At thirty-one, Kirsten has just returned to San Francisco from a bohemian year in Rome, ready to pursue a serious career as a writer and eventually, she hopes, marriage and family.
When she meets Steve Beckwith, a handsome and successful attorney, she begins to see that future materialize more quickly than she’d dared to expect.
Twenty-two years later, Steve has become someone quite different from the man Kirsten first met. Unemployed and addicted to opioids, he uses money and their two children to emotionally blackmail her. The couple separates but, just after their divorce is finalized, Steve is diagnosed with colon cancer and dies within the year, leaving Kirsten with $1.5 million in debts from properties that are no longer hers. It’s only then that she finally understands: The man she married was a needy, addictive person wrapped in a shiny package.
As she fights toward recovery, Kirsten begins to receive communications from Steve in the afterlife—leading her on an unexpected path to forgiveness. The Ghost Marriage is her story of discovery: that life isn’t limited to the tangible reality we experience on this earth, and that our worst adversaries can become our greatest teachers. This is a book about life after divorce and life after death. It’s a story of how forgiveness is the best revenge.
When and where do you prefer to write?
Because I have a day job and a freelance business on the side, I work on my own creative writing simply whenever time allows. That’s usually sometime over the weekend, depending on my other deadlines. I wish I could say that I’m one of those writers who gets up at 4 a.m. to write their novel before work, but that would be a big fat lie. And by the evening, after writing all day for other people, I find I’m usually out of words. But of course I’m thinking about my current writing project all the time.
Do you have a certain ritual?
Not really. I do like to listen to music of the time/place I’m writing about. I also find that if I allot myself a certain amount of time — say one or two hours on a Sunday morning — it really helps to set a timer or alarm. Knowing that the clock is ticking keeps me from wandering off and getting distracted. They say that no one has a cleaner house than a procrastinating writer. Oddly, I don’t tend to go down rabbit holes on the internet. Some writers need to turn their Wi-Fi off while they’re writing. But I’m currently working a historical novel and can quickly research a date or historical detail and come right back to my manuscript.
Do you like a drink or something to nibble on while you write?
Nothing stronger than water. Not since I spilled my cappucino all over my laptop keyboard about 15 years ago. A lesson I’ll never forget.
Do you consider writing a different genre or do you already do that?
My first book, The Ghost Marriage, was a memoir, and now I’m working on a historical novel, so I guess the answer is yes.
What is/are your favourite book(s)?
I had to read James Joyce’s Ulysses three times in college (I took three classes on it) and I still think it’s perhaps the greatest achievement in literature. I’ve absolutely loved All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (also Cloud Cuckoo Land), Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, and anything by Lily King or Claire Fuller.
Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
In The Ghost Marriage, every character was based on a real person in my life, but their names were changed. In my current novel, all the characters are based on real individuals, and I’ve kept their names but have imagined their personalities.
If you had the chance to co-write a book, whom would it be with?
I think Elizabeth Gilbert is amazing. She can write everything from memoir to fiction to self-help. I’d love to be mentored by her!
Do you take a (digital) notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
I keep a little black Moleskine notebook in my purse. If that’s not handy, I’ll use the notepad on my phone. But I prefer to scribble.
Which genre(s) do you not like at all?
You’ll never find me reading horror or romance or anything formulaic. I like character-driven stories, and I don’t like to be scared.
If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
Morocco, just because it’s such a sensually rich and historically intriguing country (but also because I just want to go to Morocco!). My current novel is set largely in Paris and the French Riviera. If only I had the time to travel there for my research!
About the author
Kirsten Mickelwait is a professional copywriter and editor by day and a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction by night. She’s an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the Paris Writers’ Conference, and the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Her short story, “Parting with Nina,” won first prize in The Ledge’s 2004 Fiction Awards competition. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s at work on a new novel. The Ghost Marriage is Kirsten’s first memoir. The book tells her story of spiritual connection and surviving divorce after 50.
Amazon Audible: https://www.amazon.com/The-Ghost-Marriage-A-Memoir/dp/B09WCQ9G3S/