CS: Why did you write Should You Marry Him? Where did the inspiration to write the book come from?
Abby: So many times I’ve heard from clients (I’m a psychotherapist) and friends that they knew getting married was a mistake…at their weddings! Huh?! This, obviously, is not good or healthy or even sane. And these admissions were from smart, savvy women. After hearing this same confession countless times, I started to wonder where the breakdown was in the process of deciding to marry someone not right for you.
I mean, why on Earth would you marry someone you knew wasn’t a good match? Where was the reasonable person standard in this crazy decision? Then, I started to wonder if the really critical questions weren’t being answered and the really important issues weren’t the focus. I’m on a mission to change that!
CS: Since you have such a strong background in psychotherapy, what was it like translating that scientific information into writing a self-help book? Did you have to do any additional research in order to write a book?
Abby: I’m not a research-y sort although I’ve benefited immensely from the research of others in my field. I place the highest value on life experience and real-life case studies and that’s how I approached my book. For example, I make the assumption that most readers understand the divorce rate in this country is very high and something needs to be done to address that. I also credit my practice for providing me with my very own research lab!
CS: Why did you decide to write Should You Marry Him? as a self-help book rather than simply write it as a non-fiction health book?
Abby: Probably because I wish this book had been available to me when I married years ago…and because it is such a personal decision that needs to be considered in an intimate – not technical – context. I wanted readers to understand that, although I’m a psychotherapist, I’m also a woman who has had some of these same experiences. These are juicy and emotional issues and I wanted the opportunity to address them in that way. Writing it in the self-help genre made that possible. I also wanted to reach the broadest audience of people struggling with this issue and I felt that a more clinical approach to the topic wouldn’t support that goal.
CS: Book Writing Coach Lisa Tener tells me that you were working on a few other ideas along with this book. Why did you choose this book to be the one to complete?
Abby: When I met Lisa, I was working on a memoir. She was so encouraging and even connected me with some book agents. The feedback from them was very positive but the message was, “Who are you and why should readers care?” It was a discouraging experience but also a great lesson. In any case, I wanted to keep writing and practicing psychotherapy provides such a treasure trove for ideas. Every day you get to hear people’s innermost thoughts and about their life experiences. To me, there’s nothing more interesting than people’s stories. Writing Should You Marry Him? was a natural fit.
CS: Lisa tells me that the writing in your memoir is beautiful. Did you find a different “voice” to write a self-help book? If so, how did this happen? Was it a conscious choice?
Abby: What a lovely compliment. I’m not sure my voice is so different in the two books because I’m pretty much a straight-shooter (beware of anyone who tells you that!) and I write the way I talk. Of course, in Should You Marry Him? I do have a bit more of the professional persona going but that’s just the nature of the beast since I’m using my experience as a psychotherapist to fuel the message. Any voice of authority in the book is the voice of my personal experience. It’s the only thing I’m an expert on.
CS: Your writing in this book is very approachable, often humorous, and addresses the reader directly. What effect do you think this has on a reader and how they process the book?
Abby: Thanks for the kudos! The last thing a reader needs when they’re struggling with a big decision is overwhelm. They don’t need to slog through 500 pages or 1001 questions so I wanted the book to be concise and readable while delivering an important message.
I really want readers to feel I’m with them through this process and I understand how tough the decision to marry can be. I also think it’s helpful for the reader to know that, although I’m informed immensely by my work and training, my personal experience is not so different from millions of others. And we can always, always use a laugh even in the most serious of circumstances. Of course, it may be too “girlfriend’s guide” for some but I hope it works for most.
CS: What advice do you have for writers who are trying to find a “voice” that works in their respective genres?
Abby: Is it too pithy to advise them to be themselves? I don’t think there’s any other way. If you are driven to write, it’s because you believe you have something important to say or an interesting story to tell. I realize fiction-writing is different but if you’re writing a memoir or sharing your expertise or trying to help people, the only voice worth using is your own. Also, readers are very astute. They can smell an inauthentic voice a mile away.
CS: Why did you choose to publish the book as an e-book first? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this method of publishing? What did you find successful or unsuccessful with it?
Abby: Honestly? The whole route of traditional publishing felt like too huge a process when I was trying to get the book out fairly quickly. My book editor is a traditionally published writer and he really encouraged me to speak with an agent, which I did before making the decision to self-publish. Of course, there are many disadvantages to not going that route including not having the support and expertise of the talented folks in that industry.
CS: Did you come into any problems while writing the book or in the publication process? If so, how did you overcome these?
Abby: Since I did all of it myself – including cover design – I spent many hours on an enormous learning curve. I’m not computer savvy even on a good day so there was a lot of frustration and hand-wringing. I’m not sure I would do it the same way again – okay, definitely not! – although I certainly learned a lot. In terms of the writing process, I once heard someone say that your butt plus a chair equals writing. That basically sums it up for me. If I want results, I need to be disciplined. That was tough for me but now I realize I have to get up before the sun in order to fit my writing in.
CS: What advice do you have for writers who come into similar roadblocks while trying to write a book?
Abby: There are always going to be roadblocks in writing and the subsequent frustration needs to be woven into the process. Banging out a perfect chapter every day just isn’t in the cards for me and I just have to accept that tomorrow may be better. Also, choosing a time of quiet when you can write uninterrupted is a must. Don’t frustrate yourself by deciding to write when the kids walk in the door from school. You’ll pull your hair out! Most importantly, having a mission in your writing is essential. The message in Should You Marry Him? is one I truly and authentically believe needs to be spread. That was the impetus that kept me going. Even if I help one person from making a terrible mistake, it will be worth every minute of frustration and self-flagellation!
CS: What helpful tips can you offer our readers about writing a book or publishing a book (or relationships!)?
Abby: I love this question because it occurs to me that writing is a relationship of its own sort. It’s a relationship with the message you’re putting out into the world. And any relationship requires time, attention and love. If you’re not willing to make that commitment, it’s going to be a much harder exercise. I’m currently working on my second book about divorce and, for a whole bunch of reasons (read: lame excuses), I haven’t been able to devote enough time to it…and it shows. The book just isn’t infused with my focus at this point and the writing can feel arduous. Time to start showing the love! When you show your writing love, it starts loving you back.
CS: How can our readers get in contact with you?
Abby Rodman, LICSW, is a trained psychotherapist and relationship coach, practicing in the Boston area. She has graduate degrees from both Harvard and Boston College and her work has been featured in the Boston Globe magazine. She is a contributing relationship expert and writer for yourtango.com. She can be contacted through her website abbyrodman.com, where visitors can make appointments for individual or couples coaching and purchase her e-book.