Back in February, we interviewed author Malena Crockett. That interview generated a bunch of new questions from readers, including several regarding Walter Bainbridge, the antagonist in Malena’s debut novel, Fool Me Once (book one in the Melody Joy Personal Mystery series). We like to get our answers straight from the source whenever we can, so special arrangements have been made for Walter to join us on the blog today, to give him a chance to introduce himself and answer questions from readers.
TWWC: Welcome to The Write Way Café, Walter. Tell us a little bit about yourself and then we’ll get started.
Walter: I’m happy to be here. There isn’t much to tell, really. I grew up in Utah, went to BYU for undergrad and master’s degrees, and then out of state for a Ph.D. When I was done with school, I got a job teaching in Oklahoma and we’ve been there ever since.
TWWC: You went to BYU? Is that where you and Melody Joy met?
Walter: They don’t call it the happy hunting ground for nothing, you know.
TWWC: Ha! So that part of undergraduate life worked out for you, at least.
Walter: Right. We met in the fall and got married in the spring, along with about half the rest of the school. Then we went back to classes the next fall. Well, I did. MJ didn’t last long. She wasn’t good at going to school and working at the same time, so she dropped out and went to work full time and I went to school full time so I could get done faster.
TWWC: You make it sound very straightforward, but you really went to school for a long time, didn’t you?
Walter: True. By the time I finished my B.A., I knew I needed to get a Ph.D. to teach at the college level. It just made sense to keep going.
TWWC: Going to graduate school and earning advanced degrees is not for the faint of heart, is it?
Walter: That’s quite true. I was the first person in my family to get a graduate degree of any kind, and only the second one to finish a bachelor’s degree.
TWWC: What drove you to work so hard and so long going to school?
Walter: It was kind of an accident, really. When I got to college as a freshman, I thought I would be a lawyer because I had been good at debate and I liked learning about the legal system and the government. But the further along I got in my education, the more I realized I wasn’t really temperamentally suited to be a lawyer. I was better at teaching. So ultimately I changed majors and got a degree in education. The rest just worked out as I went along.
TWWC: How ironic that you started out thinking you would be an attorney and MJ has similar aspirations now.
Walter: I don’t know if it’s ironic. I think she’s just trying to make me feel bad for picking a profession that doesn’t pay very well. She thinks she has to take up the slack, and she figures being a lawyer is the best way to make good money fast.
TWWC: So you think she doesn’t really want to be a lawyer, she just wants to make you feel bad about not being one?
Walter: Yeah – something like that.
TWWC: That’s a lot of trouble to go to, just to make someone feel bad.
Walter: That’s what I think, too.
TWWC: OK – well – now that we have the introductions out of the way, let’s move on, shall we? Thanks for making time to talk with us, by the way.
Walter: No problem. They don’t let me out much, as you might guess. Apparently I’m not to be trusted.
TWWC: And why is that, do you think?
Walter: I don’t know. I do the best I can. I get up, go to work, teach my classes, deal with students. I’m a responsible person. And yet I always seem to be getting into trouble at home. My wife and son are always angry with me about something or other. I can’t seem to do anything right these days.
TWWC: That sounds difficult. Are you trying to work with them so you can all get along?
Walter: Well, I don’t know, at this point. It seems like they’re mad at me all the time, so why should I bother? I’m just a regular guy, with regular guy needs, you know? Why can’t they understand that?
TWWC: What kind of regular guy needs are you talking about, exactly?
Walter: Oh – you know – man needs…a fine woman on my arm, someone who will boost my confidence and let me have my way now and then, regular exercise of my libido, man needs.
TWWC: So you want to have sex, a lot, with someone who turns you on?
Walter: Yeah, pretty much.
TWWC: But not with your wife?
Walter: Who – with Mel? Oh – she’s great, she’s wonderful, but in a whole different way. Our relationship is more like best friends, you know? I don’t know what happened with her. She used to get me so wound up I could go for days, and now…I don’t know – maybe she’s too familiar. She doesn’t get me all hot and bothered the way … oh … uhm … I don’t suppose you know about Lacey, do you?
TWWC: We do now.
Walter: Right. Well. Lacey, then.
TWWC: Tell us about Lacey.
