Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to a literature class at Weber State University that is using Room for Two as one of their books. I was very impressed with the students and their questions, comments, and insight they had. The following are some of their questions and my answers I thought others might find interesting.
Q: What audience did you have in mind when you wrote Room for Two?
A: I was trying to write for a very broad audience. I wanted to tell my story in such a way that even those who have never lost a spouse, child, or had a friend or loved one take their own life could enjoy it. It seems to have worked. Though I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from young widows, young widowers, and suicide survivors, most of the emails I receive have been from people who don’t fall into any of those categories. No matter what group the reader falls in, however, the vast majority of respondents tell me the book has touched their lives in very positive ways.
Q: Why did you write Room for Two?
A: The biggest reason was that I read or, rather, tired to read a lot of “memoirs” about losing a spouse soon after my late wife’s death. I found most of them to be completely worthless. Most of the time the writer would try to make him or herself out as a “wronged hero.” I felt authors were being less than honest about their experience and were hiding their own faults and imperfections. Because of this, I had a hard time relating on any level to the story they were trying to tell. I wanted to write a book that, in my opinion, showed the human side of the surviving spouse as well as the pain that that accompanies the death of a loved one.
In the case of books that dealt specifically with losing a spouse to suicide, I thought the authors were trying to make excuses or justify the actions of their loved ones that killed themselves. Some of the books went as far to romanticize suicide. I find that to be extremely dangerous. The reasons people take their own life is very complex and trying to rationalize or validate their actions is impossible without being able to talk with that person. And since they’re dead, that impossible. Instead of justifying the actions of my late wife, I tried to portray the devastating effect suicide has on those left behind.
Q: There’s a strong religious undercurrent in Room for Two. After reading the book, one can tell that you’re very religious but you don’t much in the way of specifics about what faith you belong to. Was that intentional?
A: Yes. Outside of the mountain west, most people don’t know much about the LDS (Mormon) Church. I didn’t want to alienate or distract readers who are unfamiliar with the church. Hence the reason I used very generic terms to describe my religious affiliation. Those who are familiar with the LDS church will, I think, know what faith I’m a member of rather quickly.
Q: If you were to rewrite Room for Two for a Mormon-only audience, what would you change?
Q: How did you come up with the title for your book?
A: The working title of the book was Running Forward. However, that never seemed to fit with the story I was telling. One day I was editing a part of the book where I was struggling with making room in my heart for another person. Though the exact phrase “room for two” doesn’t appear in the text, while reading that paragraph, those words formed in my mind as I read it. I immediately knew I had the perfect right title for my book.
Q: I really enjoyed reading your late wife’s poem “Ten Toed Children of Eve” that was in Room for Two. Have you considered about publishing the rest of your late wife’s poetry?
A: I’ve thought about putting a website up that contained her poetry and some of her other writings. Right now it’s more of a time issue. I have other writing projects are more pressing.
Q: Which writers have influenced you the most?
Q: How do you find the time to write?
A: I make time. Once my kids are in bed, I spend some time with my wife and then write until I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s easy to talk about being a writer but hard to actually put in the hours required to write something worth publishing. I went to school with a lot of “writers” that were more talented than me. However, I’m the only one with a book. Though talent has something to do with getting published, most of it has to do with dedicating the time to writing, editing, and rewriting your manuscript.
Q: Are you writing more books?
A: I’m currently writing a work of fiction. If I can hold to my self-imposed deadlines, I should have a publishable manuscript sometime this summer.
Q: Do you have any plans to write a follow-up to Room for Two?
A: Yes. After I complete this work of fiction, the plan is to write another book that picks up where Room for Two left off. The main focus will be on the early years my marriage to Julie. The working title is Seconds because the book is going to focus a lot on second chances, second marriages, second loves, etc.