Friday, February 12, 2010

Opposites Attract: The Secret to a Successful Marriage

Today's Pens Guest is Carla Buckley, whose debut novel, THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE, blew me away. It's truly one of the finest and most gripping novels to come down the pike lately. Think of a heartfelt women's fiction voice combined with the kind of nightmare future that could really happen right here in America - and globally - and you've got a thriller that's nearly impossible to put down. Plus, Carla's funny and fun, and there's definitely going to be some Pens In Action shots of her and a Pen or two this summer at Thrillerfest!

Carla's led an exciting life, with too many experiences to summarize so you'll just have to read about it at her web site. One of our favorite details is that Carla wrote a whole lot of books before selling. Here at PensFatales we are big fans of perseverence!

So we’re coming up to Valentine’s Day, and the gifted and talented authors at Pens Fatales (special shout out to Sophie!) have asked me to write up a little something on love and romance. While those who know me well choke on their coffee hearing that, let me defend myself by saying, I do know a little bit about the subject.

After all, I’ve been married for over twenty years. This fact sometimes amazes me. Other than explaining it by saying that we simply don’t have the energy to push each other under a train, it comes down to the fact that we’re completely different, which gives a certain edge to our relationship. We’re constantly on guard to see where the other one is headed.

My husband is tall, tan, and athletic. I’m…not. He can sleep anywhere, anytime. World War III can be playing on the Xbox five feet away and he’ll snore right through it. I need darkness so thick you can cut it with scissors, tomblike silence, and socks. My husband has no emotional relationship with food, which, let me tell you, puts a real strain on our marriage. I mean, who can live with someone like that? He can resist a bag of Kettle chips for weeks, while my food pyramid is solidly founded on potato products and chocolate. Then there’s the fact that he thinks before he speaks. What’s up with that?

All these differences are manageable. Annoying, yes, but nothing a super-sized order of French fries can’t fix. Really, it’s the fact that he’s generous and selfless that is a problem for me. Who can live with someone who always considers other people first? It leaves the mean stuff up to me, and because we have kids, there’s a big demand for that sort of thing around here.

When the media began talking about how the world was overdue for a deadly flu pandemic, I knew I was doomed. Not just because I was worried I’d get sick, but because I’d be fighting the great fight. My husband would be the one shoveling neighbors’ driveways, giving them our last bottle of ibuprofen, offering to drive them to the hospital. I’d be the one hiding our food so he couldn’t give it away, misplacing our car keys so he couldn’t loan out our car with the scant half-tank of gas, and spread-eagling myself across the doors so he couldn’t swing them wide open to ask passersby in for hot chocolate.

I channeled this anxiety into my debut novel, THE THINGS THAT KEEP US HERE, where a married couple battles not only a pandemic, but one another. Peter wants to save the world. Ann wants to save just one tiny piece of it--their children. Think War of the Roses meets Outbreak, and you pretty much have the level of tension in the Brooks’s household.

Writing THINGS was cathartic. Figuring out Peter helped me understand my husband better. Giving Ann a voice made me feel less driven to raise my own. In a sense, my novel might have saved my marriage. That, plus it gave me some really great ideas on where to hide the car keys.

What about you? Is your relationship founded on the notion of opposites attract, or misery loves company?

15 comments:

Gary Corby said...

Hi Carla,

That is simply an amazing premise. And one I'll be reading. Congratulations on your debut!

Brad Parks said...

Carla,

First, you make me laugh. My wife and I are only five years into marriage but 12 years into cohabitation. We're utter opposites in so many ways (she's the uber thoughtful one, I'm the one who thinks about what he says MAYBE a half an hour later). I love her, but I'm thankful we've never lived next to railroad tracks. Someone would have met a nasty end.

Second, can I tell you? I'm part-way through your book right now and LOVING IT! It's totally haunting me (in all the right ways). Even when I'm not reading it, it's occupying this corner of my brain. Every time someone around me sneezes, I want to shut down the airports and declare a quarantine.

