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Domestic drama: Susan Kietzman on 'A Changing Marriage' (Q&A w/ event details)

Susan Kietzman will launch her new novel, 'A Changing Marriage,' at Mystic's Bank Square Books on Tuesday, February 25th, at 5 PM.

Today, Hartford Books Examiner is rejoined by Susan Kietzman.

A Connecticut native, Ms. Kietzman will visit her hometown bookstore, Mystic’s Bank Square Books, on Thursday evening, February 27th, to celebrate the release of her new novel, A Changing Marriage (Kensington, $15.00). She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Connecticut College and a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Ms. Kietzman has worked in both magazine and newspaper publishing and currently writes grants for the Mystic Seaport Museum. Her debut novel, The Good Life, was published in 2013.

Ms. Kietzman has already earned high praise for her depictions of the drama that is inherent within domesticity. Of The Good Life, RT Book Reviews noted, “This moving story portrays the relationships between parents and children with insight and honesty. Descriptions of life with an ailing family member are painstakingly accurate and will resonate with many …”

From the publisher:

Karen Spears and Bob Parsons meet in college and embark upon the kind of enviable, picture-perfect relationship featured in romantic movies. Bob is ambitious and adoring; Karen is bright and beautiful. And nothing seems more natural to them than getting married right after Karen’s graduation. Newlywed life meets all of Karen’s expectations. Bob’s career is soaring and Karen has a fulfilling job of her own – one that’s put on hold when she becomes pregnant. But their caring partnership begins to slip away as Bob’s single-minded pursuit of the next promotion blinds him to how overwhelmed Karen feels as a stay-at-home mother. When resentment and disenchantment build on both sides, Karen finds herself at a crossroads.

Now, Susan Kietzman provides readers an intimate glimpse into her new novel …

1) What inspired the idea for A CHANGING MARRIAGE?

This book came out of conversations with friends and acquaintances, especially those who were home with children. Some will think it’s autobiographical because I’ve been married for 28 years and have three children I stayed home to raise. The emotions Karen is feeling – of being unappreciated, of missing more intellectual pursuits, of envy that her spouse can live the same life with children as he lived before them – will ring true, I think, with many women. And Bob’s rise to power in the business world will resonate with men and women alike.

2) Your books focus largely on domestic drama(s). Why do you feel that such scenarios resonate with readers – and what do you hope to achieve by exploring them through your fiction?

Most people are involved in domestic drama, in one way or another, and can therefore relate to various domestic scenarios. We talk about them, with friends and family. Reading about them can serve the same purpose. A Changing Marriage is about a young couple with young children and how they navigate external and internal conflicts that complicate their communal life. Reading the book – like talking to a friend – might give the reader another perspective on his or her own relationship. It’s a novel and not meant to be instructional, but we do, nonetheless, learn from what we read.

My hope is that the people who read my books will 1) enjoy the story, and 2) know that there are people like them in similar situations and that they are not alone.

3) Your female protagonist, Karen, is a stay-at-home mom who eventually reenters the traditional workforce. What do you hope that her experiences convey about motherhood (and/or the perception of it) and how does Karen’s job outside the home symbolize her inner progression as a woman?

Ask a stay-at-home mother about her job, and she will, on a good day, most likely tell you that it’s the best job in the world! And it is. What could be more rewarding, after all, than nurturing and shaping your children? But certain parts of the mom job, like certain obligations of a job outside the home, are taxing and boring and repetitive – and unsavory! Plus, there is no remuneration. Appreciation is typically spotty. And time alone, time to be an adult, is rare. While Karen does not re-enter the workforce for a paycheck, she is most definitely looking for attention and personal satisfaction. Working at the newspaper is, for Karen, a means to temporarily push motherhood aside. In the newsroom, she is a person, a woman, first, and this is a very welcome change for her.

4) You have a very strong male presence in the book through Bob’s character. How do you endeavor to get into a man’s mind – and how do you find the process of writing a male point of view to compare to that of a female?

I have a husband and three sons, which gives me some insight into how a man thinks. But the rest of it is guesswork. I think about what a man would say or do in a given situation – what’s reasonable. Once I find that place, I can deviate from it. It’s much easier to get into a woman’s head, even though women are far less predictable than men.

5) Your characters, like “real” people, are flawed. How do you balance likability with realism? Also, do you ever worry that readers might make assumptions about you personally based on your characters and their circumstances? (And, if so, how do you transcend that?)

You are right; real people are flawed. This means that real characters have to be flawed too. A number of readers had trouble with Ann Barons, the protagonist in my first novel, The Good Life, because she is hard to like. Her good qualities are hidden away. Some readers may have the same trouble with Bob in A Changing Marriage. But our flaws are what differentiate us from those around us. Our inadequacies help define who we are, just like our more likable qualities do.

Readers do make assumptions about me and my life. This is normal, right? Don’t we all make assumptions about actors based on the characters they play on television or in a movie? In some cases, the assumptions prove true and in some cases they don’t.

6) Leave us with a little teaser: what comes next?

I am working on another novel about a family that’s focused on the two summers they spend at a family cottage thirty years apart. The domestic drama continues!


With thanks to Susan Kietzman for her generosity of time and thought.

Ms. Kietzman will appear at Bank Square Books on Thursday evening, February 27th, from 5-7 PM. Copies of A Changing Marriage will be available for purchase and signing; this event is free and open to the public. BSB is located at 53 W. Main Street in Mystic.

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