Julie N. Ford
"The Woman He Married"
Julie N. Ford is debuting her first book, an edgy women's fiction novel that has at its center a woman struggling with disatisfaction in her roles as wife and mother. Julie N. Ford is LDS, but her debut novel is written for the national market. As a practicing marriage and family therapist, Ford injects some sobering concerns about the threats to modern family life through her lead character, Josie McClain.
From the back cover:
As an aspiring young defense attorney, Josie McClain looked forward to taking on the injustices of the world—one case at a time. Eleven years later, she is a stay-at-home-mom battling demons that don’t require a law degree, but do demand the ability to remain insanely busy, while nursing a heavy dose of denial. Only keeping up pretenses proves more than she can bear when a bracelet that should have been hers shows up on the wrist of another woman. Now, in the midst of an Alabama judicial campaign, Josie’s marriage to candidate, John Bearden, slowly begins to unravel as an ex-lover comes back into her life. When he offers her the dreams she thought she’d lost, Josie faces one of the most difficult decisions of her life. She embarks on a journey of self-rediscovery, finding that fulfillment was unwittingly within her reach the whole time.
Question: Though "The Woman He Married" is your debut novel, I see that you have three novels ready to hit the market in 2011 and a fourth book in production. That's a prolific start. How long have you been writing?
Answer: Besides term papers and research analysis in college and grad school, I really hadn’t done any creative writing before sitting down to write this novel. I minored in English Literature so I knew that plot and character development were important but other than that I just started writing.
Question: What motivated you to start writing?
Answer: As long as I can remember I have had ideas for stories and movies playing through my mind but had never aspired to be a writer or even considered turning any of my ideas into a novel. Then, for some unknown reason the pieces of this book just started to fall into place. When the words began knocking on my brain, struggling to get out, I sat down and wrote a page. When one page turned into twenty, I asked a friend to read it and then she asked me for more. I kept writing, and she kept requesting more, until four months later, I had a manuscript.
Question: How much of this story was driven by your work as a marriage and family therapist?
Answer: I’ve only practiced as a therapist for short period of time but have notice some common threads that run though the couples I’ve treated. One being that infidelity, unless chronic, doesn’t cause divorce, lack of communication does.
With Josie and John, their problems started in the beginning when she chose to let him dictate the roles of their marriage. She sacrificed her dreams for his instead of telling him what she wanted. But then over time began resenting him while he was left wondering why she wasn’t happy. Resentment doesn’t exactly encourage productive communication.
Question: What purpose did the retreat to island serve?
Answer: As women we get so entrenched in our roles as wife and mother that what we want for ourselves turns into some distant fantasy that we don’t have the time to entertain any more. The trip to the island was a chance for Josie to get out of the familiar and rediscover the woman she had once been. Consequently, John began to see the woman he married reemerging as well.
Question: What role does today’s culture play in the demise of marriages?
Answer: Couples in today’s society seem to get so caught up in doing the “right” thing. Fathers feel compelled to build a prestigious career, provide a larger than necessary home in a safe neighborhood, expensive gas-guzzling cars, country club memberships and vacations to hip places. The pressure to provide financially is overwhelming.
Mothers feel they need to stretch themselves and their children to the limit with extra curricular activities, volunteering, social clubs, church and even a career. All the while keeping close tabs on what their kids eat and watch on TV, how they dress, and their grades. Parents get so caught up in what society says they “should” be doing that their marital relationships are forced to take a back seat.
Question: If Josie and John both loved each other the way they said they did in the beginning, why did it take almost loosing each other for them to remember?
Answer: Most couples that are in trouble can still remember why they fell in love. Navigating through all the hurt feelings and resentment to get back to that love is the hard part.
Question: At the beginning of the story your protagonist had clearly lost a certain sense of herself as she focused on meeting the needs of her husband and her children before her own. In your opinion, how do women balance the needs of their families without becoming so immersed in their role that they lose a part or most of themselves?
