Randy Susan Meyers


Accidents of Marriage – Q&A

1. Can you tell us a bit about the book and the relationship between the characters?

Accidents of Marriage asks what is the toll of emotional abuse on a family. It’s an account of life inside a marriage that seems fine to the outside world, an account of emotional abuse, traumatic injury, and how a seeming accident is really the culmination of years of ignored trouble. It’s the story of an unexpected gift of clarity making the difference between living in hell and salvation.

For Madeline Illica, the love of her husband Ben is her greatest blessing and biggest curse. Brilliant, handsome and charming, Ben could turn into a raging bull when crossed—and despite her training as a social worker Maddy was never sure what would cross him. She kept a fragile peace by vacillating between tiptoeing around him and asserting herself for the sake of their three children, until a rainy drive to work when Ben’s temper gets the best of him, and the consequences leave Maddy in the hospital, fighting for her life.

Accidents of Marriage, alternating among the perspectives of Maddy, Ben, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Emma, takes us up close into the relationships between all family members. The children, lost in the shuffle, grasp for sources of comfort, including the (to them) mysterious traditions of their Jewish and Catholic grandparents. Emma and her grandparents provide the only stability for the younger children when their mother is in the hospital. Ben alternates between guilt and glimmers of his need to change, and Maddy is simply trying to live. Accidents of Marriage reveals the challenges of family, faith, and forgiveness.

2. How many different titles did you experiment with before deciding on Accidents of Marriage?

My first working title was A Thousand Suppers (which comes from a line in the book, but ultimately made no sense out of context.) The title I used when I presented it to my editor was simply Maddy & Ben. After many long sessions with poetry books, anagrams of words, and other methods that I use, I came up with Accidents of Marriage.

3. How has working with batterers and victims of domestic violence influenced your writings?

Working with batterers taught me far more than I can put in a paragraph, but here is my version of the most important take-away: Never underestimate the hatred some men have of women. Never think that people (other than the truly damaged) ‘snap’. If they chose to find it, people can access at least a sliver of decision-making. We have agency. We do not choose to hit and scream at our bosses. We choose to hit and scream at people in our homes. The hierarchy of power always comes into play.

Women (and men) do not choose abusive people as their loves—they pick the charming folks they meet in the beginning of a relationship. There might be signs to look out for, but abusers keep those traits in check until the relationship has solidified, when breaking up is more difficult.

There is not a black and white line between being abusive and not being abusive. There is a continuum of behavior, and most of us fall on the wrong side of the best behavior at some point—whether is be yelling, silent treatment, or some other hurtful conduct. Learning that this can be controlled is a job for everyone.

Batterers can change; we can all change our behaviors, but most often we choose not to do the difficult work that change requires. This is something I hope I bring to my writing.

4. Can you discuss the role of Maddy and Ben’s daughter in the book?

Emma is an average teenager who is thrown into very un-average circumstances. She becomes the stand-in mother, a role she takes on without credit or even being noticed. She is also the keeper of secrets, an impossible position for her to take on. In every stage of her family’s trauma, she is the silent absorber, who ultimately will break or find strength.

5. How did you portray someone with a traumatic brain injury so well?

I did an enormous amount of study. Luckily I find medical research fascinating. My shelves are crammed with memoirs of those with TBI and caretakers of those with TBI, workbooks for those with TBI, and medical texts—as well as spending time on line reading medical information for those in the field and information for those affected by brain injury. I had someone in the field read the novel and am also lucky enough to have a doctor in my writer’s group.

6. Did you have any say in choosing the cover for the book?

Yes! The final cover was the fourth one presented. It was tough finding the right ‘mood’ for the cover, but I was very pleased with the final version. Of course, most authors (including me) would love to actually design the cover, but my guess is our final products would not be the graphic success we imagine.

7. What made you choose a car crash as the tragic turning point between Ben and Maddy?

Abusive and bullying behavior very often plays out in driving. Road rage is a real problem on our motorways and seemed the logical vehicle for demonstrating how Ben’s bad choices result in devastating consequences.

8. Parts of this story make the reader begin to empathize with Ben. Why did you choose to do this?

I don’t believe books that present characters as all good or all bad can adequately capture life’s totality or experiences. It’s important for me to tap into how we are all the stars of our own show and how we often convince ourselves why it is ‘okay’ to act in awful ways. Ben is not all bad, despite doing awful and bad things. The question I explore about Ben (among others) is can he change? Is he, are we, capable of change, and if so, how does will and can that change manifest?

