Keira: What made you want to write a story featuring romance leads over 40?
Sandra Antonelli: There are a few reasons. First, I like old things and history—this includes places and culture and people. From a young age, I’ve always enjoyed reading about people older than me. Life history and experience has always been more appealing to me because I discovered, at a relatively young age, that older people told fascinating stories. I learned that they were still trying to get life and love right, like they were at 20, but even at 40, 50 and 60 they never quite seem to figure it out.
Second, was this bizarre notion that falling in love is limited to people under 40. That idea is something that keeps romance heroines stuck between the ages of say, 18 to 36, which was fine until I was about 30 and noticed the women weren’t getting any older in romance novels. I found this lack of ageing weird because everyone I knew was getting older and many of us (men and women) were still looking for love—and we still wanted to read about it. When I went looking for stories where the characters were older, the books were’t romance—and I wanted romance, not Women’s Fiction. This made me cranky and led me write the books I wanted to read but couldn’t find—except on the odd occasion.
I knew I wasn’t alone in my search for older romance heroines, and because I was so annoyed I decide to to to a Masters Degree that focused on the fact there IS an audience of romance readers who, like me, wanted the heroine who’s over 40. I wrote a book with over 40 romantic leads for that MA. That book was A Basic Renovation, which came out this past February. And since I seem to be a glutton for punishment, I decided to do a PhD that examined why women over 40 are so seldom portrayed as romance heroines, but so often portrayed as stereotypes of age—like grannies and evil stepmothers. The book I wrote as part of my PhD is For Your Eyes Only.
Keira: Were there differences in how you approached the story because of the older leads?
Sandra: Not really. People fall in love regardless of how old they are, or fall in love more than once in a lifetime. A romance has specific parameters; the meeting, the courtship, the black moment, the happily ever after/optimistic conclusion. Working from those expectations I simply wrote a romance where the leads have a longer history and more life experience. And this is romance, not Women’s Fiction. No one knits or talks about menopause or how awful is to get old. John and Willa fall in love.
Keira: Tell us about Willa and her career as a physicist!
Sandra: I’d like to tell you, but that’s classified. Look a smart-ass joke! To be honest, I don’t do that much backstory into a character’s life. Some writers map out a character’s physical traits, personality, their entire biography. I don’t. I try to give the reader a glimpse into Willa’s past, her family life, where she was educated, where she may have worked. To be even more honest, I am really awful at math and mathematic-realted things. What I understand about Physics comes from Star Trek…so I had to keep Willa’s career as a physicist very, very shallow. So my characters history is shallow.
Keira: What is the most interesting / odd case John has ever taken on?
Sandra: This one, of course. And maybe the one about the Priest who grew his own weed.
Keira: Any scene readers should keep an eye out for?
Sandra: I worked in a very specific line from a movie for my friend, Elle. It’s a line often repeated in the Coen Brothers film Miller’s Crossing. We both love that movie so hard.
Keira: How do you define (romantic) love? What makes it work?
Sandra: There’s a line from the movie Fools Rush In (Matthew Perry & Salma Hayek) that sums up romantic love: “You’re everything I never knew I always wanted.” Love happens, whether you want it to or not, whether you expect it or not. Then these two people come to realise they aren’t perfect and understand the other isn’t perfect either, yet they both know they are perfect for each other.
Keira: What surprises, if any, did you encounter while writing this story?
Sandra: I realised just how deep my love of peanut butter goes. In some ways For Your Eyes Only is about the romance I have with American peanut butter.
Keira: Give us three reasons to pick up your book!
Sandra: 1) Love isn’t just for kids. 2) Peanut butter. 3) It may make you laugh out loud.
I hope you enjoy reading For Your Eyes Only!