Walter: Ah. Lacey. She’s amazing. She could rule the world. We met in a collaborative learning workshop, you know. We got paired during a group exercise. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s ambitious, ruthless, really.
TWWC: So, all the things that attracted you to Melody?
Walter: Oh, sure, and then some. MJ isn’t particularly ambitious any more, and she’s definitely not ruthless. She wouldn’t hurt a flea.
TWWC: Sounds like you’re attracted to power.
Walter: Huh. Maybe I am. What’s wrong with that? I need someone who can keep up with me.
TWWC: Interesting. MJ isn’t keeping up with you?
Walter: Well, how can she? I mean, she didn’t do anything much except work at clerical jobs while I was getting my Ph.D., and now – well – law school isn’t really the same thing, is it?
TWWC: So, you were sort of looking for someone new when Lacey came along, is that what you’re saying?
Walter: What? No. Well, I don’t know. But Lacey explained to me how people need to be physically and mentally well-matched to be happy with one another, and she makes me happy when I’m with her, so I guess there must be something to it.
TWWC: That’s very interesting. Is Lacey a specialist in human behavior or philosophy?
Walter: Lacey? She’s a student of all forms of human inquiry. She doesn’t just study, either. She’s big on experiential learning – she really likes to get into the thick of things, to see and feel what she’s learning about.
TWWC: It sounds like you know more about Lacey than you do about your own wife.
Walter: I suppose that could be true at the moment. Mel doesn’t really seem to want to spend much time with me lately.
TWWC: Why do you suppose that is?
Walter: I can’t really figure it out, actually. We used to get along really well. But ever since she started law school, all she wants to do is study and go to work, and maybe watch movies with Christopher. I can barely get her to do anything around the house or with me anymore.
TWWC: That sounds rather sad. How did things work in your family when you were going to graduate school? Did you have a lot of free time to hang out and do things with your wife and kid?
Walter: Of course not. I was going to school full time, and teaching half time, and doing research in my spare time so I could get my degree done. I didn’t have time for family stuff.
TWWC: So – pretty similar to what MJ is doing now, it sounds like.
Walter: Well…maybe a little bit…but it was different when I was doing it.
TWWC: How so?
Walter: Well…it wasn’t optional when I was doing it, was it? I had to get a Ph.D., and all the massive studying and research time involved was required. It’s optional for her, isn’t it? Nobody’s making her go to law school. Why can’t she just be content as a secretary and a wife and a mom?
TWWC: Didn’t you just say that you need a woman who can keep up with you?
Walter: Yeah…I guess I did. But I didn’t mean she should compete with me.
Walter: Yeah – compete. You know…for degrees and power in the family, and income.
TWWC: So you’re worried she’ll get more attention than you do, and she’ll make more money than you?
Walter: Well…yeah…I guess I am. How are people supposed to know I’m the man of the house if she makes more than I do? And if she’s in a more publicly visible job, people will just think I’m Mr. Melody and that I don’t have a life or a career of my own. That’s not likely to get me a promotion in my own job, is it? Besides, if she’s a fancy-pants lawyer, who’s going to help me get my books written and published? She can’t do both.
TWWC: That does sound like a lot of different hats to wear, indeed. So you want to keep your friendship with Lacey and have her as your public companion, but you want MJ to stay with you and stay supportive the way she has always done?
Walter: That would be nice, but I don’t think she’s going to go for that arrangement. MJ says it smacks of polygamy and patriarchy and she’s not interested in a shared marriage. If Lacey doesn’t mind it, why should Mel care?
TWWC: That was a rhetorical question, yes?
Walter: Not really, but you’re probably the wrong person to ask.
TWWC: Definitely! Can we talk for a minute about your Mormon background? You grew up in Utah and went to BYU. Is your family Mormon?
Walter: Yes – my family has been Mormon for several generations, going back to the early times of the church.
TWWC: This idea of a shared marriage – it sounds a lot like polygamy. Is that what you’re thinking?
Walter: Oh – please – let’s don’t get into that. Nobody in their right mind would sign on for polygamy. It’s too hard. Think about it – you’re one man with a handful of wives, all of them wanting all of you all the time, and all of them wanting to raise families with you. How are you supposed to do that, really?
TWWC: Did you have ancestors who practiced polygamy?
