Interview: October 3, 2008
October 3, 2008
Journalist, author and stay-at-home dad Ad Hudler recently published his fourth work of fiction, MAN OF THE HOUSE --- the sequel to the critically acclaimed HOUSEHUSBAND.
In this interview with Bookreporter.com's Carol Fitzgerald and Wiley Saichek, Hudler discusses the book's hugely autobiographical elements and explains how --- despite his initial hesitation --- the act of blogging aids his writing process. He also gives his two cents on gender stereotypes, offers advice to fellow househusbands and shares details on his next undertaking, which is humorous essays.
Bookreporter.com: What made you decide to revisit the Menner family (introduced in HOUSEHUSBAND) after so many years?
Ad Hudler: Honestly, I’d been writing a different novel when I was talking with my editor one day, and she made the mistake of asking me how things were going in my life --- and things were not good at the time. It was hurricane season. Our house was under renovation. My daughter was going through puberty and was very moody at the time. Ditto for my wife, but with menopause. My editor said, “Sounds like a sequel to HOUSEHUSBAND to me.” And I agreed. The book is hugely autobiographical.
BRC: HOUSEHUSBAND was written solely through Linc's point of view, while MAN OF THE HOUSE presents viewpoints from multiple characters. Why did you decide to take this approach? What was the most challenging part of writing this way?
AH: Well, Linc undergoes a metamorphosis, and I couldn’t show this if I was stuck in his voice. I couldn’t have Linc talk about this metamorphosis because he himself doesn’t understand it. I needed other characters, those people who were close to him, to observe his actions and comment on his transformation.
BRC: MAN OF THE HOUSE brings to light a number of gender-related stereotypes. As a househusband yourself, what was the most difficult stereotype to overcome? What advice do you have for fellow stay-at-home dads who may be facing some of the insecurities Linc --- and possibly you --- felt?
AH: You know, the stereotype of a stay-at-home dad being a pansy and not wearing the pants in the family just isn’t true anymore. I haven’t felt self-conscious about this for years, though I certainly did when I started 18 years ago. There are way too many of us now, and the world has learned through media exposure that we are regular guys … not emasculated weirdoes.
My advice to new stay-at-home dads is not to lose your maleness. It’s very easy to do because the majority of stay-at-home parents are moms, and you subsequently find yourself playing by their rules … but don’t smother that male side just to fit in. I give the same advice to my wife, a corporate executive in a male-dominant work culture. I remind her to lead using her best female traits (consensus building, etc.) because those are what work best for her.
BRC: Without spoiling anything for your readers, how closely does Linc's journey in MAN OF THE HOUSE mirror your own experiences?
AH: Linc’s journey, simply put, is my journey. Almost exactly, all the way down to the work boots and the power-lifting. I have undergone such a transformation that people who haven’t seen me in two years do not recognize me.
BRC: What is your personal favorite household chore, and which do you despise?
AH: Favorite is doing laundry. I have a nifty front-loading washer, and I am fascinated by its seemingly random rhythms. Most-despised chores: dusting and emptying the cat box.
BRC: How do you come up with all of the eccentric characters in your novels, such as MAN OF THE HOUSE's Jessica?
AH: Most of the eccentric characters in my novels are delusional liars in some way. I’m a liar myself --- and I’m very good at it --- so I’m wondering if creating these characters is a way to examine why and how I lie.
BRC: Do you make constant notes for your books thinking, “I can use that”? Do you outline before you start writing?
AH: Yes, CONSTANT notes, especially now that I’m blogging every day on my website. I keep a notebook on the passenger seat of my truck. Outlines? If I do make an outline it is only after I’ve written half of the book, after I have let the characters run free so they can define their personalities. If you harness them too quickly by outlining, you affect the plot because much of plot is based on your characters’ personalities.
BRC: Do you hear from many men who are stay-at-home dads? If so, how do their experiences compare to Linc's --- or yours? Has your blog generated discussion from stay-at-home dads?
AH: I never-to-rarely hear from other dads … which brings up one of the biggest differences between stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home dads. Moms network and reach out to each other. I have seen some dad playgroups popping up around the country, but for the most part, men are more solitary in the care-giving role. Maybe we’re paranoid about appearing weak and in need of help. I’m not sure.
BRC: Speaking of blogging, you began blogging on AdHudler.com earlier this year. Did you have any reservations about experimenting with the format? Do you find it is easier to express yourself through blogging or through writing fiction? How do your wife and daughter feel about your "openness" on the blog?
AH: I was resistant to blogging for the longest time. I feared that it would drain my creativity bank. But now that I am moving into humorous nonfiction, I’m finding that the blog acts somewhat like an artist’s sketch pad. It allows me to play with voice and try out new things.
And you’re right to ask about my wife and daughter, because I am very open and honest on the blog. I believe that is my blog’s trademark: frankness. And my readers have been learning about some very personal details of my family. My girls have been pretty tolerant so far, but I’m pretty good at knowing when I’ve crossed the line.
BRC: Have you spent time with book clubs? If so, what have you learned from them? How can clubs contact you if they want to have you on a phone chat for their discussions?
AH: I meet with a lot of book clubs, and I almost always say yes to an invitation because I invariably learn something about my characters or my writing style that I’d never considered. I have a page on my website devoted solely to book clubs, with questions and interviews. They can contact me through links on the “About the author” page.
BRC: Are there plans for us to hear from Linc again? What are you working on now?
AH: In a way, yes, you will hear from Linc again because he, for the most part, is me, and I’ve decided I want to write humorous essays next. Only now I won’t be able to hide behind a character. It’s going to be pure Ad, out front and unfiltered.