by Rowena Wiseman
Luisa has fallen madly in love with sculptor Jarvis, so she comes up with a plan to find a new wife for her husband Luke so she can exit stage left. She wants to screen potential stepmothers for her 8-year-old son Max and has strict criteria: the woman must be a single mother; have no more than two children; she can’t be authoritarian; she must be creative, nurturing and not much prettier than Luisa.
After a few carefully orchestrated meetings with different women that fail to raise a spark, Luke finally connects with a potential replacement wife. However, Luisa isn’t prepared for the fact that Luke’s interest in the other woman makes him a better man and a more attractive husband. After suffering for years in a half-dead marriage, Luisa starts to remember what it was about Luke that she originally fell in love with. But is it too late?
It was my brother Chris’s fortieth birthday party, and I was in the kitchen helping my sister-in-law prepare salads. I was chopping spring onions when I saw Jarvis walk through the back gate. He’d grown a beard, so at first I wasn’t sure it was him. I asked Melissa, ‘Is that Jarvis?’
‘Yeah. He’s finally coming along to something,’ she responded. I watched through the window as Jarvis greeted my brother with a hefty handshake and a six-pack of ciders. It must have been at least a dozen years since I’d seen him, but it appeared now that my long-ago crush had left a tiny cavity in my heart. Distracted, I turned my attention to grating carrots for the Ottolenghi sweetcorn slaw, but ended up grazing my knuckle.
An hour later, after we’d eaten, I was sitting on the back deck. My best friend, Hattie, had just left when Jarvis walked up and sat beside me.
‘Hey there,’ he said, cautiously.
Greetings dealt with, an awkward silence fell.
‘I always wondered what had happened to you,’ I said at last. ‘I haven’t seen you for years.’ My voice felt trapped in my throat.
‘I’ve been around. It seems I prefer my own company to most people. I was curious about you, though. Your brother said you’re married now.’
I pointed out my husband, Luke, and my son, Max, who were over by the shed. Luke was standing with his arms crossed, watching Max hurl water balloons at his cousin Thomas.
‘I always took you as a free spirit,’ Jarvis said, smoothing a crease in his pants. ‘I thought it would’ve been hard for you to settle down.’
Gathering words seemed to be like catching fairy dust in the air. ‘What’s that Coelho quote? “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.”’ I had a strange urge to show him that I wasn’t living in domestic bliss, that my window was open to the fragrance of adventure.
He smiled, his mouth betraying his serious, thoughtful eyes. His plain blue shirt was buttoned all the way up to his neck, his beard was obsessively neat, and his chunky black-framed glasses reminded me that he read more than the sports section of the newspaper. With my nerves expanding in my chest, making breathing difficult, I cursed myself for being a mouth-breather. My words came out as though they were colliding with a road train. ‘What are you doing now?’ I finally managed.
‘I’m a sculptor. Well, working at an abattoir pays the bills. But sculpting’s my thing. I’m working on a major piece to enter in the McClelland Sculpture Award. Fourth time lucky, perhaps. I’m thinking maybe it’s my artist’s statement that’s letting me down: I can get carried away with my writing sometimes.’
‘I could help you, if you like,’ I said, skidding over my own enthusiasm. ‘I’m an editor. Words are my thing.’
‘Really? That would be great.’
‘You can email it to me.’ I reached into my handbag to get out my purse, but pulled out Max’s cricket box instead. ‘Oh, this is Max’s . . . He played cricket this morning; I don’t always carry dick-protectors in my bag. Joys of being a mother — you end up with all sorts of crap in your handbag. It used to be sultanas or Matchbox cars—Ah, now I’m rambling . . .’ Jarvis’s laugh was as confident as steel.
Eventually, I found my purse and took out my business card. My hands were trembling just slightly as I handed Jarvis my card.
‘Luisa, let’s go. Max is all wet,’ I looked up to see Luke’s face staring down at me impatiently.
‘It’s only water, he’ll dry off,’ I said, my neck feeling flushed.
‘He’s soaked,’ Luke said. Then he leaned in and said, ‘Thomas is a bully. Let’s go, he’s not being nice to Max.’ I knew the real reason Luke wanted to go was that he expired at social functions somewhere between two and three hours. He’d make any excuse to get back to the comfort of his own home; to a TV programme he liked, his feet on the coffee table, and four squares of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate at hand.
