Interview with Anne Michaud, Author of Why They Stay

07 Sep 2021

What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Why They Stay?

As a news reporter writing about politicians, I had covered some of the men involved in the scandals: Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner. I admired their wives and wondered why these educated, intelligent women were standing up for these men after their betrayals. I thought there must be a political motive.

I started writing the first edition in 2014, when it looked (correctly) as though Hillary Clinton would run for president. It seemed to me and my literary agent that the question about why she stayed with Bill had gone largely unanswered and hung over her political candidacy.

That edition of “Why They Stay” was published in 2017. When I went on a book tour, people invariably asked me about the new First Couple: Melania and Donald Trump. So, I wrote a second edition (published in June 2021) to include the Trumps’ story.

If you had to write a blurb for the last book you read, what would it say?

This essential retelling of history puts Elizabeth Packard squarely where she belongs, as a major reformer of involuntary mental commitment in the U.S. The Woman They Could Not Silence employs deft storytelling to place the reader back in time and into the terrifying position of someone with very little legal standing, that is, a married woman in 1860.  

What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?

I’m drawn to nonfiction and historical fiction. I enjoy having an element of “this really happened.”

Do you have any quirky writing habits? Where did you write Why They Stay?

I wrote at my dining room table, backyard patio, basement desk, Book Revue bookstore (upstairs), Panera, and the Huntington (NY) Public Library.

When it’s time to write, I often catch myself filing, dusting, sorting, etc. It’s procrastination. I talk myself out of those impulses by coaxing myself to do just one small task … read a page, or make an entry in my notes. That usually gets me turned around and heading in the right direction.

If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading Why They Stay what would it be?

I would like readers to see through the calculations politicians make to remain electable. I don’t believe that staying in a humiliating marriage is a good example for public figures to set.  

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

To paraphrase Malcolm Gladwell, pursue a side passion where you are the boss. It gave me the freedom to develop a voice and work I can claim as mine.  

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