Kathy Kulig was out of town for a business trip when she texted her husband, Joe.
"Don't be worried," she wrote. "I learned to use a flogger tonight and I have a few bruises."
"Why should I be worried?" he replied.
Attending a conference on bondage and sadomasochism is just business as usual for Kathy, whose latest erotic romance is "Summer Sins" (Ellora's Cave).
Her second career — she has a day job in a medical laboratory — has created a few relationship challenges, the Kuligs say, but not because she's writing steamy scenes that don't involve her husband or researching risque sexual practices.
The real issue, both say, is that writing is an absorbing and time-consuming task.
"It takes a special kind of guy to really understand the craziness of an author," Kathy says of Joe, who works in information technology. "He'll say, 'You're not listening to me,' and I'll say, 'What?' because I'm thinking about a scene or plotting a book. ... Sometimes he'll come over and he'll literally take my fingers off the keyboard and say, 'OK, you need a break.'"
The Tribune recently interviewed the Kuligs about balancing an unusual career and a 13-year marriage. The following is an edited transcript.
Q: Joe, what was your reaction when Kathy started writing erotica?
A: I was supportive of it. She's always done writing, and when she decided to get into this genre, I was pretty much all for it.
Q: And did you have questions about bondage, fetishes or S&M?
A: Not really. I'd read bits and parts of her books that she would give me to kind of go over, so there wasn't a question-and-answer period. I pretty much just learned as I went along.
Q: Kathy, how did you end up getting flogged at the bondage and S&M conference?
A: We got lessons on how to swing a flogger, and I wanted to feel what it was like, so this woman, she offered to swing it on me. I'm up on the balcony (of a bondage and S&M club in New York) and observing some of the other scenes and a little distracted. I thought, "Oh, OK, this was interesting," and lo and behold, when I got back to the hotel and looked in the mirror, I had bruises on my shoulder.
I went, "Oh my gosh, how am I going to explain this to my husband?"
Q: Joe, were you OK with that trip?
A: I thought it was great that she went. It was something she wanted to do, and it was a good experience for her.
I was sorry I missed that one. I do go to some of her conferences, but that would have been a fun one to go to.
Q: Kathy, how do you balance the demands of writing with the demands of a relationship?
A: I get wrapped up (in writing). I could easily be a hermit, sitting here writing my stories, and I have to remember that Friday night is date night. I don't get on the computer, even though the story is calling me. I'll write during the day on a weekend, but then I'll spend the evening with him.
Q: Joe, how does that work for you?
A: Every once in a while I have to pull her away from her keyboard. ... It's not a struggle, it's just more of a give and take and balancing things out. She understands that too.
She understands me and knows when I need my time to go get out of the house and do something. I know when she needs her time and I try not to make plans so she can get her things done as well.
Q: I have to ask, what do you guys do on date night?
Joe: We watch "Grimm." During the winter, we'll put a fire in the fireplace, and "Grimm" is one of our favorite shows.
Kathy: Or we'll go out to dinner.
Joe: We'll go out to our little local restaurant around the corner and have something to eat, or we'll order pizza and rent a movie. It just gives us some time together.