Author of surprise bestseller The Silent Wife didn't live to see her success

First aired on Metro Morning (08/08/13)

Toronto author A. S. A. Harrison's debut novel, The Silent Wife, a psychological thriller about a disintegrating marriage, has become a surprise bestseller since its spring publication, and has even made it onto the New York Times list. It's the kind of success that a first-time novelist dreams of -- but unfortunately Harrison didn't live long enough to savour her triumph. She passed away in April from cancer, shortly before the book came out. Recently, Metro Morning spoke to Harrison's husband of 30 years, visual artist John Massey, about his late wife's success.

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"I'm elated, obviously, but the primary thought I have is that, my God, my wife's spirit is soaring. She would have been absolutely delighted with the success of the book," he told host Matt Galloway. "I don't think she had any idea that it would be taking off like this."

When asked if Harrison had shared much of the writing process with him, Massey said no. "Every now and then, I'd get a little snippet. She'd test it out on me. But not really," he said. "She had a world of her own that she was working [in], and that didn't include me."

Massey said his wife was a perfectionist and worked many years on the book. She had written a lot of non-fiction, and also had experience as an editor. After a New York editor gave the book "a serious edit," Harrison went back for a rewrite, and then another rewrite after that. So the book is "honed," he said.

Though Massey is thrilled with the book's reception, "every time I read one of these great reviews, it ends with the fact of her disappearance." At the same time, he sees the book as a way in which her spirit is still out there in the world, in the shape of the protagonists and the situations and the story itself. "This is a beautiful, freeing kind of thing."

Does the book's success help him deal with his loss? "Enormously," Massey said. "I am so happy for her. I am so proud of her. You know, it provokes sadness, but at the same time, it's this kind of, Wow, all those years, she's vindicated. Yeah. You nailed it, baby."

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