you don’t have it I probably can’t help you there. You will survive, learn, and get better over time, or the rest of us will be talking about you and that book of poisons again.
Sometimes you’ll both have major deadlines at the same time. This isn’t nearly as much fun.
Because this will eventually happen, I recommend that you start including your children (if any) in these shared responsibilities as soon as they’re able to tag along. Being able to raid the fridge to make their own banana, pickle, and pizza sandwich is an important skill, and they’re going to have to learn it eventually. You might also start petitioning your state to lower the minimum driving age to eight so they can get themselves to swimming lessons.
It’s a cliché, but bringing home chocolate sometimes really might help. Unless she’s also on a diet, in which case you’re probably doomed.
Mr. Hendrix: Strangely enough, I’ve only been asked that a couple of times. It’s been quite a while, but the most recent episode did involve definite smirking. It was from a guy that had just spent the previous few minutes making sure I knew what kind of a sports car he drove.
I’ve got nothing against nice cars (though Lisa has made it clear that I’m never allowed to buy another Jaguar, ever again, but I will not tell that story.) No, my only beef is with people who drive them for the wrong reason.
Unfortunately, this fellow also had complained that he was still having trouble getting dates. I don’t remember what I said, but it wasn’t a very long conversation, and we never really became good buddies.
I guess if you actually feel compelled to dignify the question with an answer, something along the lines of “…the really kinky stuff is what I passed along to her from your Mom…” might be appropriate.
Mr. DiPasqua: LOL!! Which character in your wife’s books would she say most resembles you and/or your personality?
Mr. Hendrix: Ah, now we’re to the REALLY tough questions…
It’s possible that I’m not qualified to answer this because, as an ID-badge-wearing-nerd, I’m not allowed to have a personality. By law.
I’ll ask her in a minute, but what I hope she’d say would be the character of Finn in “To Marry an Irish Rogue”. He wasn’t the lead, but there are a number of us that think he deserves his own book.
Bzzt. Wrong answer, apparently. At least the “deserves his own book” part was right.
Her first answer was a minor character – “Digger” – the crusty old prospector in her first book. You know, the one that fell in love with the “fallen woman.” (Women must have tripped a lot in the Old West. Probably over rattlesnakes.)
For her final answer she claims there’s a little bit of my personality in Ari, but more in Brand – characters from the current series. She also says that it has to do with having a sense of humor, which I flatly deny.
I suspect it might be that they aren’t the kind of guys that always remember to wipe their feet before they come into the house.
Mr. Hendrix: Lost in Paradise.
Mr. Hendrix: You’re welcome, and thank you for inviting me — it’s been fun! I don’t often sit down and think about how this all works, or how we got to wherever it is we are now.
Lisa’s third book in the Immortal Brotherhood series – IMMORTAL CHAMPION – came out in January. It’s about Gunnar, who I’ve seen referred to on Twitter as “Mmm…Gunnar,” and his lady love. Lisa’s currently finishing up the fourth book in the series, IMMORTAL DEFENDER, which is Torvald’s story; it will be out next August.
The Immortal Brotherhood books have magic spells and talismans, and funny bits, and bits where people get naked, and battles between good folks and evil folks, and sometimes it’s hard to know where a new character is going to land. Sure, they’re romances and so have a happy ending – for some of the characters, at least – but if you’re a fan of anything paranormal, or any kind of fantasy, or Vikings, or tales of myth and magic, you’ll love these. Oh, and even though they’re a series, each book stands on its own, so you can jump in anywhere. Check out excerpts at Lisa’s website.
Who is the most supportive person in your life and how do they show you how much they love you?
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Mr. DiPasqua: It was great fun talking to you, Mr. Hendrix! Okay, everyone, let’s hear your responses! :)