Well, of course, I wondered about readers. Would there be any, or should I consider a limited edition of two books only—one for each daughter? But I remembered a maxim from my retailing background, Know your competition.
I walked the stacks at the library, looked at shelves in the bookstore and Googled for books about Spain in general and memoirs in particular. I found what you would expect; Hemmingway, Michener, histories of Spain, the Spanish Civil War, and travel guides—and a few brief memoirs that had nothing in common with mine. The competition didn’t appear overwhelming. No one (at least I never found anyone) had written from the viewpoint of an American woman married to a Spanish engineer living in Madrid during the Franco regime. I thought I could fill that void.
The story of my Spanish/American marriage alone had enough humor and heartache for a few hundred pages. I was willing to share it; an unexpected change from my normally reticent self. Without the marriage I wouldn’t have a book at all. But what I really wanted to write about were my in-laws and their background. I wanted to write my husband’s story, the part lived before we ever met, and the history of war as he told it. I wanted to write about the Spanish landscape, the smell and taste of food, and the culture. I wanted to write about a language that, for a reason I can’t explain, speaks to me more deeply than my native tongue. That’s what I put in the memoir.
I believe Without a Second Thought will appeal to readers who enjoy travel, history, ex-pat life with all its challenges and rewards, and food—and to anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and said, “What on earth have I done?” Why write so long after the events? The short answer is I had time. My daughters were grown and I was semi-retired. I had encouragement and guidance. Additionally, Spain was in the news, still struggling to emerge from Franco’s shadow. I also found truth in a phrase I read some time ago; the best view is often the one behind you.