- by Lillian Stewart Carl
This month brings my husband and me to yet another wedding anniversary. We’re now well past the early anniversaries, the ones designated paper or tin, and now into the ones celebrated by jewels and precious metals—which just goes to prove both how costly and how valuable a long-term relationship can be.
Unlike the beginning of my marriage, I don’t have a specific date for the beginning of my writing career. Was it my first short story sale? Publication of my first novel? Or was it the day I first wrote words on a piece of paper, something I did about an hour after I learned to read.
I well remember the thrill of the romance—the stolen moments, the sweet nothings, the bright-eyed plans for the future. And then comes the heady moment at the altar, when you say “I do” to your spouse—or to your publisher—and reality sets in. Your spouse snores. Your publisher expects you to promote your books as well as write them.
Funny, how relationships and careers alike require a lot of time, emotion, and plain old perspiration.
There are the scary moments when you sign a contract for a house, or for a book that you haven’t yet written. There are the sleepless nights when the story is screaming with colic and you have to walk the floor with it. There are the good reviews and the royalty checks and the day you finally finish building that backyard deck. And there are the phone calls beginning, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the car’s totaled and the publisher’s folded,” when you just grit your teeth and deal with it.
This month yet another of my novels has been released into the wild. The Charm Stone is number four in the Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron mystery series, in which America’s exile and Scotland’s finest follow the trail of all-too-living legends.
While each Fairbairn/Cameron novel is a complete mystery, the arc connecting the five books (the last is The Blue Hackle, November 2010) is the story of a couple not only forming a relationship, but also discovering new vocations.
Jean Fairbairn is a burned-out American history professor who meets Alasdair Cameron, a burned-out Scottish detective, over the body of a murder victim. Their attraction is mutual—and threatening. They’re not kids caught in the rose-colored light of romance. They’re cynical and cautious. They’ve seen both marriages and careers turn on them and bite. But their hearts lead, leaving their heads to play catch-up.
They deal with criminals exploiting the romance of Bonnie Prince Charlie (The Secret Portrait), the pseudo-science of the Loch Ness monster (The Murder Hole), the claims made by a best-selling novel about Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel (The Burning Glass), and tales of witchcraft in colonial Virginia (The Charm Stone). Their personal histories blend with the history of Scotland. Blood is spilled, ghosts manifest, and Jean and Alasdair work their way to new personal and professional commitments.
But then, unlike my characters, I won’t be recalibrating either my marriage or my career. I’ve been very fortunate to travel with the same spouse and the same sort of novel and short story for many years now. While there have been plenty of rusty tin cans and stained bits of paper along the way, that doesn’t mean we’re not going for the gold, together.