Maud Ventura, MY HUSBAND

Maud Ventura, MY HUSBAND

Zibby speaks to debut author Maud Ventura about My Husband, a suspenseful and darkly funny novel about a seemingly perfect, sophisticated French woman who is utterly consumed by her love for her husband. The discussion brings to light the powerful emotions encapsulated in the book, mirroring Maud’s own past romantic entanglements. She and Zibby touch on the fascinating aspects of marital dynamics, reflecting on the silences that may threaten the bonds of love. As Maud anticipates the adventure of crafting her next novel set in Los Angeles, her reflections on love’s complex tapestry offer a refreshing perspective to readers.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Maud. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss My Husband.

Maud Ventura: Thank you so much for having me.

Zibby: It’s my pleasure. I feel like I should attempt to speak my high school French to you at this point.

Maud: Oh, yes. Please do. I will feel less bad about my English if you speak French as well.

Zibby: My French is horrifyingly bad. At this point, I feel like I can understand when people speak French, but I can’t remember the words. We can go back and forth. My Husband, this was so great. By the way, I did not see the ending coming at all. Totally did not see that coming. That was a huge surprise. Can you please tell listeners what your book is about?

Maud: My book is called My Husband. It’s a story of a forty years old woman who is just perfect. She has a perfect life, the perfect husband, two kids, a nice home. The problem is that she’s crazy in love with her husband. She lives for him. Everything she does is for him. She just goes crazy. I don’t know how to say that. She’s madly in love, too much.

Zibby: Yes, emphasis on the madly. Her husband, through her love and obsession with him, honestly, she keeps this journal, this notebook where she records everything, all these things that as spouses or partners we kind of keep a mental tally of. He did this. What about this? I don’t know. What about this? I’m annoyed about this. She writes it all down in a notebook. Tell me about that decision as one of the many ways that —

Maud: — I feel like she’s just like you and me but far worst. It’s like it’s you and me but the worst version without any limits. I wanted to go too far so I can write something that everyone thinks about but no one would really dare to do it actually in the real world. I really wanted to put emphasis on what’s real and what is untold most of the time. I will get mad because my boyfriend said something I was upset about. I will get very angry with him. Usually, I don’t talk about it. I just say nothing. In the book, I go too far. I write it down. I get mad. I punish him at the end of the day. It’s what I love about fiction. You can write anything you want. You can go too far even if it’s not really realistic.

Zibby: That’s true. I love the fight they have over whether or not to close the shutters. She’s like, of course you can sleep when it’s light out because I saw you sleeping in the morning. What couple hasn’t had a discussion about this? My husband loves to keep all the blinds open. I’m like, “But then I can’t sleep. Then I get up at the crack of dawn.” He’s like, “You get up at the crack of dawn anyway, so what does it matter?” It’s always one of those things which, of course, if you don’t really address the root cause, which is what I think is permeating through this book, if you don’t get to the bottom of it, then all the little things just make the big things fester and fester and explode.

Maud: Also, they don’t communicate. You can tell your husband, okay, can we find a middle point? Can we find compromise and do something that works for both of us? In her marriage, they don’t talk. She doesn’t say a word. She keeps everything in herself, which I think is very bad and toxic.

Zibby: Where did this idea come from with you?

Maud: When I started writing the book, I was twenty-five. I was madly in love with my boyfriend at the time. We just moved in together in a little apartment in Paris, where I live. I was really upset because I was like, I am madly in love with him, and I feel like, what’s going to happen next? We live together. It’s the end of the story. I was keep being madly in love as if we’d been together for two weeks. Something was wrong. I was obsessed with him. I thought he was perfect. It was really an unbalanced relationship. The starting point of the fiction was what I was going through, my love life. I really needed fiction because I can’t write about myself. I don’t know how to do that. I really need to use my imagination. I created this character, this woman. She’s tall. She’s blond. She’s everything I am not, obviously.

Zibby: For those people listening, Maud has dark brown hair. I can’t tell how tall you are. I don’t know.

Maud: I’m not very tall. I’m petite, as we say in France. I wanted her to be very different from me. At the time, I was twenty-five. She was forty. In my life, she was so old. She had all this life, a home and two kids. It was very exotic to me. I was still a student. The starting point was my life. Then I really needed fiction to go further and investigate what was keeping me up at night.

Zibby: What happened with the guy?

Maud: He dumped me.

Zibby: No.

Maud: No, but it’s for the best. Actually, we stayed together for three years. I’ve been writing My Husband for three years. My book was what I was writing during the relationship. We can’t talk about the ending, but I was able to put a last word in my novel when we broke up and I understood what was going on in the relationship. I can’t say more.

