02/28/2011 at 01:00 AM EST
"I thought I'd be alone forever," says Oates, 72. But six months after Smith died, she met neuroscientist Charles Gross. They wed in 2009.
WAS IT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT?
It wasn't Heathcliff and Cathy in Wuthering Heights! But we liked each other right away.
WHAT DREW YOU TO HIM?
He'd read my books, and he likes to read, so we have a lot in common. And he has a wonderful sense of humor-which you need, to endure.
ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER WIDOWS?
I said yes to virtually all invitations after Ray died, even though I wanted to stay home. My advice: Just say yes.