By Laia Feliu.
We are very happy to welcome Sarah Smith to The Reading Corner to discuss her new release The Boy with the Bookstore, out September 22nd!
Max Boyson looks good… from a distance. But up close and personal, the tattooed hottie Joelle Prima has been crushing on for the past year and half has turned into the prime example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by his delectable cover. When she first learned about the massive renovation to the building they share, Joelle imagined that temporarily combining her Filipino bakery with Max’s neighboring bookstore would be the perfect opening chapter to their happily ever after.
In her fantasies they fed each other bibingka and pandesal while discussing Jane Austen and cooing over her pet hamster, Pumpkin. Reality, however… is quite different. Her gallant prince turned out to be a stubborn toad who snaps at her in front of customers, dries his sweaty gym clothes in her oven, and routinely helps himself to the yummy pastries in her display case without asking. But beneath Max’s grumpy glares, Joelle senses a rising heat – and a softening heart. And when they discover the real reason for the renovation, they’ll have to put both their business senses and their feelings for each other to the test.
Hi Sarah! Firstly, thank you so much for your time. Let me start by saying that The Boy with the Bookstore completely stole my heart. I have a very strong feminine urge to open my own bakery-bookshop-flower shop at some point in my life, and this book was everything my soul needed.
Aww I’m thrilled you enjoyed it! And oh my gosh a bakery-bookshop-flower shop sounds AMAZING, I will be your first customer 🙂 Thank you so much for having me!
The bakery and the bookshop are Joelle and Max’s favourite places in the world. Were they inspired by a favourite place of yours? If not, where did the inspiration come from?
Joelle’s bakery and Max’s bookstore sprouted from my imagination. I’m a big fan of both bakeries and bookstores, and I always thought it would be cute for a bakery and a bookstore to be located right next door to each other, in the same building.
“The Boy with the Bookstore” is an incredibly heart-warming book, and although Joelle and Max go through a lot of hardship in both their careers and their relationship, they find the way to each other’s hearts. Did you pull inspiration for your book from real life experiences?
Yes, a lot of what Joelle and Max struggle with are things that I’ve dealt with. Joelle’s family is a huge part of her life, specifically figuring out how to maintain her connection to them while she becomes more independent and discovers what she wants to do in her own life. That’s something I can very much relate to coming from a close-knit Filipino-American family. I think she ends up finding a good balance at the end, but it’s a struggle for her to get there. She spends a lot of her life putting her family first and her own dreams on hold. And while her experience isn’t exactly what I’ve gone through, I think a lot of people can relate to feeling the struggle of wanting to be close to their family while at the same time striking out on their own. It can feel like you’re having to choose between yourself and your family at times.
It might be a surprise to hear this, but Max’s experience with being estranged from his family and a bit of a loner is definitely something I can relate to as well. I know what it’s like to cut out a close relative from your life, and I’m definitely someone who prefers to be alone rather than around a lot of people, especially when I’m trying to work through a difficult personal issue. When the people closest to you, like your parents, fail you early in life, you learn to be very self-sufficient. That’s a good and a bad thing, I think. Good because you’re independent and can make it on your own, but bad because you have a hard time trusting people and forming bonds. That’s definitely something I’ve struggled with. It was cathartic in a way to write those similarities in Max’s character.
Joelle’s best friend, Whitney, is a computer programmer and is working on an amazing project called “Chicks who Code”, which aims to get young women to join the STEM field. How important was it for you to talk about the lack of diversity in the science and technology industries?
It was really important for me to show that STEM can be accessible for women and girls. Now it’s definitely more encouraged for girls and women to pursue STEM as a career, but there’s still a lot of sexism and hurdles to overcome. And showing a character like Whitney excelling in that field was important to me too. She’s very much a glam girl, not the typical nerdy stereotype that a lot of people picture when they think of a STEM professional. But I think it’s necessary to show that all sorts of people and personalities are welcome in every career field.
Joelle and Max go through several bumps in their relationship, and their fights had me on the edge of my seat. Although it was stressful to see them fight at times, it also made the story interesting and exciting. Did you set out to achieve this experience for the reader or was there another reason you decided to do this?
Aww so sorry to stress you out haha! But honestly, it was important for me to capture that hostility and hurt feelings in their conflicts and fights because that’s a very, very real thing that everyone goes through. We all know what it’s like to fight with a significant other, to lash out and say hurtful things. It’s an awful thing to do, but it’s also human. And I hope that readers can connect with that experience, to see Joelle and Max hurt each other’s feelings, but also observe the two of them realizing what they did wrong and apologizing to each other. Every single one of us does this in relationships, and it’s important to me to represent that accurately in the romances I write.
This book has two of my favourite book tropes: friends to lovers and forced proximity. If you could any read one trope for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh gosh, that’s such a hard question! So I was going to say enemies-to-lovers because that’s one of my all-time favorite tropes, but now I think I’d rather read fake relationship. There’s just something so endearing and delicious seeing two characters go from a no-nonsense setup to slowly falling for one another. It’s so fun and engaging to me.
How do you come up with interesting characters? And how do you get to know those characters well enough to write a great story about them?
Haha I think I just have a weird brain! As a writer, I feel like I’m always thinking of story ideas and observing the things around me and automatically thinking of how I could turn it into a character or a story. I think I just have a very rich and wild imagination, so coming up with characters comes naturally to me. Also, reading a lot helps, as does watching lots of shows and movies in the genre that I write. It’s like a constant stream of inspiration.
We are starting to see a lot more diversity in romantic comedies, and readers and writers are beginning to realise there are many more cultures out there that need representing. Do you think the publishing industry is doing enough to provide the public with more diverse stories, or is there still a long road ahead of us?
I think the publishing industry has a long way to go to provide marginalized and minority authors a platform to tell their stories. Yes, they’re publishing more diverse books than they used to, but it’s still a tiny fraction of the books that get published. Also, marginalized/minority authors often get less support from publishers (marketing and publicity budgets, distribution, worse contracts, etc.), which is really frustrating because there are a ton of amazing books that readers don’t even know about because their publishers aren’t doing a lot to publicize them and get them into the hands of readers, like they do with other authors. So I’m happy to see progress, it’s just that there’s so much more that needs to be done.
What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
I hope that reading The Boy With The Bookstore makes people feel happy. I hope they see parts of themselves in the characters and relate to their struggles and joyful moments. I hope that when they’re reading it, it’s a fun break from whatever is stressing them out in their lives.
Are there any books within the genre or with similar messages to “The Boy with the Bookstore” you could recommend?
I think Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams is another friends-to-lovers romance with an emotional side plot involving family. I think if you liked The Boy With The Bookstore, you’d really like that book too.
And last but not least, where can everyone get their hands on this amazing story?
You can get The Boy With The Bookstore anywhere books are sold! Go to your local indie bookstore and order it there if you’re able. You can also get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, and any other place that sells books!
Sarah Smith is a copywriter-turned-author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. Her love of romance began when she was eight and she discovered her auntie’s stash of romance novels. She’s been hooked ever since. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate, and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and adorable cat Salem.
Sarah’s Instagram: @authorsarahs
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