Zibby: Wow, I feel like we need to do a deeper dive over a cup of coffee or something. I would like all the ins and outs of this relationship. Of course, it’s none of my business. When did you start writing fiction? When did you realize that was the way that you needed to process things in the world?

Maud: Maybe two years earlier. I was maybe twenty-two or twenty-three. I was actually living in New York at the time. I had a lot of spare time. I was actually writing a master degree in philosophy. I was studying philosophy at Columbia University for one year. I loved doing research, but I was really attracted to fiction because when you write fiction, you can write whatever you want. You don’t have to be precise. You don’t have to quote your sources. You don’t have to be true. No one will ever be upset with me if I write something in fiction that is not true, if I exaggerate, if I’m not very accurate. I felt like fiction was really freedom to me.

Zibby: This is your first book. This is crazy. How do you feel? It came out in France first. Now it’s coming to the States. It has come to the States. I know I just saw it in my bookstore. Tell me what it’s like having this land in such a big way.

Maud: It was very unexpected, first. This book just changed my life. It changed everything. Now I am working on my second novel. I have the freedom to write full time, which is just insane. It was very strange and bizarre and uncanny. In France, we don’t have agent when you’re a writer. I just wrote my manuscript. Then I sent it to publishing houses. Then I got published. Really, when I was writing, I had no idea that someone will ever read it. Really, I had no clue. I couldn’t know because they get thousands of manuscripts. Then they’re going to publish maybe one or two. What were the odds? It couldn’t happen. I was really thinking, okay, I’m going to write this manuscript because it’s really important to me. Then I will write a second one and then a third one. Eventually, something maybe will come out of it. At the same time, it was really freedom. I could write whatever I wanted because I really thought that no one would ever read my book. It was really a special time for me.

Zibby: Wow. What does it feel like now knowing that people will read what you’re writing?

Maud: It feels very different. I feel like I have to forget that I have readers waiting for me to get this freedom back of writing what feels really true to me.

Zibby: Amazing. Can you talk about your next book, or no?

Maud: Not yet, but I’m putting all my heart in it.

Zibby: That’s amazing. Oh, my gosh, I can’t wait to read it. You used to lead the podcast division at some major radio stations in France. Tell me more about that and your experience with podcasting yourself and now being on this podcast and all of that.

Maud: It’s crazy. Yes, I have . I have writing literature and also podcasts and radio. When I was a student, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. In my mind, being a writer was not a full-time job. I changed my mind about that. Now it’s my full-time job. At the time, it was more of a dream and not a career. I started working in a big radio company in France. I started listening to podcasts, actually, American podcasts because there are so much more podcasts to choose from in the US. I was listening, at the time, to the podcast called “Dear Sugar” from Cheryl Strayed. I am a huge fan. Podcasts was part of my life. Then it became my job. Then my first book was published. I kept working for the first year. Then it became too big with the promotion, going to Italy to promote the book, going to London. I couldn’t keep doing everything because I was doing the promotion, writing my second novel, and working a full-time job in the podcast division. I eventually quit my job, but I really love podcasts. I know you do too.

Zibby: I do. I love the ability to just talk with anybody. Where are you today? I’m looking out your window. Where are you? You’re in some beautiful — I don’t know. Where are you? In the South of France?

Maud: I am in the Alps, in the mountains.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, wow. There goes my geography.

Maud: You are in Los Angeles, which is .

Zibby: I’m in Los Angeles. I should take my laptop and show you the mountains behind me too. I’ll show you across the world.

Maud: Oh, wow.

Zibby: In the mountains of Los Angeles.

Maud: Doesn’t make any sense.

Zibby: I know, right? It’s crazy. What are we doing talking to each other here? I think it’s amazing. It’s like magic. I love the description of a forty-year-old woman with two kids and a husband as exotic. I think that is the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about this stage of life. As time has passed and as you have talked, I’m sure, to more and more women and everything, how has that perception changed, if at all?

Maud: Some women told me, I loved your book, but I can tell you don’t have kids because if you had kids, you would never write something like that. The character is not very loving with her two kids. She’s very cold. She’s not very into motherhood. I felt that I could write that because I don’t have kids. I am thirty now. I really want to have kids one day. I feel like if I have kids one day, I will not be able to write some of the things that I wrote in my first novel. Being twenty-five and being so far away from this life of having a husband, a home, kids make it easier to be bad and to be complex and ambivalent about motherhood.

Zibby: Your character, the kids are an afterthought. They’re an inconvenience or an afterthought. Some women who are mothers feel this way. I don’t know who they are, but maybe they’re hopefully — I don’t know. Whatever. Everybody has a different view on motherhood and the relationship of the husband. The advice my mother always gave me was, your kids are always going to be there. You have to focus on your husband. I’m like, what? The kids are drooling on the floor about to tumble down a staircase. My husband’s a grown man. Of course, then we got divorced, so I don’t know. Anyway, I think the pendulum has swung so far the other way that it’s kind of refreshing to read a story like this where you’re like, wait, what? You don’t have to be obsessed with your kids? You could potentially be obsessed with your husband?

