Author Interview: Barbara Ridley When it's Over

Welcome readers, to another edition of Author Interviews. Today we are talking with Barbara Ridley  about history, writing, and her book, a fictionalized story of her mother's experience during the Holocaust. I hope you enjoy it! 

JMR-Welcome to the Books Delight, Barbara. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like?

BR- Thank you so much for having me! I am originally from England, but I have lived most of my adult life in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, which I love. My favorite things to do include hiking, hanging out with friends and family, walking my dog, and cooking. I have been retired for five years now, and I am so grateful to be able to devote my time to writing. My perfect day is going for a walk in the mountains or by the ocean, while I ponder where to go next in a piece I am working on, returning to my desk and managing to get it down on the page. Then cooking an exciting new recipe, having it turn out perfectly, and sharing it with the people I love.


JMR-What’s your favorite historical time period? Why?

BR- It has to be World War II. It was such a watershed moment, with a huge impact all over the globe, and the first war to truly involve so many civilians as well as those fighting on the battlefields. Ordinary people faced extraordinary challenges and dilemmas. I am amazed at the wealth of new stories from the era that continue to be uncovered today, stories from some new corner or a twist on a familiar scenario previously untold. 


JMR-Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question, what would it be?

BR- To choose just one is very hard! But the idea of being able to ask one question prompted me to think of Amelia Earhart. She was so courageous and such a pioneer – in the field of aviation obviously, but also so ahead of her time in her views on marriage, practical clothing for active women, and the role of women in general. She also trained as nurses’ aide in order to care for the wounded during WWI and then those affected by the 1918 flu pandemic, which resulted in her becoming very sick herself. She contracted pneumonia and developed a chronic sinusitis which would plague her for the rest of her life. But she overcame that, and the impact of the financial crisis of the 1920’s that wiped out the family fortune forcing her to fend for herself. So, much to admire. And the question, of course, is what happened on that fateful last flight?


JMR- You are a retired nurse, (me too) when did you first get the urge to write? When did you first call yourself a writer?

BR- I never saw myself as a writer until I started working on my debut  novel “When It’s Over.” I’d written professional papers that had been published in peer-reviewed academic journals, but had never taken any creative writing classes in college and knew nothing about how to write fiction. But I was inspired to write this novel after the death of my mother in 2002. A friend of mine, a woman I had known for over 30 years, asked me how it was exactly that my mother had ended up living in England, so I started to tell her—and she said: that is an amazing story! And I realized, yes it is, and I didn’t want that story to die with her death. I had always known the outline of what happened to my mother and her family during World War II, but there were a lot of gaps. So I thought, well I love fiction, I’ll make up what I don’t know, I’ll write a novel.


It was a lot harder than I thought! I made a lot of mistakes at first, but I took classes and attended workshops and I gradually improved. And while I was still in the editing stage, I began to have some short stories and essays accepted for publication, which was thrilling. I remember the first time I received an acceptance, I burst into tears. I could call myself a writer!


JMR- In your blog, you talk about the explosion of WWII and Holocaust books on the market. How does yours stand out from the crowd?

BR- Many readers of “When It’s Over” have commented that they learned things about life in England during the war that they had not previously known. One of the most significant is the treatment of refugees in England, where they faced hostility and discrimination, and for some, internment as “enemy aliens” even though they had fled for their lives from Nazi-occupied territory. Another is the progressive political movement during the last two years of the war which led to the landslide defeat of Churchill’s Conservative Party in the 1945 election, held immediately after the war ended. Most people are surprised to hear about Churchill, the great war hero, being defeated. There was a massive movement for social change and a sense that new leadership was needed to rebuild in peacetime. The novel also highlights many small aspects of everyday life that are not often featured in literature or movies. I did a ton of research and discovered so many delicious details; I had to resist the temptation to squeeze them all in somehow, which would have felt like an information dump. But I believe I struck the right balance.


JMR- Barbara, tell us about your book, When It’s Over.

BR- “When It’s Over” is based on my mother’s story, but it is a fictionalized version. I call my protagonist Lena. She is a young Jewish woman who flees her home in Czechoslovakia with her boyfriend, Otto, a refugee from Nazi Germany. They travel first to Paris and then eventually reach a small village in England where they are sponsored by the wealthy, eccentric Lady of the Manor, but they face anti-refugee sentiment and wartime deprivations, and their relationship becomes strained. As the war progresses, Lena finds herself attracted to another man, and is drawn into the progressive political movement that leads to the landslide defeat of Churchill in the 1945 election. But she’s desperate for news from her mother and sister left behind in Prague.

The novel deals with a lot of hard stuff, but it highlights resilience and hope, and also contains romance and humor, so most readers come away from it finding it uplifting, rather than depressing.


JMR- If your mother was alive today, what do you imagine her reaction would be to your book about her? Do you feel closer to her, having written it?

BR- My mother was very modest, so I can see her giving a wave of dismissal and eschewing the fuss. But at the same time, on the few occasions when she did talk about her experiences, I think she was aware of what an amazing story it was. I’m sure she would be proud of me for the book’s success. Writing the novel certainly made me appreciate what she went through in a new light. She never focused on the emotional impact, so I had to I imagine that in creating my scenes. And I realized how young she and her friends were when they had to run for their lives. By the time I was writing the book, I had a daughter who was in her late teens, so the effect of having to leave home and family at that age was very vivid for me.


JMR-What projects do you have in the pipeline?

BR- I have recently completed a second novel. This is very different, set in contemporary California and based on my years of clinical experience with patients with severe disabilities. It’s a story of a young woman, estranged from her family, who is paralyzed in a car crash and can’t reach her girlfriend, who was also injured but is now home with her homophobic parents who won’t allow contact. A physical therapist on the rehab unit becomes over-involved trying to rescue her, with disastrous consequences in her own life. Like my first novel, it’s a story about resilience and hope.

I also have several short stories out on submission, and I am exploring flash fiction as a new genre.


JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

BR- My website is

I’m on Facebook

And Twitter


JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

BR- I always love it when people about ask about the research I did for “When It’s Over” because I had so much fun with that. I did all the things you would expect—read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and spent hours on the web, where I was able to find a ton of wonderful stuff. But there were a few things I could not find on-line. For example, my mother had told me that she eventually reached England from Paris, just before the Nazis invaded France, and that she flew from Paris to London in March 1940, the first time she had ever flown in an airplane. When I tried to find out what kind of plane this might have been, everything I found on the web told me that there were no flights between France and England after war broke out in September 1939. But I knew my mother could not have been mistaken about the date. It took a visit to an obscure British Airways historical museum and the enthusiasm of an eccentric museum curator to solve that mystery. Flights did resume in November 1939 until the invasion of France, and I was able to obtain not only photos of the aircraft but also the schedule of flights, which was thrilling. 

JMR- Thank you so much, Barbara, for joining us today. What a great story. Readers, I know you'll want to check out Barbara's book, so I've included a link below. 

Readers don't miss a single interview, review or article. Subscribe Today.


Popular Posts