Jen: Today we welcome R.A. Padmos to Romancing the Book. R.A., will you share a short bio with us?
R.A.: In no particular order: woman, writer, in a relationship with my wife since 1981 (though we had to wait until 2001 until we could actually get married), mother of two grown sons, owner of cats (I can pretend, can’t I?), reader and a lot more.
I write in different genres under different names. I’m also S.Dora for my M/M erotica and Ella Laurance for my M/F erotica.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
R.A.: It is 1999 and Jakoba Huyzen looks back on her life that began at the start of the century. Her arrival was unexpected, but joyfully welcomed, by her middle-aged parents. In a time where a middle-class girl has one destiny, namely to become a wife and mother, Jakoba is allowed to start working at a bookshop. Later she will inherit the shop.
She values friendship, but romance has no meaning for her. She enjoys her independence too much and knows all too well what price women pay for being married.
It is German army photographer Armin who will change the course of her life. Jakoba is forty when she meets him. Armin is almost thirty, and Germany has occupied Holland. It does not matter. For him, she’s the one, and despite her hesitation both because of the war and because she can’t understand what this handsome man sees in her—a plain woman—she has to admit her feelings for him.
Such love has consequences for both of them that will reach far beyond the war and in ways Jakoba could never have imagined.
The Bookshop started out as only a small part of a huge historical project. That project never happened, but somehow the story of the quiet bookseller and her unexpected love for the photographer stayed with me.
Excerpt from The Bookshop
I scribbled Be right back on a piece of paper and stuck it on the shop window. I closed the door carefully and put the key in the pocket of my coat. The street was wet from the rain and the puddles reflected a meager sun. I saw it all—the wet stones under my feet while I went faster and faster because I was so afraid I wouldn’t be on time. I avoided the puddles, because no matter how much in a hurry I was, I took care of my clothes. Just one lock of hair escaped from the tight bun. A sign of what was to happen? Out of breath, I bought a platform ticket, walked to the platform and saw how the train disappeared in the distance.
Disappointed, I hung my head and with closed eyes, I tried to overcome my embarrassment enough to be able to go back to the store and help my customers. I didn’t understand myself. What brought me to this? What made me behave like a teenage girl, running to the station in the hope to catch a glimpse of a man? It wasn’t going to happen again. I regained the usual firm control over my emotions, just as the escaped lock of hair was firmly back in its proper place.
He was standing there, on the platform, with his hands on his back, big. I couldn’t walk away and pretend nothing was happening. He stood there, waiting for me to talk. “Why not?” I started, as my answer to his unspoken question. “I’ll tell you why not. Perhaps if I had been twenty years younger and full of the idea that love conquers all and that in the name of love everything is allowed, but I never believed in romance. I’ve looked into the mirror. I’m not beautiful, many would call me plain. I have hardly seen more of the world than this town and in a few months, I’ll be forty-one.” I tried everything in my power to convince him and myself that my being in love was unbecoming.
“You will be forty-one, you say? I’ll be thirty in November. I’m not your mirror. I’m a photographer and I’m good at what I’m doing. I’ve noticed you in your shop, the recent months, and I can describe all the expressions on your face. I know how carefully you treat other people, how you take a book in your hands, how you treat even us, your enemies, as human beings. You love your trade as deeply as I love mine. I know beauty when I see her.”
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
R.A.: I simply hope I remember them. But I know that much of what I have in my head doesn’t look half as good on “paper” So I’m never really worried about that.
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
R.A.: I absolutely love to write stories with a historical background, especially social history. I’m not all that interested in people with money and power, but the question of how do you deal with reality when you have very limited financial resources for which you have to work very hard, is an unending source of inspiration for me. The history of women, gay history.
I don’t think I’ll ever be any good at writing crime stories, in as far as the plot is concerned. I can do the dark part of the human mind, obviously, but thinking up clever distractions so the reader is truly surprised at the end, that’s definitely not my thing.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
R.A.: Get a master’s degree in social history? Okay, silly joke (though I do have that degree)
It mostly comes down to reading a lot. Also, since the story takes place from 1900 to 2000, the stories my grandparents shared were of great help. Quite a few details of the environment of the story still existed when I was a child in the Sixties. So much is simply from my own memories. I know, human memory is highly untrustworthy, but in the case of writing fiction that might not be such a big problem, as long as I do my fact checking.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
R.A.: The easiest part is that stories and characters are always there. The hard part is writing them down. I always pity those nice ideas and interesting characters for having found me as their writer. They could have done so much better.
Jen: If you were able to travel in time, where would you go and what 3 things would you take with you?
R.A.: I would go to whatever historical period the book I’m writing at that moment takes place in. Since just about any time is a not-so-good time for women, I guess money, money and more money would be of the most use to me.
Jen: What’s next for you?
R.A.: There’s Unspoken which will be released on the 29th of March (early download on the 11th) Readers of The Bookshop might find this one extra interesting because we’ll meet quite a few of the characters again, but not in quite the same way.
I’m also working on a couple of other historical novels.