CS: Why did you write Survive Your Husband’s Retirement? Where did the inspiration come from? Was it an obvious decision to write this humorous self-help book or did the idea come with time?
Nora: When my husband first retired we were both shocked by the changes that occurred in our relationship. I started to journal just to explore my feelings, but that didn’t help much. Next I began to search for written material about adjusting to retirement, but all I could find was information on setting up financial security and the best places to live in retirement. We needed ideas on HOW to live together 24/7, not WHERE to live.
Finally I began talking with other women with retired husbands and found that I was not alone. Their stories convinced me to write about this strange phenomena I call Retirement Marriage so I could help others see they are not alone.
CS: Did you have a clear outline of the self-help book before you began writing, such as what each chapter would detail, or did it take shape as you wrote?
Nora: I knew I wanted to write a book about couples adjusting to retirement, and I knew it needed to be humorous or at least, light-hearted, but I wasn’t sure how to put it all together. I knew book coach Lisa Tener and sensed that she would be a great person to work with so I took her How To Write A Book class. She emphasized the importance of a strong outline and helped me see path the book should take. With Lisa’s guidance and incredible support, I feel I was able to create a book that helps couples discover ways to enjoy one another––despite their retirement foibles––and to experience retirement as the best time of their lives.
CS: This self-help book has quite a few features within the text, such as cartoons, quotes, tips, glossaries, etc. How did you decide to include these features? What effect do you think they have on a reader’s experience?
Nora: The idea for the cartoons came when my husband found the first one about the difference in how men and women approach relationships. I started looking at Randy Glasbergen’s website and saw how wonderfully his work related to this topic. I knew some of his cartoons had to be included in the book. I see the quotes and the tips as a succinct and effective way to express many of the issues that my fellow WWRHs (Women With Retired Husbands) shared with me. I hope my readers agree.
CS: What kind of research did you have to do for Survive Your Husband’s Retirement? What was your experience like incorporating and translating this research into a humorous self-help book?
Nora: The majority of my material came from discussions with other WWRH, but I also poured through all the information I could find about the the differences in men and women and how they relate to one another. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing process. It was also therapeutic. As I wrote, I began to understand more clearly what really happens in retirement and how that relationship changes in the process.
CS: Did you have a clear idea of who the audience for this book was before you began writing it? How did the knowledge of this audience affect your writing process and the decisions you made along the way? What are some of the things you did in your writing to target and engage that audience, such as use a particular voice, vocabulary, structure, etc.?
Nora: Since 65 is a typical retirement age for men, it seemed clear to me that my audience was women about 55 and older. I began writing this in 2010, just as Boomers started to turn 65, and, though I missed being a Boomer by just a few months, my life experiences had given me a pretty good understanding of how women––even a few years younger than I––think, what’s important to them and how they relate to certain situations. I also believe my greatest strength is that I am a very good listener. When I wasn’t sure about how others might relate to something, I asked them.
CS: How do you think the relationship between author and reader differs with writing a humorous self-help book or kind of guide like Survive Your Husband’s Retirement, as opposed to another genre, such as a memoir? How do you think a writer can decide what genre is appropriate for a work and the work’s audience?
Nora: Almost every word I wrote in this book came from a discussion with other women. As I wrote, I could hear a particular woman talking to me or imagine the experience. The stories are a conglomeration of many of those discussions and the names are changed to protect the innocent––and guilty––but I could picture the conversation that fueled a particular story or empathize with the woman who had that particular experience.
CS: Survive Your Husband’s Retirement has a very engaging and friendly and often humorous tone and voice. How did you determine what voice or style to use in Survive Your Husband’s Retirement? Did you experiment with certain styles or voices before deciding? How can a writer know the appropriate voice to use in a book?
Nora: Choosing the voice for this was easy; I was writing the stories of all the women who had shared the trials, tribulations and joys of their husbands’ retirement. I simply wrote in their voice. I’m not sure how others choose the tone of a piece of writing, but I tend to think it is an innate understanding that comes from knowing what you want to accomplish with that work. I knew this book had to be humorous. If we’re lucky, retirement and aging happens to all of us, and if we can’t laugh about it, we’re lost and probably condemned to a life of misery. When we laugh about something, we are better able to let go of issues and see some solutions.
