|Golden Gate Bridge - Dec 2010|
And it's really only about marriage in that the book is about all the adventures and misadventures my husband and I experienced while learning how to brew beer. During which time we also happened to be married. Homebrewing has been something that we loved doing together and that has occasionally (frequently) made us want to scratch each other's eyes out. To say that beer brewing brought out some of our issues is putting it mildly.
So here’s the thing: this book is suddenly becoming very real. As in publishers are looking at the proposal at this very minute and giving it the thumbs up or thumbs down. Until now, it’s been fun to play the “what if” game and write some sample chapters and think about this whole book-thing in a theoretical kind of way. But this is no longer this project that I’m thinking about working on. It’s becoming the project that I am working on.
When you start writing a book (or anything, really), the choices are endless. I mentioned in my proposal that I plan to visit a factory where they malt barley and make brewing extracts. Why not?! How fun would it be to visit that factory and see what happens behind the scenes? Very fun! Ok, what else can I throw in there? Let’s say that Scott and I struggled to work together when we first started brewing (true), but gradually learned how to be a team (also true) and that this was analogous to learning how to really be married to each other (triple true!). Excellent material!
But a book can’t be everything. It can’t be 100% about brewing beer and also 100% about marriage. It can’t appeal to men who care nothing about your marriage troubles and also still talk about marriage troubles. It can’t go to a publisher who wants a chick book and then involve a trip to a malt factory for no reason other than it sounds like an awesome thing to do.
You might be sitting there thinking, “Sure it can, Emma! You’re a fantabulous writer and you can do anything you want!” But, no. It can’t. Fantabulous writing skills or otherwise.
A book has to take a stand. I have to make a choice about how I really want this book to play out. I feel like the story of learning to brew beer and the story of our marriage are two inextricably linked things. That much is clear (thank goodness). But it’s the degree of each, the tone of the book, the audience who I’m writing to; it’s all these things that are starting to keep me up at night.
I could see both books happening. I could see a book about learning to brew beer that is much more journalistic, involves interviews with brewers and barley malters, describes the steps of the brewing process, and then touches on my marriage in a very superficial way. A way that holds the book together and gives it some human interest.
And then I could see a book about my marriage, loosely structured around how we learned to brew beer. I could see diving deep into what makes our marriage work, the things that made us struggle, and why they made us struggle. Scott and I have been through a lot in our relationship and I definitely have things to say. Things about relationships and marriage that I really want to say because I don’t think that they get said enough. And because there is a part of me that feels the need to say them.
I was already struggling with this, knowing that the decisions were looming ever nearer, when I had a conversation with an editor earlier this week. This editor was (is!) interested in my book, but definitely wanted it to take the more personal slant. We talked about the landscape of marriage and how to balance independence and dependence in the context of a relationship. Told through the metaphor of brewing beer. I told her that I didn’t want to write chick lit and she said, “Good. I don’t want you to write chick lit.” I said I’d have to think about it.
And I’ve thought and thought and thought about it. In the next few days, I’m going doing some sample writing with this slant and see how it feels.
It’s hard. I’m terribly susceptible to suggestion. I was already on the fence about which direction to take this book, and for an editor to tell me that they are interested in the book as long as it goes in a certain direction, well...well, that’s hard. It would be very easy to start believing that what this editor wants is also what I want.
I’m trying to breathe deeply and really look at what I want for this book. As my friend Dana would probably tell me, I’m trying to seek the middle path. The path that I haven’t really seen yet. Does this book have to be slanted to either the beer brewing or the marriage? Could it be more 50/50? Does writing about feelings and lovey-dovey stuff necessarily mean than men won’t read the book? Or that it won’t be taken seriously? When I take away my doubts and fears, my attempts at pleasing everyone, my blinders, and all my secret desires, what does that path look like? What does that book look like?
I don’t know. I really don’t know. There is no right answer. This book could be anything. But it also has to ultimately be something.