Walter: Oh, I probably did. I don’t know. But why are we talking about that?
TWWC: Shared marriage…staying married to MJ and keeping Lacey as a spare companion on the side. How is that different, really, than polygamy?
Walter: Well, I’d only be married to one of them, for starters.
TWWC: And how does Lacey feel about that?
Walter: She’s not really very keen on it either. She thinks I should choose her, leave MJ, and get on with it.
TWWC: And what about the Mormon Church. Have they weighed in on this? Are you talking with them?
Walter: The church has no say in my decisions. I used to worry about them a lot – making sure that whatever choices I had to pick from lined up with what I thought the church would expect from me. Those days are long past. I’m my own man now – I don’t need some ancient mythological anthropomorphic sky wizard telling me how to think or what to do.
TWWC: Doesn’t the church have disciplinary proceedings for members who go astray?
Walter: Yeah – that happens.
TWWC: Have you ever been called to answer a disciplinary inquiry by the church?
Walter: Not yet. Mostly they just ignore me and I ignore them. I’m easy to get along with that way.
TWWC: You have some tough decisions to make, it seems like.
Walter: I’m afraid so. And it just gets harder by the day.
TWWC: So let’s talk for a minute about your son, Christopher. He’s growing up fast, isn’t he? How are you and he getting along?
Walter: Oh – Chris. He’s a great kid, but he’s a teenager now. He acts like his old man is an idiot and he won’t spend any time with me if he can help it. It makes me sad. We used to get along great. I’d get him up to go work out in the mornings and we’d do yard work together and house projects together. Now he refuses to do any of those things with me. I miss that. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I move out.
TWWC: So you’ve definitely decided to move out of the house then?
Walter: MJ says I have to. She made it pretty clear that she wants me gone. I guess we’ll try a separation and see how it goes. I don’t see how it can turn out well, especially if Chris won’t see me.
TWWC: That’s a fairly common problem with couples who split up. It’s touchy business to figure out how to handle things like visitation and discipline and money and household goods.
Walter: Yeah. All of that. I smell a disaster coming.
TWWC: Isn’t there anything you can do to make it go smoothly?
Walter: No. I don’t think so. I don’t know. Melody says if I give up my friendship with Lacey then she’ll consider letting me stay. But why should I do that? Why should I let MJ dictate all the terms of my existence? She has friends. Why can’t I have friends?
TWWC: Is it just a question of friendships?
Walter: What do you mean?
TWWC: Well, do you really need to have someone spell it out? There are friends, and then there are friends with benefits.
Walter: Yeah. That sounds like something Mel would say. She thinks Lacey and I are friends with benefits.
TWWC: Are you?
Walter: I don’t have to answer that question.
TWWC: Okay. Moving right along… what are your plans for the next year or so, then?
Walter: I guess I’ll find a new place to live and see what I have to do to either make my wife and kid love me again, or start my life over.
TWWC: Do you want your wife to love you again?
Walter: Sure I do. She’s a great help to me. I don’t know what I would do without her.
TWWC: It sounds like you have your work cut out for you.
Walter: I guess I do. And I have no idea how to make it happen.
TWWC: Just one last question before you go, if you don’t mind.
TWWC: What about that dead body in the hotel room? What do you know about that?
Walter: Why does everybody keep asking me about that? I don’t know anything. I don’t know who the guy was, or why he was hanging out anywhere near our hotel room. He wasn’t there when we were there. The room was empty when we left it. I had nothing to do with it.
TWWC: Rumor has it he was a private investigator, tailing you. Why would he be doing that, and who hired him?
Walter: I told you, I don’t know anything.
TWWC: And what about that business at the lake earlier in the year? Are the two incidents connected?
Walter: You’re not supposed to know anything about that. I don’t have to comment. I don’t know why I’m talking to you. Did Melody Joy put you up to all these nosey questions? I have nothing more to say to you. Good-bye.
TWWC: There you have it, readers. Walter Bainbridge, evasive and secretive spouse of Melody Joy. He didn’t seem to want to answer our questions, so if you want to know what he’s really up to, you’ll have to read Fool Me Once, and its sequel, Love Me Twice (due out next month).
Fool Me Once is available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and print format:
Coming soon to Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and audio!