Answer: That’s a tough question. I had Josie go back to work, in essence go back and live the dreams/goals she thought she had sacrificed. I think all women who choose to stay home wonder if they are missing out on something more fulfilling by not having career. I mean, lets face it, anything seems more glamorous than motherhood at three in the morning when you’re cleaning up vomit. But having a career also comes with challenges of its own like office politics, deadlines, reviews and annoying co-workers. The secret to being happy is choosing the life we have.
Question: How do you feel your experience with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma affected your writing?
Answer: While I was going through chemotherapy my husband and I used to joke that when the treatments were done, it would be cool if I developed some sort of new super powers, kind of like a comic book character often will after falling into a vat of toxic waste. While I didn’t develop super powers, I did escape with my life, a heightened sense of creativity and the unrelenting desire to tell Josie’s story.
Question: And chemotherapy did all that?
Answer: Besides more precious time with my husband and children, I would like to think that I got more out of four months of having chemicals pumped into my veins besides six months of impersonating the Buddha and premature menopause.
Question: Did your illness change your perspective on life and if so how did you portray this in the book?
Answer: I definitely feel that a near death experience can change the way we view our lives and relationships, what battles we choose to fight and how we treat the people we love. The bottom line is not to let pride or hurt feelings dictate the decisions we make—to learn to forgive even the unforgivable.
Question: But don’t all the psychologists say that children are better off with happy parents even if that means their parents are no longer together?
Answer: It has become too easy for couples to say that divorcing is better for the children. Unless there is abuse or was never any love to begin with, why not learn to forgive, make changes and stay together? That solution would, I think we can all agree, be better for the kids.
Question: Besides providing some comic relief, what was Gina’s role in the story?
Answer: Gina was the voice of reason in this book. She was the one who said everything Josie needed to hear even though she may not have been ready to accept it. We all need a Gina in our lives to keep us heading in the right direction.
Question: You quote Benard Baruch, "The art of living lies less in eliminating conflicts that growing with them." What significance do his words have to Josie’s decision?
Answer: So often in life we are willing to do almost anything to avoid changing our behavior or adjusting the way we view our situation. By facing her problems and accepting responsibility for her role in the collapse of her marriage, Josie was able to find peace and purpose.
Question: The book has a somewhat PG-13 element to it. Why not clean it up and make it suitable for the Christian market?
Answer: The book is clean and contains no graphic language or sexual content. But I wrote the book from a non-LDS perspective so that the story would appeal to all readers. I think a story about a woman’s struggle to hold onto her identity while dedicating her life to the service of her family is applicable to women of all walks of life, and I didn’t want to limit my audience to only LDS readers.
Question: Being a member of the LDS church comes with its own unique challenges. Why would a book about a woman with very little faith appeal to women in a church where god is their central focus and the example they look to for guidance?
Answer: Although Josie doesn’t have a strong belief in/or understanding of God in which to draw upon, her struggle to find the right answers is not unlike any woman’s. In the end, she does turn to a higher power for guidance, thus illustrating the need we all have at times for a little divine intervention.
Question: As church members we have been taught that women fulfill the measure of their creation by becoming a wife and mother, yet in this story you have a shown a woman who is somewhat resentful of those roles.
Answer: I think a lot of women, especially those who forgo a career to stay at home and raise a family, questions at times if anyone really values or even appreciates their sacrifices—if their time and energy wouldn’t be better spent pursuing other venues. But motherhood is worth it, and thus Josie was able to find fulfillment in the very place she had thought she never would.
Question: Why give Josie a problem with alcohol?
Answer: We all have our vices that may include food, hobbies, or staying so busy we don’t give ourselves time to think—to feel. I gave Josie a problem with alcohol because, whether we want to admit it or not, we all have our own hidden demons. Simply put, I thought this one fit a politician’s wife the best.
Julie N. Ford's "The Woman He Married," published by Whiskey Creek Press, debuts this month. Look for it on Amazon.com or at Ms. Ford's web site.