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The Headmaster's Wife

"Part of a grand literary tradition...Deeply felt and utterly absorbing." - The ...
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Author Biography

A Q&A with Thomas Christopher Greene

Created: 02/16/15

Replies: 11

Posted Feb. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 11/16/10

Posts: 50

Author Q and A

Many thanks for all the great questions for the author. As of 5/18 these have been forwarded to him to answer. As soon as I hear back I'll post back.

This thread is now closed to additional questions.

Thank you!

Davina (BookBrowse editor)

Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 04/20/11

Posts: 40

Why did you choose to write about the subject of student/teacher affairs?

Partially because it is so taboo, and it was a window on the world of academia, but more importantly, because it allowed me to tell the larger story I wanted to tell, which was about these two people, their marriage, and the nature of grief.

Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pauj's Gravatar

Join Date: 04/26/14

Posts: 56

Did you assign a particular mental health diagnosis to Arthur in order to depict his symptoms and actions?

I didn’t, though I think he was clearly experiencing a form of psychosis.

Posted May. 12, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Retired Reader, NE

Join Date: 09/16/11

Posts: 165

Would your story have been different if the school was located in the Midwest instead of Vermont?

I think so. Place is very important in my work. New England is what I know and there is also certain cache and particular ethos to the New England boarding school experience. Very gothic.

Posted May. 12, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 04/17/11

Posts: 21

Do you have sympathy for any of the characters in your novel? Do you like any of them?

I like all of them, which may surprise people, because clearly some are unhappy and some, I suppose Arthur, are villainous. But there is humanity and fragility in all of them. Of course, Russell is a gem, especially his ability to forgive.

Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 10/10/11

Posts: 19

In the Acknowledgements, you explain that you began writing The Headmaster's Wife in the intensive care unit after your second daughter was born prematurely. Do you feel that writing this story was cathartic at such a difficult time?

I think processing tragedy through artistic expression is always cathartic. So yes. Putting my thoughts on paper helped me tremendously in dealing with them. Especially Elizabeth who in the second half I identify most with.

Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 05/07/13

Posts: 91

Why did you choose The Headmaster's Wife as the title of this novel?

I think ultimately it is Elizabeth’s story, more than Arthur’s. Her choices define what happens in the book. Plus, it mirrors the dramatic ruse of the structure.

Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 10/10/11

Posts: 19

Isn't Arthur's breakdown equally important in the story to Elizabeth's loss of Ethan?

Yes, I think so. It sets the scene and the tone. And like Shakespeare said, you haven’t lived until you conceive of life as tragedy.

Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 10/10/11

Posts: 19

Is The Headmaster's Wife the book you initially set out to write? Did the story change drastically from how it started? If so, were you surprised by the changes?

No, initially I wanted to write a novel about a soldier returning from the Iraq war. The beginning of that first novel survives here in the opening section of part 2. But I didn’t know a lot about Iraq and I didn’t know a lot about being a soldier. Then my own life changed and I decided to write a completely different novel. I kept having this image coming to me over an older man bereft and walking at the edge of the woods. After several drafts, I knew how to attack it, though it took some trial and error to figure out the ultimate structure of the book and in the end, that was indeed a surprise.

Posted May. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 04/16/13

Posts: 16

I also spent a great deal of time in a NICU with my second son, and in those 6 months found it impossible to read anything, even People magazine, while seated by his crib. I lost my focus. Were you able to write each day, and for how long?

It's weird but I found the NICU a decent place to write. There was so much noise, as you know, and there have been recent studies that have compared life in the NICU for parents of critically ill children as very similar to combat—great moments of terror followed by long passages of boredom, as someone famously once described it. I have always written well in noisy places like coffee shops. There were times when I was there with Jane and she was asleep and found solace in doing something, in creating something, and fiction was what I knew. So I wrote. That said, most of this book was written after she died.

Posted May. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 435

I am so sorry for your loss. It is often said that the illness or the loss of a child either makes a marriage stronger or destroys it. Do you think your awareness of this influenced the outcome of the book? What was your wife's response to it?

I think grief has the ability to tear apart a marriage and I was very interested in understanding this through the act of writing fiction. Fiction, I think it’s important to note, functions, in some ways, as an explication of conflict. I think you can either fall or apart or figure your way through. I asked the question: what happens if everything falls apart? This idea greatly informed the novel. My wife has become used to the idea of being married to a novelist, I think, and knows that my novels are works of fiction but that within them she will recognize strong kernels of truth.

Posted May. 20, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 3058

You mention that The Headmaster's Wife is the most honest book you've ever written. Could you please say more about that? How so? Why do you think that is?

I think I poured a big piece of my heart into this book. I was less aware of the artifice of writing a novel and just letting it go—raw emotion, sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful, but always very real, I hope. Especially Elizabeth’s point of view—what she feels following the loss of her son I identified with closely.


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