9. Is Maddy modeled after anyone that you know?

Maddy is modeled after about a thousand people I know—including myself and my friends and family. Most of us have some Maddy in us, at least at some point. We close our eyes to the worst, or we use drugs or alcohol or food or something else to tamp down our feelings. We live in a maelstrom of problems and pretend it’s all okay. We deny and lie to ourselves. Until we can’t anymore.

10. What do you hope readers will take away from reading Accidents of Marriage?

Abusive behavior is wrong, whether it is physical, emotional, verbal or any other type of hurtful behavior. It overwhelms a family. Raising children with verbal and emotional violence is harmful and the ramifications last forever.

Most important, we can control our behavior.

But, most of all, I hope readers take a page-turning story from my book. I don’t write to lecture; I write to tell the stories that mesmerize me, and thus, I hope, fascinate others.

Accidents of Marriage

accidentsofmarriageRandy Susan Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage is not your typical happily-ever-after, and I like that.  Instead, what Meyers offers in black and white is brutal honesty reinforced with extensive dialogue throughout so that the reader is truly able to “listen” to each of the characters from his/her perspective.

Accidents of Marriage revolves around the marriage of Maddy and Ben, two successful professionals with three children.  A tragedy occurs which pushes to the forefront a marriage and family in trouble, trouble which can no longer be ignored or masked by other means.

As for Meyers’ writing style, her descriptive detail makes use of the senses:

Why?  That’s your first worry?  Why?’  Ben smelled his musk rising- exhaustion, court, aftershave gone flat, and beery rankness.  (Loc 610)

In addition, throughout, the carefully constructed dialogue offers life lessons to be absorbed by all:

She pointed her finger at him like a gun. ‘I’m not asking anything- I’m assuming you were out having a drink.  But don’t try and bully your way out of anything with me.’

‘I love your daughter,’ Ben said.

‘Love isn’t an excuse for anything but treating someone well.’ (Loc 2227)

Moira’s smile lit up the face that must have been lovely before old bruises and lines set in so deep. ‘I said to myself, stop worrying about him killing you.  You’re murdering yourself.  All he has to do is finish the job.  I’d been praying to God, not realizing that all that time God was helping, I just didn’t recognize his hand.  He’d sent me you all- I just hadn’t been listening.  All these years, it was like the Bible says, I’ve been a prisoner of hope.’ (Loc 4318)

If hosting a book club discussion to accompany Meyers’ Accidents of Marriage, the meal of choice should definitely be turkey meatloaf, honeyed carrot pennies, baked potatoes, and croissants in honor of Maddy’s independence.

Five Minute Friday: Because

Because.  I find Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday word choices challenging.  I often need to take (more than five minutes) time to think about the prompt and how it applies to my life experiences.  I enjoy this time to myself to reflect because I feel it helps me grow as a writer and a child of God.

I am a firm believer in writing bribery.  I encourage my students with the use of Extra Credit to respond to Writing Workshop Wednesdays because I want them to grow as writers, too.  They have so many thought provoking and honest issues to share with others, and I want them to know this.

There are often times I would rather sleep in (okay, I like the idea, but with two young kiddos this rarely happens) or simply be grubby for an entire Sunday.  However, because my daughters look forward to their memory verses, seeing their friends, receiving their Bibles, and playing the cello in church, we make that effort on days when staying home sounds more appealing.  Because I like squeezing on women blessings, wrapping my arm around my hub during the sermons, listening to such motivating messages, and hearing goosebump generating music.  I am grateful afterwards (every time) for our attendance.  Because.


Friendly Round Robin Peer Editing

Over the years I have tried and adjusted the way I facilitate peer editing in my English classroom.  I have attempted having students work in pairs or groups of four and simply exchange papers, but what I have found is that students are reluctant to be honest in their commentary when it is known he/she made the comment.  Instead, I see a lot of, “This is good!” comments at the top of pages.  I also have noticed they rush through the peer editing process simply to finish and not to learn from one another.

roundrobinpeereditingSo, one method I have implemented is the Friendly Round Robin Peer Editing.  Students sit in a circle with one copy of his/her rough draft in hand.  I pass out the Friendly Round Robin Editing worksheet (see below).  Initially, students pass their papers once or twice to the right and then complete number one on the worksheet.  After a period of time, I ask students to pass again to the right once, etc. until we have completed the entire worksheet.  Not only are students practicing various approaches to peer editing anonymously, but they also are given the opportunity to read several other papers in the classroom in order to experience various styles of writing.  For, as writers we learn to hone our craft by reading every day.

