Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Clergyman's Wife...Molly Greeley

It is a pleasure to have a first time guest on my blog today. Molly Greeley is the author of The Clergyman's Wife, a story about Charlotte Lucas Collins. Have you been seeing posts and excerpts at other blogs? I have and think the book sounds good.

Molly visits and shares a moment in her real life.

Thanks for stopping by, Molly. I admire you for how you let Mama take over. I do not know how you write at all with small children.

            I am writing this sitting at the dining room table. Just a few yards away my two oldest kids, aged seven and four, are watching a movie in the living room. Even though the volume is down relatively low, the superhero sound effects keep distracting me; even more distracting is my son, who keeps padding over to me every few minutes and requesting milk, or a snack, or to show me the kinetic sand that somehow ended up between his toes. The baby is asleep upstairs, but for how much longer?
            Today is a snow daythe first of many to come, no doubt, here in icy, bitter northern Michigan. My daughter is in second grade full-time, and my son has half-day preschool. I planned to write this morning while my younger son napped before picking my older son up a little before noon, but instead everyone is home and Im trying to be both mother and writer at once. And, as always seems to happen when I try to merge these two parts of my life, Im failing at both. Every interruption jerks my focus away from the page, and after each I have to drag my  thoughts back to where they were, a process that feels rather like slogging through the knee-deep snow I can see outside. Irritation prickles, followed by a deluge of guiltguilt for being irritated, guilt for wanting a room of my own (or at least a seat by myself at a coffee shop), guilt for the mindlessness of the film Im letting my kids watch when I feel I should be reading to them, or building block forts, or chasing them through the high-piled snow.
            The mental energy that goes into parenting somehow seems to leave little room for the mental energy I need to write. When my daughter was born, I stayed home with her and stopped writing entirely for months. From the time I was very young, writing was a compulsion I had to obey, but when I became a mother my brain became a tired mush of postpartum hormones and the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, and the part that once swirled with stories grew stagnant. A couple of times in those early days I tried to shut myself and my computer away upstairs for half an hour or so while my husband and daughter stayed downstairs; but even through the two floors between us I could hear her when she criedmy laboriously-gathered thoughts scattering, my milk letting down.
            Finally, when she was six or seven months-old, I ventured, tentatively, back out into the world on my own. The fourth trimester had extended longer than I expectedshe cried with near-constancy, her needs utterly overwhelming my ownbut now, at last, I could feel myself emerging from the cocoon of early motherhood, happy to find my self still existed outside of it. I started taking myself off to a coffee shop on Sundays, getting there when they opened and staying progressively later as the months passed, spending a small fortune that we didnt have on coffee and pastries so as not to be a freeloader. Sunday has been my day now for six-and-a-half years, through a major move from one part of the country to another (trading one cozy coffee shop for a new one) and the births of my two sons: restoring, necessary time that is also liberating. I am an adult among other adults, a person in my own right and not just Mama. I come home restored, the pressure of the stories in my head eased by their transference to the page.
            Lately, though, Ive needed extra time. My first book, The Clergymans Wife, created over a year of Sunday writing sprints, is out this year, and Im finishing work on another. Suddenly, writing is no longer something I do only for myself, and latelylike todayIve found myself trying to squeeze writing time into my daily routine when my older kids are at school and my youngest is asleep. Its not ideal, thoughI need sustained chunks of time when Im working on a story. My brain feels like its comprised of multiple layers, and the mothering layer needs to be sloughed off before I can really get into the rhythm of my work.
            Although I suppose sloughed offisnt quite right, really, for the part of me that identifies as Mama is never entirely gone, no matter how physically far from my children I am. Mama shows up in my stories; even when they are not explicitly about motherhood, Mama thinks about her characters as they relate to their children, their parents, how one generation influences the next and the next and the next. Mama wondered what sort of father Pride and Prejudices Mr. Collins would be; whether, and how much, the absurdly self-centered Lady Catherine de Bourgh might actually worry about her sickly daughter. Mama is the part of me who lost five babies in the early months of pregnancy, and this has colored my stories, as well.
            And, of course, Mama understands the impossible tension of trying to be fully present for my children and for my stories. My son came up to me again just now, put his head on my lap, clutched at my leg with both hands. The movie is almost over. The idea I was chasing vanished, like a candle flame snuffed out.
            I want you,he said. 
            I want you, too.Absolute truth, and yet, at this exact moment between sentences, also exactly the opposite.
            But when I said it, he smiled.
            Time to stop writing, just for now; time to let Mama take over again. I tell myselfeven though, sometimes, its not entirely truethat the story will still be there tomorrow.

For everyone who loved Pride and Prejudice—and legions of historical fiction lovers—an inspired debut novel set in Austen’s world.

Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners, and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Intelligent, pragmatic, and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life, an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr. Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine.

In Mr. Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard, and seen. For the first time in her life, Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart—and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted, and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife.


Molly Greeley earned her bachelor’s degree in English, with a creative writing emphasis, from Michigan State University, where she was the recipient of the Louis B. Sudler Prize in the Arts for Creative Writing. Her short stories and essays have been published in Cicada, Carve, and Literary Mama.  She works as on social media for a local business, is married and the mother of three children but her Sunday afternoons are devoted to weaving stories into books.

Thanks for visiting my blog, Molly. I wish you the best with your new book. It sounds lovely. I have always wished that Charlotte could have had love in her life. Maybe you will make my wishes come true for Charlotte.