CS: The book is full of information and resources, but is fairly short. What made you decide to write such a concise book? Did you know beforehand that you wanted it to be short or was this a decision that came later? What effect do you think it has on a reader’s experience?
Nora: I felt that a short book that got to the point quickly would be the most effective approach. Retired or soon-to be- retired women are very busy, and succinctness is always appreciated. At one point I did think about making it longer, but I didn’t like what was happening to the message.
CS: What are some of the steps you took to get Survive Your Husband’s Retirement published? How did you decide to self-publish? How did you choose who to work with during the publishing process?
Nora: I had an agent who was quite interested in the book. It was she who encouraged me to make it longer as publishers prefer thicker books. When I decided I didn’t like what happened to the message, she suggested I go the self-publishing route. I’m very glad I did this as it has been a wonderful experience.
CS: What do you think worked well with this method of publishing? What do you think didn’t work as well?
Nora: I was fortunate to hook up with Michael Grossman of Ebook Bakery. He is the consummate professional who understands his craft and is extremely caring of his authors. Thanks to his experience, we seemed to avoid difficulties.
CS: There are a lot of choices writers must make about who to work with on their book, such as publishers, agents, editors, etc. How did you decide who to work with? How can a writer know who will be a benefit to their book in the end? What advice do you have for writers on choosing who they work with, particularly for publishing a self-help book?
Nora: I really don’t have an answer for that. Somehow amazing professionals just appeared, and I benefited from working with all of them. I tend to think of it as Divine Intervention because the way everything fell in place made me think that this book just had to be. If it helps couples find joy in their retirement marriage, I will have achieved my goal.
CS: Survive Your Husband’s Retirement has only very recently come out, but what is some of the positive feedback you’ve been hearing so far? What are some other positive responses or results you’ve experienced since publishing this book?
Nora: The other day a friend came to visit for a long weekend, and one of the first things she wanted to do was to read Survive. My heart leapt with joy as I heard her giggle every few pages or so. It made me feel that I had accomplished what I set out to do. I’m also most appreciative for the positive support of my husband, my friends and people I don’t know personally, but perhaps the best feedback was when my daughter wrote on her Facebook page that she was so proud of her Mom (and forwarded the Amazon link to her friends!)
CS: Did you ask for any feedback or input from others during the writing process? Did you receive input from family or friends or was it primarily editors, publishers, etc?
Nora: This book could not have happened without input from others. I think of it as a community effort. Several friends read and reread the two versions of the manuscript and gave great feedback. The agent I first worked with was generous with creative ideas and my editor led me toward creating what I think is an effective format.
CS: Did you encounter any roadblocks during the writing and publishing processes? How did you overcome these? What advice do you have for readers encountering similar roadblocks?
Nora: It took longer than I thought it would to complete the project, but I’m a glad I didn’t rush it for I feel pretty good about having covered the most important issues effectively. Admittedly, I lost a lot of sleep because I would wake in the middle of the night with another thought that had to be included that very moment. I learned that writing and publishing a book is not as easy as it may seem, but if you have something you truly want to share with others, it’s worth every bit of the effort. Writers who decide to self-publish should make certain to work with someone who really knows what he or she is doing and who truly cares about their work.
CS: How can our readers reach you?
Nora: I would love to meet some of your readers at a workshop for women or retired couples, a reading or maybe a writer’s conference. I can also be reached by email or through the web site. If anyone is interested in setting up workshops for members of their organizations, they can review the workshop options on the website or email me with questions, and I’ll get back to them.
Nora Hall began writing Survive Your Husband’s Retirement when her husband Art announced his retirement. Since then, she has collected and shared the stories of other women with retired husbands in order to offer support to both wives and husbands for dealing with the changes in the relationship that occur when a husband retires and to see that they are not alone in their struggle to adjust. She offers workshops for women with retired husbands and for couples who are retired or about to retire. She currently lives in Wickford, RI with her husband, Art.