Margo Karasek asked her husband to critique her novel – was it a wise decision?
Have you ever tried to get a guy to read chick lit?
Well, I have. And the results were informative, to say the least. But lets rewind a bit. You see, when I really started working on Work for Hire, I had just married my husband. He’s an avid reader — mostly of non-fiction — with a background in art history. In short, he’s a pretty smart, well-read guy (I did marry him, after all. No dummies for me, no siree). But writing — especially fiction — was never his cup of tea (another reason I married him, I suspect. I mean, who wants the competition from another author in the same household?).
But here he was, fresh for the plucking, a perfect beta reader in the making: educated, opinionated and available. At least that’s what I though. I mean, come on; I had access to him twenty-four seven and he couldn’t possibly say no to me, now could he? My husband wasn’t too keen on the idea, though. “I don’t know anything about books for women,” he reminded.
My husband had a point. What good was a beta reader if he knew nothing about the genre? Still. The opportunity was too good to pass up. My husband was right there while all of my trusty beta readers lived miles away, often rightfully distracted by their own busy lives. They couldn’t just drop everything when I desperately needed feedback. But my husband could. So we compromised. He would read my pages of text and tell me if they made any sense. Trust me, I needed that reassurance. Too often, I’d sit at the computer, staring at the same sentence for hours, too paralyzed to move on to something else because at some point the English language had stopped making any sense. Yeah, I could — and did — get that uptight about my writing. I needed someone to slap me out of it. My husband fit the bill nicely.
At first, all I got out of him was: “Yeah, it’s good.”
“Did the sentence my sense?” I’d ask.
“Yeah, it’s good,” he’d say.
“Did you like it?” I’d prod further.
“Yeah, it’s good,” he’d repeat.
“Would you change anything?”
“No, it’s good.”
Well, progress. At least I got some variation. We went back and forth like this for weeks, until one day my husband turned the tables on me.
“A guy would never say this,” my husband pointed to a page where I had one of my male characters call himself a jerk.
“What?” I demanded.
“The guy would call himself an ass. He would never say ‘jerk’. That’s too girly,” my husband clarified. And then the floodgates opened: a guy would never say this, do this, think this. My husband would go on and on, even when I didn’t ask him.
Now, I have to admit, at first I was irritated. I mean, I’ve read plenty of wonderful women’s fiction and romance novels. Who was my husband to burst my bubble about what men really thought or did? That no self-respecting guy would ever, for instance, get up in the middle of the night just so he could stand on line to buy his girlfriend tickets to her favorite band’s concert — just as an “I’m thinking of you always” gesture.
“Nope. No way,” my husband categorically declared. “His butt would stay in bed. He’d try in the morning.”
Like I said, irritating. But then I got to thinking about some of my all-time favorite chick lit writers. Jane Austen? Never married. How did she know what Mr. Darcy would really say or do? And I remembered novels where even I had trouble believing the hero could be so gullibly romantic, so sensitive.
So I started really listening to my husband’s feedback and incorporated most of his suggestions. I do have to admit that Work for Hire is a much better book with his input. And now, I’m happy to admit, that I have the world’s best chick lit beta reader, at least for the guy’s perspective.
Tekla’s law school career couldn’t be any better. She has top grades. She’s on Law Review. She’s a frontrunner in a mock oral argument with a sweet prize: a judicial clerkship. One problem, though: Tekla has no more money to pay for school. She needs a part-time job. Fast. Luckily, her roommate has just the solution: help two uber-wealthy prep school teens, the twin son and daughter of a billionaire Wall Street short-seller and a world-renowned model turned fashion photographer, with their schoolwork, and earn $150 an hour. Plus, enjoy an additional perk on the job, in the form of a gorgeous photo assistant who happens to have his eye on Tekla. Easy money. Well, not so much. Within days, Tekla’s job begins to unravel. In a world of super-wealth and high fashion, Tekla finds herself surrounded by a peculiar cast of players: two teens whose self-destructive behavior becomes ever more erratic, a father whose ambitions for his son constantly test Tekla’s notions of what is fair and ethical and what is cheating, a mother whose emotional negligence borders on abuse, and a gorgeous man who may or may not be what he appears. As Tekla struggles to hold onto a job that takes more time and energy than she ever anticipated, her own school life begins to suffer. She makes an enemy of a professor who seems to want nothing more than to bring her down. And he’s succeeding. Soon Tekla’s life is a paradox: without her high-paying part-time job, she can’t afford law school; but with it, she’ll surely flunk out of school.
Margo Karasek decided to be a writer the instant she finished reading her first novel as a kid. She loved the possibilities and freedom in observing and writing about everyday people, whose experiences – through her words – could make a lasting impact. This passion led her to NYU, where she earned a journalism and anthropology degree, with the highest honors. But since she couldn’t figure out how writers made a decent living, Margo went on to law school -where she had a blast. Unfortunately, actually practising law was nowhere near as fun as learning about it in school, so Margo took the ultimate plunge: she quit her cushy law firm job to become a full-time novelist. And, to help make ends meet throughout the process, Margo also began tutoring for some of the wealthiest, best-known families in New York as a side-gig. The latter job gave her some powerful ideas for her first novel. Margo currently lives in Queens, New York, with her husband and their two children, and is busy working on her next book.