A Chat with Writer Jennifer D. Munro
By Ingrid Ricks
Jennifer Munro is funny and disarming. She’s also so persuasive she once sold $200,000 worth of miso paste to an end-of-the-world cult that lived in underground bunkers in Montana.
It’s this combined disarming, persuasive, sometimes biting humor that comes through in spades when you read The Erotica Writer’s Husband, her collection of hilarious stories ranging from the shock of discovering the “size issue” with a one-night stand to the maladies of menopause.
A native of Hawaii, Jennifer made her way to the mainland for college and never looked back. She’s been writing since she can remember but always ended up shoving her stories into a drawer. Then she was encouraged to take a writing class. That, says Jennifer, changed everything.
Over the past eleven years, Jennifer has been a writer on fire —writing, rewriting, submitting, re-submitting —to the point that she now makes success look easy. She’s the recipient of two coveted 4Culture grants awarded by King County and has seen her essays and stories published in more than sixty anthologies and literary journals: Best American Erotica, Zyzzyva, Brain, Child, and Literary Mama, to name a few.
I recently sat down with Jennifer, who also happens to be a life-saving editor for writers in need of a keen eye for their work, to learn more about her writing life, her writing inspirations and the wisdom she has gained.
IR: How did you come up with the title The Erotica Writer’s Husband?
JDM: The Erotica Writer’s HusbanTd is the title piece in my collection of humorous short stories about sex and the sexes. I grew weary of all of the literary wives and daughters that litter the bookstore shelves: Ahab’s Wife, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, The Zookeeper’s Wife, Galileo’s Daughter, and on and on. The titular women are possessions. They don’t exist on their own terms. Husbands or sons as possessions in titles are not common. So I wanted to flip that on its ear and have some fun with it. The book is as much or more about humor in the face of real-life challenges—infertility, menopause, imperfect bodies—as it is about sexuality and marriage.
IR: Tell us about your current writing projects.
JDM: I’m working on a few things, as always. My husband and I will have been together 25 years this year (yes, I married at age twelve), so I’m putting together a small book with a big title: I Did: Bunk Advice for Brides from a Good Enough Wife who for all the Wrong Reasons Rushed in to Marriage with Mr. Not Quite Right, who turned out after a Quarter-Century of Wedded Bliss and Blisters to be Mr. Not Half Bad (a Mostly True Story, from What I Can Vaguely Recall).
I post an online column (usually weekly) at www.StraightNoChaserMom.com, which is largely about my unconventional family and our unique challenges. I also continue to work on Stalled: Stuck with a Bitch Helmet Instead of a Baby, which is a memoir about my ten-year, unsuccessful journey to have a child and the 10,000-mile motorcycle trip that saved my marriage. My husband and I rumbled and bumbled down the infertility highway and the back roads of America, encountering drug runners, killer armadillos, and our own peccadilloes. I describe it as Nora Ephron meets Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, although truthfully I’ve never managed to finish reading Zen (yawn!). So I want to write a biker book that even non-motorcycling women can relate to, in which I discuss things like: coping with helmet hair; how I’ve perfected backseat driving although my husband can’t hear or see me; and how to fend off the attention of old lechers in biker bars (my secret method involves llamas). For my title, I’ve co-opted the derogatory term that some male bikers use for the spare helmet they carry for female passengers.
IR: Which writers inspire you? Why?
JDM: The sad fact is that I read a lot but don’t remember most of it; true stories about extraordinary individuals resonate the longest with me. Bauby’s The Diving Bell & the Butterfly is one of my favorites; if he could write a book by blinking one eye, then I have no excuse for not finishing mine! Talk about persistence.
I’d love to emulate Shirley Jackson, who wrote humorous memoirs about family life as well as disturbing fiction and horror about the human condition. Like her, I write creepy tales as well as comic stories. I’ll be publishing a dark fantasy story collection, The Strangler Fig as an eBook in May. Much as I enjoy humorists (Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, PNW writer Lauren Weedman), I never tire of going back to the gothic classics (DuMaurier, the Brontes). The intelligence and depth that Sarah Waters recently brought to the ghost story in Little Stranger inspired me; horror can be so much more interesting and thought-provoking than sparkly vampires. Everybody, I beg you, please read Deliverance so you can stop quoting the darn pig line (although I finally “got” Burt Reynolds when I saw the movie); Dickey was a poet and it comes across in his stunning prose, and nothing inspires me more than beautiful, well-crafted writing.I read Beowulf and the Iliad not infrequently, and the sex in Gilgamesh is pretty darned interesting (the four-hour warning for Viagra is nothing compared to one scene in this 18th century BC epic). Reading widely across genres and reading the classics is a good idea for any writer. At least then you can fake it and sound smart at your book release cocktail party!
IR: What advice do you have for people who want to write?
JDM: Take a class! We who live here in Seattle are lucky to live where there are so many writing classes available. I had been writing for years and shoving my work into drawers before Ballard publisher Tod McCoy nudged me to take a class, which was terrifying for me. But my teacher encouraged me, and soon after I was sending my work out and getting published. And I made a lot of writer friends. It’s important to have a network for support, fun, and exchange of information. The collaboration going on with the Ballard Writers Collective is very energizing.
Also, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Submit your work, submit your work, submit your work. I just sent off my 750th submission in about eleven years. I’ve had a lot of work accepted, but that’s an awful lot of rejections, too. So what? I’ve helped keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat. If a piece has been rejected more than a few times, I rewrite it again. I believe in every piece I write and never give up on it.
And if you’re going to self-publish, please, hire an editor/proofreader! I say this not as an editor-for-hire but as a passionate reader. Nothing kills a good book like spelling errors and typos.
Lastly, I often hear it said that it’s hard to be a writer, but I imagine that it’s much harder to live with a writer. So treat your loved ones kindly when you’re not telling them that you need to be alone.
Want to know more? Visit Jennifer’s author page.