DUET by Robert Elmer – An Interview with RTR Reviewer Linda Baldwin
Thanks for agreeing
to do this interview. It’s so much fun to pick the brain of male
Tell us a little
about Robert Elmer: how long have you been writing? Are you married?
Have any children? Pets? Hobbies?
RE: I’ve been
writing since I was eight years old, when I created a family newspaper.
I’ve been a news writer and editor, freelance writer and advertising
writer. My first novel for younger readers, A Way Through the Sea,
released in 1994. My wife Ronda and I have three kids—two in college
(Moody Bible Institute) and one on the way to college. We’re near empty
nesters, though our cocker spaniel/sheltie named Freckles remains home.
When I’m not writing I love spending time with my family, traveling with
Ronda (usually to speak at schools), hiking and boating. I love being on
and around the water.
You have a few
pretty cool book series out, will you tell us about the books br (before
RE: It started with
“The Young Underground” series (eight books), which were inspired by
stories from my parents of their youth in
Denmark during World
War 2. Next came the “Adventures Down Under” (also eight books), stories
which follow an Irish family to
during the wild pioneer days of the 1860s. The “Promise of Zion” series
(six books) takes up where “Underground” left off, and follows two young
people through the exciting days of 1947 and 1948 in
Most recently I wrote the “AstroKids” series (ten books), which is a
wild and crazy look at life on a space station in the year 2175. Kind of
a Christian “Jetsons.” And now I’m on to a new series for kids called “HyperLinkz,”
which follows two normal kids from Normal, Illinois literally into the
Internet. The first two books of this new series release in May, 2004.
What’s a typical day
RE: That’s one of
the fun parts of my job—no day is really “typical.” Today I’m working on
a rough draft of another new “HyperLinkz” novel. Yesterday I was
composing ideas for a new novel proposal. Last week I was in
Chicago and Detroit,
leading young writers workshops at Christian elementary schools. In a
few weeks I’ll dive into serious research on life in
during the Cold War. So my schedule is always changing, always new. Can
you tell I love this job?
What is your writing
place like? What’s your must have writing thing? (Chair, pen, book,
music, candle, etc.)
RE: My writing place
is a small bedroom in our house, dominated on two sides by a large
writing desk where I park my computer and printer, along with enough
counter space to spread out my notes when I’m in the research or
composing stages. I like to spread out as much as possible. But my years
as a journalist helped me not only with deadlines, but with the idea of
making each moment count. So when we’re on the road my wife often
drives, while I plug in my laptop and try to write a few more chapters.
So I don’t have too many writing “things,” though I do like the comfy
office chair my wife got me from Costco. Sometimes I play Irish music to
Do you consider THE
DUET a romance or woman’s fiction or just fiction? Why?
RE: You can tell a
romance by a simple test: Is there any story left if you took out the
romantic or relational elements? In this case, THE DUET depends on the
interaction and deepening attraction between Joan and Gerrit. So
although this brand of romance may be lighter than most, and it involves
older characters, it is integral to the story. It’s marketed as
contemporary fiction and I hope it’s shelved that way in most
bookstores, but yes it’s a (lite) romance. Just don’t tell potential men
Whose story is THE
DUET? Gerrit? Joan? (I’ve got my own idea) When you wrote it whose
story were you telling?
RE: One could argue
that it’s Gerrit’s story because the book takes place mainly on his
“turf.” And if you counted up the number of scenes told from his
perspective (I never actually did) I would guess it’s 55 percent to 45
percent in his favor. However, I am much more like Joan in personality
and background, and I invested a lot of emotions in her character, as
well. Before I began the book, I actually was a bit afraid of not being
able to create a significant female character, but that’s not the way it
turned out. So I don’t think her character is any less significant, and
in that sense it’s a 50-50 book.
Your descriptions of
the town, town fair, and surroundings are real. How much of it is
RE: Quite a bit. One
of my favorite local events, for example, is the annual Northwest
Washington Fair, held in my town. I try to attend every year, and two
years ago I wandered the fair for hours, pen and notebook in hand,
recording everything. Other descriptions of the town and the surrounding
farms come from living here, following a dairy farmer on his rounds,
that sort of thing. The Appeldoorn farm is based on a farm we drive by
every week on the way to church.
I pass through the
city you live in every time I go to
I can see many of things in your book that could be true of Lynden. How
RE: While Lynden,
Washington is the inspiration for the fictional town of Van Dalen, it’s
a loose inspiration. For one thing, the whole Dutch aspect is heightened
in the story. (Lynden is Dutch, but not <that> Dutch!)
How did you research
the two different religions?
RE: My family and I
attended a Nazarene fellowship several years ago and have basically come
from that kind of evangelical tradition. We attend a Baptist church
today, but have also enjoyed EV Free, Christian & Missionary Alliance,
and Grace Brethren churches. So I had a pretty good idea where Joan
would be coming from. Gerrit, on the other hand, took a little more
research, though that wasn’t difficult because the town where we live is
heavily populated by churches in the Reformed tradition. I highly
respect these wonderful churches and appreciate the positive impact they
have had on our part of the country. We attended services at a local
Reformed congregation, and I did careful, extensive Internet and library
research on the denominations within that tradition.
Were you afraid of
insulting readers with the little battle the two main characters have
over their perspective religions?
RE: I was sensitive
to that, and I listened carefully to any comments from Reformed friends
who read the initial manuscript. Yet the story means to show how
believers from opposite ends of a theological spectrum can find common
ground in Christ—which is a message for the church today. Please note,
however, that I’m not talking about compromising on the fundamentals of
the Christian faith! It’s just easy to lose sight of how passionately
Jesus prayed that believers would be one. So it must be do-able without
watering down or compromising the Biblical truths which define us as
Christians. That’s what Gerrit and Joan grappled with in the story.
The Duet is warm and
wonderful story. I love the characters, (although I must confess I was
a little put off by the son and his wife – what are they thinking? You
want to say – ‘hey, stop the frivolous stuff and get serious about this
will ya?!’) Anyway, thanks for taking time to do the interview and for
sending the book. I’m awarding it the Road To Romance Reviewers Award.
Linda Mae Baldwin