Interview with Alafair Burke, author of THE WIFE

Alafair Burke
Harper Collins
Jan 23, 2018

THE WIFE by Alafair Burke starts out the New Year with a thrilling read. It is more plot driven since many of the characters are not very likable. The story is intense and dark being told by a possible unreliable narrator.

The storyline concentrates on Angela, who suffered extreme trauma in her teen years and now learns that her husband, Jason, may be a sexual predator. This novel is timely and will force people to question how they think about the victims of sexual misconduct and those they accuse. Today more and more women accuse politicians, celebrities, and businessmen of harassment. Burke must have had a crystal ball since she wrote this novel a year ago. The author delves into both facets, the accuser and the accused, where readers wonder if Jason actually raped someone, harassed them, was it a misunderstanding, or was it mutual?

Elise Cooper: Do you think any of the characters are likeable?

Alafair Burke: I think readers might disagree who is likeable and who is not. It is a myth that characters must fall into one category or the other. I want to write complicated characters. Just as in real life it is hard to be always likeable or not. At some point, everyone in the book is doing something that might be conceived as bad, with degrees of culpability. There are reasons why they are doing certain things and people can decide if those reasons are justified, excused, or understandable. The characters I like are Angela, her mother, her son, Colin, and Susanna.

EC: Millennials are referenced with the intern working for Jason?

AB: Jason thought of them as ‘micro-aggressive asshole whiners.’ She is portrayed by him and the media as a stereotypic millennial that is a snowflake, overly sensitive, and someone who over exaggerates. I intentionally wanted readers to question what happened. When something happens between two people it becomes a ‘he said, she said.’ Was it totally innocuous as he said or did he cross a line by flirting with someone at work, or did she perceive something that was not there? When we think about it our impressions of who these people are comes into play. I wanted people to think about the various degrees of misconduct that takes place behind closed doors.

EC: It appeared Angela and Jason have a perfect marriage and with it she supports him after the accusations?

AB: I wanted to write from her perspective as she sees her life going viral. She has no idea of the process because she has no background in law enforcement. People always think the wife had to know and is complicit. The idea for the book came from my responses as a prosecutor, which is ‘she would be the last person to know.’

EC: In what way?

AB: Jason is not going to tell her he is sexually harassing women. Since she has no expertise or reliable information she must piece together the truth through her memories, news reports, and just having some skepticism of what he tells her.

EC: Do you perceive her as a victim?

AB: In some way. Think about it. Her husband was accused of sexual misconduct so his defense has to be there was mutual consent. For him, to be criminally innocent makes him culpable in the marriage. His legal exoneration means he has been having affairs.

EC: What do you think is the theme?

AB: Compromise and what is relative. Getting past any clear lines of guilt/innocence, and betrayal/loyalty. I think it is the type of books that people will have different opinions.

EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book?

AB: Of course for them to be entertained. Of all the books I have written, this one is the most morally ambiguous. I was motivated to write this novel because I wanted to delve into the different dynamics of relationships and the needed compromises that must be made to resolve conflicting values.

EC: Are you going to write another Ellie Hatcher book?

AB: I am working on it now and it should be out in a year. Ellie leaves her work and goes home to Wichita Kansas, which is where I grew up. I decided to take her out of New York and allow readers to meet her mom who has been off the pages.