Today I am very pleased to welcome author Sarah Sundin to I & R. Sarah was our February Book of the Month winner for The Land Beneath Us. She is a bestselling author of historical novels, including The Land Beneath Us, The Sky Above Us, and The Sea Before Us. Her novel The Sea Before Us won the 2019 Reader’s Choice Award from Faith, Hope, and Love, When Tides Turn and Through Waters Deep were named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years,” and Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award and won the INSPY Award. A mother of three, Sarah lives in California and teaches Sunday school and Bible study. She also enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups. http://www.sarahsundin.com.
Sarah, welcome to Interviews & Reviews!
Since, this is your second time here, I invited our review team members to send me questions for you, if they had any. The first question comes from Marta, who lives in Italy. She asks: Do you have a favourite place to write or do you write anywhere?
I do most of my writing at my desk in my home office. It’s a lovely L-shaped desk with lots of cupboards and drawers, and I have easy access to bookshelves with all my research books. But when I’m outlining, I work by hand, and I often do that curled up on the couch. When my kids were still at home, I wrote anywhere—on the sidelines at soccer games, in the karate studio—I even scribbled down a scene on the back of an envelope standing in line at Disneyland!
Wow! Now, that is dedication to the craft! Marta is also interested to know if you write with pen and paper or do you stick with the computer?
Yes and yes. I do all my brainstorming and most of my outlining work by hand. It seems to stimulate my creativity. But I type the rough draft in the computer, and I do all the edits on the computer.
Mindy asks: What are you working on now?
I just finished my publisher’s first round of edits on my 2021 release, which follows an American foreign correspondent and an American graduate student in Nazi Germany in 1938, right before World War II begins. I’m very excited about this story and can’t wait to share it! And I’m starting outlining my 2022 release, which is set in Paris in 1941.
I can't wait to read those! You do an incredible job of creating realistic characters with moving storylines. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am a far-end-of-the-spectrum plotter. When I start a story, I begin with character questionnaires, getting to know my hero and heroine at a deep level. Next, I look at story structure and get my plot organized, working around historical events. But the characters are the heart of the story, so I work really hard to make sure their emotional journey is realistic.
In the Land Beneath Us, you have a Prodigal Son theme throughout the story, that actually tied all three books in the Sunrise at Normandy series together. When you begin a story, do you think of a theme or message you are trying to convey first, or does that come as you are writing?
The theme usually arises when I’m developing the story, and it comes out of the characters and what they’re going through. For the Sunrise at Normandy series, I saw the various angles to the Prodigal Son story in my three brothers very early. But sometimes the theme doesn’t come through until I’m writing the rough draft. No matter what, I always discover different levels to the theme as I’m writing, which is a lot of fun.
Finally, what have you been doing during this COVID-19 crisis (besides writing) to maintain your sanity? And do you have a Scripture reference that you have been leaning on?
Since I work from home and my husband’s job as a pharmacist is essential, my day-to-day life isn’t affected as much as most people’s—although I dearly miss in-person church, my small group, the gym, and seeing my friends. I’ve been taking a lot of walks and keeping up with my friends through social media and video chats.
My women’s Bible study group has been studying the book of James—via Zoom now! James 1:2-4 is a good reminder during challenging times: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Joy! Joy in these circumstances—ALL circumstances—because if we live by faith, we’ll grow in perseverance and maturity. And that gives me joy.
An excellent verse to hold onto during these trying times. Thank you so much for stopping by Sarah. For those of you who have not read any books from Sarah's Sunrise at Normandy series, it is an excellent series to get into during this pandemic. Click on the books below to check them all out!