‘I’ll email you,’ Jarvis said, half waiting to be introduced. But Luke was in a hurry, and didn’t care to meet whomever I was talking to. No doubt he was already imagining his feet up on the coffee table.
‘Nice to see you,’ I said to Jarvis, gathering my handbag up off the ground before trailing after my husband pathetically. I left the party forgetting my salad bowl, but carrying a new seed of pleasure in my otherwise routine life.
Rowena kindly allowed me to
grill ask her a few questions on her writing process. Here are her answers:
What do you write?
I write children’s stories, young adult and contemporary fiction. The Replacement Wife falls somewhere between contemporary fiction and romance.
What genre do you favor?
I love challenging myself by writing for different age groups. I couldn’t pick between genres because often the story idea dictates the genre for me. The Replacement Wife is about a woman who falls in love with another man so she tries to find a wife for her husband. Because of the subject matter I knew it had to be adult fiction from the beginning. I like that I can be slightly more experimental with my writing with adult fiction and have more faith that readers will go along with me!
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I must have been programmed to be a writer since birth, because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing stories or thinking up plots.
What do you think is the best way to publish these days?
I’m so excited about this digital revolution and all the new ways to publish and read stories. We’re so lucky to be living in this era that’s going to be talked about in history one day as one of the greatest shifts in publishing since the printing press was invented. What I find really exciting at the moment is publishing my stories on Wattpad – the largest reading and writing site in the world. I get instant feedback from readers and learn so much from interacting with them. After writing in solitary confinement for so many years, I’ve found it really refreshing to be able to engage with my audience and to find out that my stories mean something to people.
What are your favorite genres to read? Why?
Right now I love reading novels by writers who delve into the dysfunction of human relationships or have a writing style that inspires me. I love reading literary fiction and the best books are the ones that I want to underline sentences and say to myself, ‘remember that … that line is sensational.’ I also really enjoy reading children’s stories with my two children. Iggy Peck, Architect is one of my favourites at the moment, such beautiful illustrations and fabulous rhyming prose and who doesn’t love an architect? (My son is good at Minecraft, so I’ve got my fingers crossed …) And I’ve recently discovered Dr Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go – everything every child and adult should know about life!
Do your characters talk to you?
Absolutely. My characters keep me company. They’re loudest in the shower, probably because it’s in the morning and my head hasn’t been clouded by other things as yet. My characters are intriguing people and they walk with me on the footpath, in the supermarket and whisper to me on my pillow.
How do you approach starting a new book?
Starting a new book is the most exciting part. I can imagine in my head how great it’s going to be and how it’s just what the world needs. The excitement and delusion dips 20,000 words in and then it just becomes hard work!
What is your writing process?
Usually I get an idea, write down a few dot points and jump straight in. I like to work things out as I go along and be surprised by my characters. I’ve noticed that I also like to write my first drafts quickly before my passion for the idea dies off.
What are the best writing books or blogs you’ve ever read?
I like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style for sensible advice like: ‘A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.’ I like to follow Aerogramme Writers’ Studio – a blog with information about opportunities for writers [http://www.aerogrammestudio.com/]. I really enjoy Ericka Clay’s upbeat writing style in her blog [http://erickaclay.com/]. She’s witty and courageous and puts herself out there. My other favourite blog for writers is Jason Howell’s Howlarium – he asks thought-provoking questions of different writers weekly in his ?uestions series [http://www.howlarium.com/].
What are your non-writing hobbies, or what do you do to relax?
I find cooking relaxing at the moment – especially when I’m trying out a new recipe. I like how I have to concentrate on a task and it can calm those voices in my head! It can be more satisfying than a session of writing because it’s easy to tell if you’ve succeeded or failed when you taste your creation!
Navy SEAL or cowboy?
Chocolate or chips?
If you could have a superpower what would it be? Why?
Flying – so I could go anywhere.
Fancy restaurant or picnic?
Beer or wine?
Smooth or hairy?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Rowena Wiseman writes contemporary fiction, young adult and children’s stories. She was recently named as one of the 30 most influential writers on Wattpad.
Rowena’s blog Out of Print Writing, about writing and publishing in the digital revolution, has been selected for the National Library of Australia’s archive program PANDORA http://www.outofprintwriting.blogspot.com.au/.
She works in the visual arts sector and lives on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.
Rowena will be awarding an eCopy of Replacement Wife to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.