1. What inspired the creation of Why They Stay?
As a political reporter, I covered a number of the men who stumbled over sex-related scandals: Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner. I watched as their wives appeared on TV to defend them, or stood by them red-eyed at press conferences. These were all intelligent, accomplished, articulate women. It seemed off to me that they would play this subservient role to rescue their husbands’ careers. I began looking into their lives, and I found common themes, as well as many more examples of wives who stayed with politician-husbands who cheated. This isn’t just an American phenomenon; Why They Stay includes one Israeli and two British couples.
2. You’re an award-winning reporter. How did this influence you when writing nonfiction?
I felt it was extremely helpful to have a background in fact gathering and to understand how politics works – as much as an outsider can, perhaps. I’ve spent a lot of time with not just politicians but their aides and advisers, and the activists and lobbyists who want to influence them.
3. Whose writing do you look to for inspiration?
I’m inspired by Erik Larson, who brings to life whole eras with his fact-based books. I’m thinking of Devil in the White City. I’m inspired by radio shows such as NPR’s StoryCorps as well as the tradition of literary journalism. I think good storytelling is so important to catching and holding people’s interest, and I believe that true stories are the most fascinating.
4. Do you follow any writing rituals you’d like to share?
I remind myself at the beginning of each writing session that there will be some reluctance and resistance and even pain to get through. That’s expected, and I try to work on some lower-level tasks at the outset, such as taking notes or rewriting my previous day’s work. I know that there’s a period of getting settled into the work that I need to move through. On the other side of that period, I’m in the flow and enjoying myself – most of the time! Then, I can write. Another technique I use is to start writing first thing in the morning, when I feel most fresh and creative.
5. What do you look forward to most as you continue to promote the book?
I really enjoy the Q&A sessions with people who attend my talks. They ask the most intriguing questions, and I often sense that behind their curiosity is a question about how we all make and keep romantic commitments. I think that many more people would like to talk about “why they stay” and the ups and downs of relationships. There’s a yearning to not be quite so perfect as the Facebook version of our lives. I’m also intrigued by the idea that we are at a moment in American politics when the submissive spouse will no longer be an acceptable political cliché. I think we’re ready for political leaders who are more authentic. Absolutely including women political leaders.