Thirdly, I'm sorry, I'm just not buying the potato chip thing. You're way too thin.

Sophie Littlefield said...

As for me, I totally buy the potato chip thing. How can you write without them? I sneak off to the kitchen every half hour or so for a handful, then I talk to the dog for a minute, and then I'm fortified enough to return to work.

Carla Buckley said...

Thanks, Gary, for the good wishes--hope you enjoy the book!

Brad, Brad, Brad. You already know I love you. You don't have to bribe me with compliments about my potato-chip consumption and how much you're enjoying my book. Though I am listening...

Sophie, it's true. If some poor researcher analyzed my blood, they'd see it's fifty percent french fries and potato chips, fifty percent chocolate.

Rachael said...

What a GREAT idea -- lovely cover, fantastic premise. Can't wait to read it!

Juliet Blackwell said...

Carla -- thanks for stopping by to visit with the Pens! For the record, I agree with Brad about the potato chips...
As for relationships, I think the lasting ones have fundamental beliefs in common, but a whole lot of opposite attraction happening at the same time to keep things interesting.
Great cover, fascinating premise, and I can't wait to get my hands on The Things that Keep Us Here. Sophie can't stop talking about it!
--Juliet

Carla Buckley said...

Rachael, thanks for all the good vibes, and I'm so glad you like my cover! I just got the UK book in the mail today, and it's very different: all black with a girl in green peeping out a window, and the lettering in gold. It looks very rich and...scary.

Juliet, I do agree that the one thing that has kept my husband and me together is that we share the same values and beliefs. It's what has kept us going through sleepless nights with sick children, losses on both sides of our families, and the ordinary stresses of everyday life.

The potato chips are real. I'll just have to have a potato-chip eating showdown in person to convince you. And of course, the best drink to accompany five thousand calories of potato chips is Diet Coke.

Brad Parks said...

You mean you haven't discovered Coke Zero yet? I know you're older and therefore resistant to change, but you really have to get with the program Buckley...

Mysti Lou said...

Carla, can't wait to read your book, it sounds fascinating!

Re: opposites or familiar. My old man shares some things with me that aren't that common in other people, and we are polar opposites in some ways. Most of our core values are the same. Every once in a while life threatens to lean hard on the few we don't share, but so far the leans have been light and short lived.

I think every relationship contains within it the seeds of its growth and death. Simple circumstances/world events can either push it to the breaking point or inspire the individuals in the relationship to work hard and reach the next level in their growth. Sometimes change comes so fast there's no chance for growth, and that's always heartbreaking to watch, like a couple who loses a child or a war that magnifies belief differences to giant proportions, or a woman who finds her voice only to discover her partner doesn't *like* it...

Carla Buckley said...

Mysti Lou, you are so right. I've always felt sad for the couples who believed they shared common goals and values, only to learn otherwise. Isn't it when things are sad or difficult that you need your life partner the most? It's a double loss.

Brad: hello. I was drinking Coke Zero before you were born.

Juliet Blackwell said...

I'm thinking we've got a Carla Buckley/Brad Parks throw-down situation developing here...seems like we should work something up for the next conference they're both attending. Something involving Coke Zero, potato chips, and a karaoke bar, maybe?

Carla Buckley said...

Bring it on, Juliet. Throw in one-handed diaper changing, and Parks is TOAST.

Brad Parks said...

You know, there's nothing worse than the aging has-been, still thinking she's got it going on. Buckley, I change seven, eight diapers a day. And I'm not talking little baby diapers that don't stink yet. No, no. My kids put ungodly substances into those Pampers, stuff you can smell three rooms away. You'd be in another room, whimpering into your bag of potato chips if you had to deal with stuff like that.

Diaper changing competition. Ha.

mom911 said...

Ha! Lovely to hear someone so honest with the same issues that I face in my own marriage. Hard to complain about your husband when EVERYONE LOVES HIM.
I am looking forward to reading "The Things That Keep Us Here".
~Stephanie

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