A Conversation with Dr. K E Garland
Dr. Katherin E Garland (writer/ academic / blogger / my friend) has just published The Unhappy Wife, a book of short stories based on the real lives of 12 women in marital discontent.
The closest I’ve come to marriage is having a partner who is a wedding photographer. With or without the ring, however, relationships have their ups and downs: sometimes they work; sometimes we invest in the work to make them work; sometimes we walk away; and sometimes, we remain – unhappily.
Over the weekend, Kathy and I chatted about her book, the writing process, and insights on love and relationships.
How did the concept for the book come about?
Many of my male friends and family members couldn’t understand why their wives were so unhappy. They felt they were doing everything they were “supposed” to, such as paying bills, but their wives were so sad. Reflecting on my own marriage and unhappiness, I also realized I had a story that needed to be heard, so I decided to write the book.
The women share quite intimate details of their lives. How did you gain their trust?
During my doctoral studies, I learned qualitative methods, such as interview techniques. For example, asking open-ended questions helped the women open up, so that came in handy. I also talked to them as if we were good girlfriends. A lot of the conversations felt like two women having coffee or drinks, while talking about their lives.
What was your writing / interviewing process?
I conducted recorded interviews with each woman either in person or over the phone. Conversations lasted 1- 3 hours depending on the woman. If it was over the phone, I also took notes. It took approximately two weeks to write up, revise, research certain parts, and fictionalize characters. I sent drafts to everyone, followed by one revision before calling it a final draft. Of course, once my editor got a hold of it, parts changed further.
Is there a common thread in the making/ breaking of a relationship that connects these women’s stories?
What’s common is that a majority of the women ignored their intuition and it ended up hurting them in the end. I can’t say there’s a common thread in the breaking of the relationship, because the relationships didn’t/don’t end similarly. That is the beauty of this book.
Readers will be interested to know you’re one of The Unhappy Wives. How has that candour affected your marriage?
Although I didn’t use my name for the story, my husband knows which one is me, we talked about it. I wouldn’t have been able to write my story without having reconciled my unhappiness and understood where it stemmed from. That’s another common theme: many of the women didn’t know themselves prior to marriage. In essence, I didn’t write from a space of unhappiness, I wrote from a space of reflection, clarity and self-awareness.
You have published a book of quotes, and on your blog you share quotes that inspire with simple truths. One of my favourite quotes on love/ relationships is:
I define love thus: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. ― M. Scott Peck
Can you share a quote on the topic that resonates with you?
Funny you should ask. I begin each woman’s chapter with a quote. My favorite is one I’ve used for Miss Sharlene’s story, a woman who has been married four times. It is from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God:
Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly . ― Zora Neale Hurston
That’s great, and it can be good or bad; focusing on a dream and choosing positive paths to realise it, or grasping an illusion and ignoring reality to your detriment.
Women in this book tend to create their own illusion of men and marriage and then go with that, instead of functioning from a place of reality. That causes unhappiness.
In relationships, there are always two sides to the story. Is there scope for a husband’s edition?
LOL – there is no scope for an Unhappy Husband edition, though many have asked. That’s not my story to tell; however, I will edit it if someone else chooses to tell it. My goal is to raise women’s consciousness, and as Audre Lorde said so perfectly in Conversations with Audre Lorde ‘I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice…’