September 19, 2012

A Conversation with David and Jean Abrams

Jean and David Abrams on their wedding day (courtesy David Abrams)

Three weeks ago I invited myself over to David and Jean Abrams’s house for dinner and an interview. David’s first novel Fobbit was getting ready to enter the marketplace, and I thought I would write a friendly piece for a new blog. I rarely read fiction, and I am not interested in war. What I was really after was an insider’s view of their marriage, during which the writing of Fobbit took place.

David is gracious, so of course he accommodated me. He was happy that I wanted Jean there as well.

I arrived promptly at 6 p.m. to find David bustling about the kitchen in his work clothes, making dinner, cell phone wedged between shoulder and ear. Jean poured us a glass of cool white wine.

I sporadically follow David’s blog posts, and I enjoy his sense of humor. It’s edgy, and often not proper. Not bound by that moral straightjacket that causes one to worry what people might be thinking.

Then there’s the non-fiction. The stories of his father, his wife, the birth of their children. This writing wrapped around the arteries of my heart, pulled tight, and sent me to my knees in literal pain.

I am the person in between an acquaintance and a friend. I have known David and Jean socially for a few years. We have a shared interest in the preservation of Butte, Montana, where we live. But you come to feel you know someone much better than you do by being connected through social media. And both David and Jean have blogs that will pull you in and make you feel right at home.

Butte, Monana (via)

And right at home I was. I had an inkling of guilt at this point, knowing full well David had gotten up at his usual 3:30 a.m. to write, review, and blog. He then put in a bit more than his usual 8-hour day, with apologies to me for getting home late.

He’d been fielding calls all day and spent 3 hours in interviews for his book. A long-lost relative had called to congratulate him, and he’d been interviewed by NPR’s Morning Edition. And other national outlets that I can’t remember because I was getting more intimidated by the moment.

I suggested a “conversation” rather than an “interview.” And after David changed out of his work clothes at the insistence of both of us, we went out on the deck to eat and chat.

David talked at length about the excitement of this moment, about the buzz preceding the actual release of his book a week away. It was, he said, a moment in time to cherish for it would never happen again. There is only one first book.

Jean was enjoying the moment as well. Having been by David’s side his entire thirty-year writing life, Jean had this to say:

“I just wondered when everyone else would realize what a great writer he is.” (Large swig of wine)

I believe that time has come.

“I just wondered when everyone else would realize what a great writer he is.” ~ Jean Abrams
Anyone that writes knows it is a one-person show. It’s been called “lonely,” but I don’t agree. No one else can take credit for those hours spent alone in your mind, or in David’s case, the basement of his beautiful historic bungalow. But the support that the other person contributes to that endeavor, that process, is invaluable. A simple “I believe in you” that allows you to follow your dream despite the day to day struggles of life.
I am always intrigued by relationships such as David and Jean’s where I witness this kind of support first hand. It is – don’t gag – a fairy tale I still believe in and strive for at the age of fifty.
David and Jean did talk a lot about their life together, and this is the nutshell version.
They married young, not long after meeting. They knew they were meant to be together. David pursued an English degree, Jean had their children. They were still very young. They had agreed that Jean would raise the children and David would provide. He kept his word though he was unable to provide enough through a writing career. So he went into the Army. There were many moves and time spent apart, but Jean raised the children and David worked. All the while he continued to write. Eventually he was deployed, and you can read all about that in his book Fobbit. The children were all raised successfully, and after twenty years in the Army, David retired. David and Jean moved to Butte, Montana, where they fell into the “More house for less money” trap and bought a gorgeous Craftsman home. David took on another full-time job and kept writing. Jean started an amazing business called Backyard Bungalow. They spend every evening together, enjoying fine food and drink. They do not like to spend the night away from each other.
That’s a condensed version of their life together. It might read kind of boring because it is not fraught with drama. 
And now, after almost thirty years of marriage, raising a family, lots of writing, and lack of proper sleep – success has arrived.
It is easy when someone “succeeds” to have no idea of the tidal push and pull that has kept them grounded through the process. 
I’m talking about the reader now. You, the reader, will only begin to know David by reading his book, perhaps meeting him at a book signing. I’m just giving you a little heads-up on the layers that make up this man.
"David is humble, gracious, and astounded at this good fortune. And Jean – well, Jean is just ready."
Remember that he is a methodical writer. Remember he has been writing for thirty years. Remember that his success has been excruciatingly long in arriving. Remember there is no guarantee. Remember his family always came first.
David is humble, gracious, and astounded at this good fortune. And Jean – well, Jean is just ready.
There has been a congratulatory letter from the Governor of Montana, reviews in various weekly magazines, online magazines, interviews on radio, and television. Last week, right here in Butte, Montana, the official launch of the Fobbit book tour took place. Both David and Jean were radiant. It’s real now, and the entire town is cheering.
If you are lucky to live in one of the towns or cities where David will be promoting his book, please go. And don’t just go to buy a book. Go to meet him.
Do not be fooled by the author photo on the back jacket. He is no tough guy. He has the face of a kindergartner on his first day of school and the same sense of wonder.
Maybe you can envision him in the Army in wartime. I still can’t. 
I’m still a little bit embarrassed that I was brazen enough to invite myself into their home during this busy time when everyone wants a piece of David Abrams.
The piece I got was the one I suspected I’d get: confirmation of a genuinely kind person, a loving husband and father, a hard worker and a kick-ass talented writer.
Oh – and by the way: He’s a great cook!

 Nicole von Gaza lives in Butte, Montana, where she runs a tour company, a stained glass studio, and a gift shop and tries to find time to write. She has lived all over the West and tries hard not to work too long at one job. She has been published, but it's been a while and all she knows is that it was in Alaska. Her website is and her blog is and contains no posts as yet.

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