A lot of authors are married to or in relationships with other authors. Who better than another author understands the need to jump out of bed in the middle of the night in order to write down the solution to a tricky scene in your novel, or the misery of staring at a blank sheet or screen and feeling like you’ll never have anything to fill it with, or the fugue state you enter when the characters are racing you through the plot at breakneck speed and it’s all you can do to keep up with them, never mind eating, showering, or answering the phone. So, yeah, we see a lot of authors who live together and work together and share the ups and downs of the writing life.
And, I’ve always wondered how it must feel to be the less successful half of one of those relationships. Because even if both authors are supremely talented (Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Michael Dorris and Louise Erdrich, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne…) you know there’s always one half of the couple who garners the greater acclaim critically or commercially (sometimes both). And, given how fragile creative egos can be, it’s gotta smart a little no matter how much you love your significant other when her book is the talk of the town while yours is languishing in the remainder bins.
This piece by Niall Leonard, EL James’ husband, is delightful precisely because it is snarky and meanspirited in just the right proportions. On the one hand, Mr. Leonard is doubtlessly enjoying his wife’s success (and, we hope, if theirs is a good marriage, rejoicing for her). On the other, he’s a wee bit cranky that her blockbuster is taking over their lives and that all anyone wants to talk about is Fifty Shades of Grey when he’s got his own book to peddle. He doesn’t come across as unduly bitter and clearly has a sense of humor about the whole thing. Or does he?
How hard would it be for you to watch your spouse hit the literary jackpot while you’re toiling away in obscurity? Would you be noble and selfless in your support or would you secretly be drawing mustaches or devil horns on his/her author photo?