They are elegant Meissen China people, Dr. and Mrs. Edmond Rosner, courtly in a Middle European operetta way. Married more than 25 years, childless, without relatives in this country, they dote on each other, passing sly looks and almost teen-age smiles. "We are maybe a different kind of breed," she says. "We are both hopelessly old-fashioned." They also are in love.
They met in Bucharest, in an operating room, where she was suffering from acute appendicitis and he was the doctor. Now he practices in Colonial Beach, Va., and she, she says in a tiny voice, blushing and opening her palms, "I like to write now and then." Nothing earthshaking, nothing she ever meant to be published. But she reckoned without her husband.
"She told me one day, 'I am going to write a novel that will be shockingly frivolous,'" he remembers. "Of course I really didn't believe anything of the kind." But working mostly on weekends - "the typing took longer than the writing - she produced "A Matter of Need."
She doesn't like to synopsize the story, which deals with a wealthy widow falling in love with a famous black writer, because "it is a book of feelings," and she does not feel confident about her abilities. But her husband read it and felt, he says as they exchange smiles yet again, "that the story was very good, surprisingly good." Good enough, he decided to her astonishment, to be published.
So Dr. Rosner sent the manuscript out to publishers in New York "without realizing that the game is much harder than that." Stymied there, he decided to pay for the publishing himself, with his wife taking the penname of Lucia Delamarr. When he had similar trouble distributing the printed volume, he took it around to local bookstores himself. He even placed ads in the newspapers and, as a Christmas present to his wife, took out 32 television spots on WTTG.
"It cost me quite a few thousand dollars," he says slowly. "I understand this is not the customary way to put a book on the market, but I think my wife was worth the effort and the money. I did it mostly because of love and because I didn't want that book to remain in a drawer."
The earnestness with which Dr. Rosener says this had its effect, even on Washington bookstore managers who agreed to take the novel on consignment. "He was just charming, very nice, very unassuming," remembers Elizabeth Carnes, assistant manager of Brentano's F Street store, where "A Matter of Need" has sold a more than respectable 65-plus copies. "He was almost apologetic about asking, he sort of said, 'Here's this book, I published it for my wife, I'd really appreciate it if you took it but it's okay if you don't.'" Carnes took it. "I'm a pushover," she says.
Most affected by all this, and still overwhelmed, was the author herself. "I was very touched," she says quietly, almost blushing again behind her enormous pink glasses. "Anyway, it's not the only marvelous thing he's done for me. I am a very happy woman."