“Without A Clue” – 52 Pickup, #29

Question #29, 11/27/18

Lisa Nolan Lindsay: “Craig, how is it that Walt still just “thinks” he is in a relationship with Vic? Is it because he really is romantically clueless? Slow mover? Truly unsure? Non-committal?”

I gotta tell you, of all the questions I’ve gotten, this one is the one that cracks me up the most. Um, there are a number of us men who are truly romantically clueless—I know because I’m kind of one of them. My wife pretty much waited for about ten years for me to figure out she was the one… My family was so happy because they thought I was never going to figure it out.

I like to think of myself as a pretty smart guy, but evidently, in some areas, I’m a little thick. It’s a shame, but I don’t think I’m alone in that. I passed it on to Walt, because I think it’s authentic. He really hasn’t had that much experience—Martha pretty much picked him at an early age, and she marked him as her own. He thought he’d be with her for the rest of his life, so when she died, he was lost.

I remember when I started out writing a lot of authors gave me the advice that you can have sexual tension between your characters, but you can’t have anything happen for fifteen or sixteen books—and I thought, what kind of women are you dating? Any time anybody tells me a rule, I immediately start thinking about how you can break it. Kindness Goes Unpunished was my third book and a bit of a departure in that the majority of the book takes place in Philadelphia—so here are Vic and Walt, strangers in a strange land and under pressure, which is when those types of things happen between friends. I think what made it work for me was swapping the gender responses with Walt saying that it was a mistake and that we’re never doing that again, while Vic’s response was that it was pretty great and that they were definitely going to do it some more. Vic is obviously the aggressor in the relationship just because it’s her nature and there’s a point where she tells him, “I’m not looking for hearth and home—I just want to be with you.”

Walt is a little unsure and non-committal because he sees so many hurdles for him personally in dealing with this relationship–the age difference, the fact that she works for him, the inability to commit because he’s not quite over his wife—if he ever will be. I guess I’m making not only a gender related statement, but a generational one, also. I like those complexities because I think they’re sincere.

Romance is a sticky business, and I don’t ever want to cheapen my characters by not treating the multiple facets of their existence without a basis of truthfulness. I think Walt loves Vic and I think she loves him, but it’s going to be a bumpy road for the two of them—and what could be more honest and compelling than that?

—Craig Johnson

2 thoughts on ““Without A Clue” – 52 Pickup, #29

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