Friday, April 2, 2010

Interview with Sarah Sundin - Author

A Distant Melody is Sarah's debut novel and first in the Wings of Glory series that chronicles the lives and loves of the three Novak brothers during WW II. If you missed my review it is on and here.

Now let me introduce you to Sarah Sundin.

Thank you Sarah for taking the time to answer a few questions.

1. Who or what has influenced you the most in your career?

That’s to be a group effort! I’ve been taught, influenced, and encouraged by my critique group (Diablo Valley Christian Writers), the faculty at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and the membership of American Christian Fiction Writers. I told my editor I needed an acknowledgments novel, not an acknowledgments page!

2. Please tell us what you are most passionate about outside of writing.

Teaching is my primary spiritual gift, and one I enjoy practicing. I love it when the Lord puts words in my mouth and I see the light of understanding in someone’s eyes. Currently I teach Sunday school for fourth- and fifth-graders, and women’s Bible studies. Someday I hope to teach about writing as well.

3. It is interesting to note you are a hospital pharmacist. Many people might think a pharmacist would write books with a medical slant. What motivated you to write in your current genre of historical romantic fiction?

Hmm, the world’s first pharmacy thriller… “Run, everyone, it’s an…an…I can’t bear to say it…an expired tablet!!!” No, people choose pharmacy because it’s quiet and sterile.

I chose historical romantic fiction because that’s what the story required. However, I have put my pharmacy education to use. My characters keep ending up in the hospital (I’m so mean), so I have to treat them. And in the second book in the series, the heroine is a nurse.

4. A Distant Melody is the first in a series of three. What was your inspiration for a WWII love story?

It came out of a “what if” question—what if a man and woman met at an event, truly clicked, and parted before exchanging contact info? Wouldn’t it be romantic if he went through great effort to track her down? It wouldn’t work in a contemporary setting—he’d “Google” her—but it made a sweet premise for a historical. My husband and I watched a History Channel special on the US Eighth Air Force based in England which flew over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, and I had my link. My great-uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot with the Eighth, so I had access to family stories plus his personal letters.

5. What or who was the inspiration in creating Allie and the Novak brothers?

I visited a particularly gorgeous friend after her daughter was born. The first words I heard the mom say were, “Thank goodness she’s pretty.” My thought? What if she wasn’t pretty? That thought expanded—what would happen to a plain-looking daughter of a woman who thought beauty was a virtue? Would she think she could never find true love?

So, Walt came about primarily as Allie’s counterpart. I gave him two brothers and no sisters so he’d be clueless about women. A Distant Melody was intended to be a standalone book, but my research on the Eighth Air Force fascinated me, and when a heroine popped into my head who was the perfect foil for Walt’s brother Jack, I knew I had to do a trilogy. Each book focuses on a different brother, and the Wings of Glory series spans the entire history of the Eighth Air Force from late 1942 through V-E Day.

I am glad to hear that. You had me on the edge of my seat toward the end of A Distant Melody and I didn't want it to end.

6. What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual story?

I am definitely an outline writer. First of all, I do my research. It’s frustrating to get halfway through a book and realize a crucial part of your story won’t work historically. I also do lots of pre-writing, including character charts, a plot chart to track story arcs, and scene lists with everything from the date, the weather, outfits, goals and conflict, and scene ideas. Then comes the rough draft. I’m odd—I write the first draft longhand, but when I cuddle on my couch with pencil and paper, the writing flows. I enter each chapter in the computer a few weeks afterward, which serves as my first edit. Once my rough draft is complete, I do a content edit, analyzing the story and characters. Finally, I do a thorough copy edit before turning it in to my publisher.

Sarah, my hand is getting cramps! Ahh, the writer's life. But I understand how valuable research is.

7. What type of books did you read as a child?

Anything I could get my hands on! I’m surprised I didn’t wear out my library card. Favorites included the Little House on the Prairie series, the Betsy-Tacy series, Marguerite Henry’s horse books (I met her once!), and biographies. Although I never cared for history in school—note the irony—I loved reading historical fiction and biographies. They made history come to life.

8. Have you always written in the historical romance genre? What other genre calls out to you if any.

Before I started the Wings of Glory series, I wrote two contemporary romances that were absolutely horrible. I’m thankful I never showed them to anyone in the publishing industry. I could see myself writing a contemporary romance or women’s fiction, but right now I’m enjoying historicals.

I would love to read a women's fiction story by you!

9. What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are just beginning in their career?

Be teachable and soak up all the good instruction you can. Read books on writing craft, and then read your favorite authors and analyze how they did it.
Join ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Their e-zine, e-mail loop, and monthly courses are outstanding.

Join a local writers’ group or an on-line critique group. Don’t submit to agents and editors until you’re ready. That means a complete manuscript, positive feedback from experienced writers, and enough knowledge of the publishing industry to know how to submit properly. You want your first impression to be stellar.
Lastly, when you’re ready, submit and keep submitting. Keep polishing your craft, and keep praying for the Lord’s guidance.

10. What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you? Any special strategies you'd like to share?

My book’s only been on the market for a few weeks, so I have no idea if my promotion is working. What I’ve done that seems effective:
a) Blog interviews like this one. Each interview exposes your book to people outside your sphere of influence.
b) My publisher gave me book copies for “influencers.” These people have been wonderful. They’re posting reviews, chatting it up on Facebook, recommending it to their book clubs and libraries, and one woman—also a close friend—made a vintage 1940s apron with my book cover on the pocket and donated it to a fabric store. The store owner displayed the apron in the store window and recommended the book to her book club!
c) Facebook has been a great way for me to connect with people—other writers, old friends, and new readers. It’s a powerful tool—but like all powerful tools, it can be misused. Sales pitches turn me off, and I don’t want to be pushy. Ick.
d) Bookmarks generously distributed. I carry them everywhere. Whenever someone asks about my book, I give them a bookmark. Also my friends and influencers hand them out in droves. I’ve already gone through my first lot of one thousand bookmarks, and I’m working on the second.

Wow, Sarah,a thousand book marks! Now that is awesome. It is clear that "word of mouth" marketing is still a solid strategy. Thanks again for your time. We will all be waiting for book two.

Sarah Sundin can be found at her website A Distant Melody is a wonderful book and I strongly recommend you put it on your list of must reads.