by Kim Jones
“Oh, so you’re Leslie’s DH!”
I remember the first time I heard that phrase. I was at a member appreciation dinner for one of my wife’s writing associations. I had no idea what the term meant, and hadn’t a clue who the woman asking me the question was. Still, after 20+ years of marriage, I instinctively knew the correct answer:
“Why, yes. Yes, I am.”
I later learned that term “DH” is one of endearment and love within the romance writing community. We “dear husbands” are said to tolerate the temperaments and eccentricities of our creative spouses as they soar through highs (“The Call”) and slog through lows (“the letter” or the “I-still-have-5000-words-to-write-and-my-deadline-is-TOMORROW” moments). While I’ve never felt that being my wife’s #1 fan and cheerleader is anything short of a privilege, I must admit that there are some unique aspects and unwritten rules to living with a writer. Here are some of my favorites:
1. Everything Is Potential Content. When Leslie was pregnant with our son, a wise man sat us down and told us the secret to a happy marriage. “The birthing room is Las Vegas,” he said. “Whatever happens there or is said there is never to be brought up by either of you ever again, be it in jest or in anger.” My writer wife informs me that this is the only content that is guaranteed never to appear in her novels. Any else – from flippant lines to funnily embarrassing moments – is fair game. A mutual friend of ours pointed out over a dozen phrases that I use regularly in Leslie’s first novel, and another 4-5 in her second one.
2. Never Critique The First Manuscript. Never. As in Not. Ever. This is a trap, fellow DHs. Experienced husbands know this. Do not be fooled!
(Did I mention never?)
When Leslie asked me why I wouldn’t read her first creation, I explained it thus: “This is your creation. Your pride and joy. Second to our son, you haven’t poured so much of your heart and soul into anything. If I read it and tell you its flaws, it’ll be the equivalent of calling your baby ugly. If I tell you it’s fantastic, you won’t believe me and say that I’m ‘just saying that’ and that I ‘don’t take your writing seriously.’ Either way, I see no upside in this.” Years later, when Leslie was under contract and in the midst of writing her second book, she needed an emergency critique partner. I agreed (“this one time”) to critique her manuscript. I devoured it in 3 days and handed detailed comments back to her. After reading my inputs, she came to me and said. “Wow. This is the best critique I’ve gotten to date. And you were absolutely right not to critique my first book; it would’ve devastated me back then.”
(Did you catch the “you were right?” I marked the date.)
Of course now I’m a regular beta reader, but that’s another story.
3. Learn to Cook, or Find Healthy Takeout. When deadline is looming, all bets are off. Food is optional to your writer (yes, they will forget to eat), and if pressed to provide it you can expect whatever is on speed dial to show up at the front door. As I enjoy cooking this isn’t a big deal for me…but having to set my phone alarm to remind my writer wife to eat the food I placed in front of her an hour ago was something I hadn’t expected.
4. To Err May Be Human, But It Usually Means a Failure in Research. Attention to detail and thorough research is the hallmark of a good writer. We’ve all had that eye roll when we’ve read something in a book that’s categorically wrong; it spoils the rest of the novel. Writer wives will go to painstaking levels to make their content as realistic as possible. This could mean plotting potential military assault layouts using silverware over Thanksgiving dinner (been there); working through weapons disarms in your living room (done that); or going through museums and commenting on ambush points and potential improvised weapons (got the T-shirt).
There is really only one rule that matters, though. I’ve saved it for last:
5. Believe in Them, Even When They Don’t Believe in Themselves (Yet). The act of creation is as painful as it is exhilarating. Your writer wife may take years writing as a secondary activity and may (will) at some point be filled with self doubt. You can’t believe enough for them…but you’ve no idea the power of your belief is to them. My writer wife told me she wanted to be a published author over 25 years ago. While there were moments she lost faith in that dream, I never did; it was only a matter of time. Don’t take their struggles for granted…and believe.
Kim Jones is SVP, Chief Security Officer at Vantiv Corporation and has been an intelligence, security, and risk professional for almost 30 years. A sought-after speaker and industry thought leader, Jones has built, refined, and/or managed security programs in the financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, outsourcing, and defense industries.
Jones has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a master’s degree in information assurance from Norwich University, and holds the CISM and CISSP certifications. Jones is a former member of the CISO Advisory Council for ISSA International, and sits on the SecureWorld National Advisory Council.