Read everything–trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.
(William Faulkner, interviewed by Lavon Rascoe for The Western Review, Summer 1951)

  1. Is the paper at least 2 typed pages (or as required) in length? If not, comment.

  2. Proper heading? Page numbers with last name? If not, correct.

  3. Read through the entire essay. Does the essay answer the writing prompt? If no, comment. If yes, tell why you think the essay answers the prompt fully.

  4. Read through the entire essay. Now, do you feel the title is creative? Did you want to read the essay after reading the title? Does the title fit the essay? If not, offer suggestions. If yes, tell why you liked it.

  5. Proper capitalization of the title? If not, correct.

  6. Does the introductory paragraph “hook” you? If not, add suggestions. If yes, tell why.

  7. Read through the essay. Circle the thesis statement. If you cannot find one, make a note of this. If you feel the statement needs elevation, make a note of this.

  8. Circle or highlight “very,” any form of “get,” any form of “thing,” and “fun.” Offer elevated word choices to use instead.

  9. Circle or highlight any misspelled words, awkward word choices, and simple word choices. Offer the correct spelling, a word to use instead, and/or an elevated word choice.

  10. Circle or highlight any contraction you find in this essay.

  11. Read through the entire essay. Does the author use smooth transitions? Is there flow between paragraphs and sentences, or is the essay choppy? Comment.

  12. Read the essay aloud. Comment on any portion which was difficult to read and/or understand.

  13. Read the essay backwards beginning with the last word. Comment on any misspelled words, cross out “very,” “get,” any form of “thing,” and “fun,” and praise elevated word choices.

  14. Read through the essay. Does the conclusion signal the end, restate without repetition, and leave the reader with the author’s final thoughts in a memorable manner? Comment.

  15. Read through the entire essay. Does the author exemplify, elaborate, and explain? Comment.

Sunday Thanks

I am thankful for . . .

the girls’ excitement over being in the same Sunday school class.

Sunday morning squeezes from some amazing women blessings in church.

my stomach not imploding.

the wisdom of my BFF.

an amazing chapter book written by my youngest squirt.

my oldest daughter’s laughter after a mechanical cat jumped out at her at the spooky store.

For what are you thankful?

Listening to Tim Price’s sermon several months ago at Troy United Methodist Church, he encouraged us all to pray without asking for anything, but instead praying a prayer of complete thanksgiving.  This gave me pause to think we should devote our day of rest and all days to thanking our Creator.  So, every Sunday consider participation in Sunday Thanks.

Please reflect on today, the past week, or one incident in particular.  Share what you are thankful for in the comments section below.  Perhaps, your sharing will encourage someone else to realize how much he/she has in which to be thankful.


adjective: thankful
  1. pleased and relieved.
    “they were thankful that the war was finally over”
    synonyms: grateful, appreciative, filled with gratitude, relieved

    “she was thankful that the evening was over”
    • expressing gratitude and relief.
      “an earnest and thankful prayer”
      synonyms: grateful, appreciative, filled with gratitude, relieved

      “she was thankful that the evening was over”


Five Minute Friday: Whisper

Whisper.  It has been more than a trying week dealing with a severe infection which before being diagnosed I thought was a return of the big C.  When the radiologist tells you to wait after a CT scan, you tend to worry (a lot) after having breast cancer.  I worry about my girls not having a mother.  I worry about my hub, the love of my life, left alone to raise them.  These are whispers which remain with me in the back of my mind.

My youngest has taken this week of my having tests and appointments harder than I ever would have imagined.   She is usually my “See ya later, Mom!” girl.  This week she has not left my side, nor has she wanted to even to go to school which is one of her favorite places to be.

This reminds me of the two gifts God has entrusted me with, my two girls.  Always a whisper in my subconscious, other days when they are more needful of me, I hear the message loud and clear, and I am so eternally grateful.



Writing Workshop Wednesdays (7)

My classes recently finished reading Angelou’s “Graduation” and Douglass’ “Learning to Read and Write,” which is a glimpse into the inequality of segregation and the inhumanity of slavery.  I am currently watching the series Mad Men (my mother-in-law’s suggestion) and as a woman am abhorred at the treatment of women.  My heart bleeds for the family of journalist Steven Sotloff, a man’s life taken due to his being an American.

Prompt:  Are you able to recall a time where you were a victim or a witness of discrimination of any kind?  Explain.


Sunday (or Monday) Thanks

I am thankful for . . .

three days to spend with my family.

exploring a new place to eat.

meeting some incredible students who make me laugh.

another person agreeing to participate in Card Shower Requests.

catching up on a week’s worth of laundry.

a generous neighbor volunteering to fix our roof.

For what are you thankful

Please share in the comments section or link to your blog.  By posting what you are thankful for, you may remind someone of what all he/she has in which to be thankful.