town may be just the place I was looking for. And she was right. We spent a week there chatting with everyone and taking photos of houses, offi ces, galleries, and restaurants. I needed to imagine Margo and B.B. at home and at work, and the kids at school. I kept those photos on my desk for more than a year as I wrote the book.
When the book was published I held my breath waiting for letters from readers in Boulder telling me I’d gotten it all wrong. I was sure they were thinking it, even if they didn’t write to tell me. I learned how uncomfortable it is for me to set a book in a place I don’t know intimately, and I’ll never do it again. I like to think I can always spot a writer who doesn’t really know his or her location.
Right up to the last minute, the book had no title. This wasn’t an unusual situation for me, but it’s one that’s alwayts made me anxious. Years earlier, my editor had called to say he was presenting my new children’s book at sales conference the next day and he needed a title by morning. Talk about pressure! That book became Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. A real mouthful. I wanted a simple title for this novel. I spent days poring over the text of the book, searching for just the right phrase, but I couldn’t come up with anything. George suggested Secondhand Man. It was catchy but I agonized over it. Is that how I wanted my readers to think of Margo’s new love? And wouldn’t that make Margo and B.B. secondhand women? Oh, the tossing and turning over book titles! Instead, I settled on Smart Women, which comes from a line in the book: “How come smart women like us keep falling in love with schmucks?” Not exactly romantic.
On my book tour I was asked again and again what the title meant. Tired of explaining, I finally gave up and said, “It means the women in the book are smart.”
Not everyone agreed. Especially men. I heard from plenty of them. They blamed Margo and B.B. for everything that had gone wrong in their lives. Some blamed them for the ills in the world. But there were a few who said that from then on, they were going to pay more attention to their children. Some said they might even pay more attention to their wives. I hope they did.
And I hope you enjoy this story of a new love complicated by old relationships. From what I see in my own family, as well as what I hear from others, falling in love the second time around hasn’t changed at all. I doubt it ever will. That’s good news, right?
Oh, and just so you know – George and I will celebrate twenty-five years together this fall. I’d like to think Margo had a chance at that, too.
June 30, 2004