Maud: Also, I guess French women tend to be a lot more focused on their love life and husband and relationship and not so focused on the kids. I have some of my girlfriends who have kids. I feel like they really fight to keep the flame and the passion with the husband after the kids come along the way. Maybe it’s also cultural.

Zibby: French women are so cool.

Maud: We are also very cold, so I’m not sure.

Zibby: Do you still listen to podcasts? Which ones? Also, what do you like to read in your spare time?

Maud: I listen to a lot of podcasts. I love interviews and discussion, especially because I get very inspired. I feel it’s crazy because when you listen to podcasts, you can listen to a stranger talking about their life. In France, we have a podcast called “.” It’s just someone saying a story. You don’t know who he is. You don’t know who this person is. It’s just a story, first narrative person. I listen to this podcast every week. It gives me insight into people’s minds. As a writer, it’s amazing to be able to have access to intimate thoughts. I also listen to a podcast about money. It’s in France. We have a podcast called “,” stories about money. It’s just people telling stories about how they feel about money, so what they want to spend the money for. Are they afraid of not having enough money? Are they feeling abundance? I think it’s very interesting. I just listen to various podcasts. I deeply regret that “Dear Sugar” don’t exist anymore. I miss this podcast a lot. Then, yes, I read a lot as well, but I don’t read in English a lot. I read French literature a lot.

Zibby: Have you noticed any big differences between publicity and events and all of that stuff in the US versus in Europe?

Maud: Oh, yes. In the US, everything is so well organized. In France, I feel like we are amateurs. In France, you have my publicist sending me very detailed emails with the dates. I have forms to fill with all the info. Everything is very precise. When you have a meeting, it starts on time. It’s finished on time. Whereas in France, it’s just like, I have my publicist over the phone. We talk about it. Then we hang up. Then they will ask for my info twice a day even if they already have the info. I feel in the US, it’s so professional. I said to my French editor, “We are amateur.”

Zibby: That’s good to hear, I guess. That’s a nice vote of confidence for our efficiency over here. Where is your next novel set? Can you even say that?

Maud: In Los Angeles.

Zibby: No way. Interesting.

Maud: Oh, yes.

Zibby: If you need any on-the-ground research or descriptions or anything, let me know.

Maud: I would love that.

Zibby: What’s going on with your love life? Are you in a relationship now? Can I ask?

Maud: Yes, I am. I’m very happy. Also, I realized that the love I am describing in My Husband is not the love I long for anymore. In My Husband, it’s very passionate. They don’t talk to each other. She’s sad all the time. She’s madly in love but also crazy sad all the time with lots of ups and downs. I feel like, now I am thirty, and I want something calm and with trust. In My Husband, they don’t trust each other at all. She goes through her husband’s things. She reads his emails and stuff like that. I don’t want that anymore. I feel like I came in terms with what passion is and the limits of it, especially if you want to have a family and if you want to build something. I want to build something on trust, communication, and not on passion and destruction. Yes, I am in love, but not madly in love, very in love.

Zibby: Aw, I love that. You had a line in the book about the solitaire diamond and how solitaire was such an interesting word choice because there is that feeling that can come with being in a marriage where you feel completely isolated and alone, which I thought was really beautiful.

Maud: I feel like usually, you think that if you are single, you are lonely, and if you are in a relationship, you’re not lonely because you are with someone. I have never felt lonelier than with the man I was with at the time. I feel like you can be two in a bed and feel lonely as if you were in the middle of the desert. Yes, it was very important to me to — when you have it all — I had the perfect boyfriend. He was in love with me. I was in love with him. On paper, everything was perfect. I wanted to point out that even if on paper everything is perfect, you can feel lonely as hell. You have the right to be unhappy and to say you are unhappy because relationship and being in love doesn’t necessarily mean being happy. You can be in love and feel unhappy and lonely.

Zibby: That’s so important because a lot of people do feel that way, and they don’t talk about it because it’s not the accepted thing to say, or maybe just to their closest friends. I think you shining a light on this and showing people that it doesn’t have to necessarily be this way or at least you should acknowledge that this is what’s happening and figure out how you want to handle it, I think that’s the first step. Maud, congratulations. I really loved chatting with you. I’m so excited for everything you have to come. I hope you enjoy your time in the Alps and all of your success to come.

Maud: Thank you so much. It was so great chatting with you. If I have questions about Los Angeles, I will email you.

Zibby: Please do. I’m here. I’ll be your scout.

Maud: Thank you so much. Buh-bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

MY HUSBAND by Maud Ventura

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