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June 22, 2018

Hafner breaks the silence of the 1970s in this award-winning memoir about triumphing over spousal abuse.

What is the story behind Not Exactly Love—why and how did you write it?

It all started with a simple writing prompt. I wrote the words, “If only... ” and felt chills. Next thing I knew I was writing the story of my descent down a staircase on my wedding day, in 1970, when I stumbled. My broken heel sent me running back upstairs in a state of panic. I was terrified that it was a sign I shouldn’t go ahead with the marriage. That piece became the book’s first chapter.

If you could pick anyone to give this book to, who would it be and why?

The kind of reader I thought of most while writing was a youngish woman who is in a relationship with a difficult man. I wanted her to watch the development of my understanding, my decision-making process, and my actions as I dealt with my sometimes-violent husband.

Why or how do you think this book is particularly relevant now?

I could never have imagined the seismic cultural shift that the #MeToo movement has inspired in addressing not only sexual harassment in the workplace but also all the ways in which men abuse power over women. My story shows what it feels like to be afraid to go into your own home at the end of a day’s work. I hope it will help those who are experiencing similar fears to feel less alone.
How do you make sure you are telling “the truth,” or how do you refresh your memories when writing?

I constantly asked myself, “Did I convey the heart of that experience?” This book could be interesting and beneficial only if I dug up the truth. In some cases, I remembered the exact words spoken at the time—for example, what the police said to me at my house the first time I called them for help.  

How did you come up with your title?

I remembered a line from the book, where I’d written that my husband and I freely used the word “love” but that “it was not exactly love.” I instantly knew that title conveyed the essence of my story.
What is the one thing you most want to tell readers, other writers, booksellers, publishers, or agents about you or your book?

I hope readers will understand that Not Exactly Love is a story meant not to show how bad someone else was but to reveal how a young woman can learn to care enough about herself to end an unhealthy, dangerous relationship. I also hope the book will be remembered for the big picture of how my upbringing, the cultures of the 1960s and 1970s, and the support of a wonderful therapist all played roles in my particular path to self-fulfillment.