I have a treat for you today. As most of you who follow this blog know, I write romance. I am fascinated by the transformative power love has to shape our lives and how we view the world around us. I also happen to be in love. I was blessed to meet the love of my life at a young age and we’ve been a couple for 15 years. So it follows naturally that I field a lot of requests to write a long-term couple in my books. Now I’m not opposed to the idea in theory, but it’s yet to happen for me, but you know who has managed to write a beautiful book featuring a long term couple? My friend and Bywater Books colleague, Paula Martinac! Her new release, The Ada Decades, is an fantastic look at the type of couple our community has been aching for. I’m so impressed with Paula’s ability to weave such a powerful and timely love story I asked her to stop by the blog today and tell you a little bit about it.
So without further ado, here’s Paula.
Thanks to my friend and colleague Rachel Spangler for welcoming me here to Wonder Boi Writes! I’m a fan of her Lammy-nominated romance, Perfect Pairing. (In fact, I get hungry just thinking about it…) Rachel invited me to introduce you to my new novel, The Ada Decades, which follows a lesbian couple over the course of almost 50 years.
I’m a history nerd, and LGBT history is my particular passion. Call me weird (or maybe voyeuristic), but I like to imagine how women in the past found each other and created lives together. I met my wife at the L.U.S.T. Conference (as in, Lesbians Undoing Sexual Taboos), so there was no ambiguity for us! But how did lesbians of the past meet and indicate their interest in each other, without the benefit of a lesbian community?
That was one of the jumping-off points for my first novel, Out of Time, and it played a big role again in The Ada Decades, which I describe as a love story. At the start, there’s the romantic meeting of Ada and Cam, two women in their early 20s who work as a librarian and teacher in a North Carolina public school in 1957. They click, even though Ada – who has never been sexually involved with anyone, man or woman – doesn’t know what to make of their connection. They begin “dating” without being able to call it that, then cautiously express their love and eventually decide to embark on a life together.
And then comes the “long-term” part. As an epigraph for the novel, I chose a James Baldwin quote: “Love is a growing up.” Along with all the good times, Ada and Cam hit rocky patches that test their relationship, obstacles that many long-term couples, both gay and straight, encounter: problems with parents, trouble at work, jealousy over old loves, differences of belief, money matters, and the reality of “in sickness and in health.”
The writing of this novel was very immediate to me, even though Ada and Cam belong to the pre-Stonewall generation. I’m in a 25-year relationship, so my wife and I have encountered our own share of struggles over time. Writing about growing up and into a relationship came naturally.
Still, there was the difficulty of trying to understand challenges I haven’t personally faced, like working in the same place as your partner but having to hide your relationship because if people knew, you’d be fired. I thought a lot about how being in the closet didn’t have to define a relationship – how lesbians who couldn’t live openly could still create their own “families” and cultures of choice.
When Ada reaches eighty, she finds it perplexing that a younger generation of lesbians considers her a role model and hero. I write in the novel, “She had never thought about her life, or Cam’s, in that way…. They had just gotten by as best they could and been thankful for the years they had together.” For me, their love story is that they stick it out and make it work – and all before our community obtained the legal right to marry.