CAFE: A gathering place. A place of refreshment.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interview with Sarah Sundin

I hope that you all had a chance to read about Sarah Sundin’s newest book, A Memory Between Us, in yesterday’s post. Today, I'm glad to have Sarah with me to answer a few questions.

Thanks, Sarah, for being my guest here at the Café. Congratulations on A Memory Between Us. I’ve been excited about this book for a long time and loved Jack and Ruth’s story. Can you tell us a bit about your writing journey?

I started writing in January 2000 and first submitted the proposal for A Distant Melody to editors and agents in 2003. For five years I received “good” rejection letters—they liked my writing and story and characters—however, historicals weren’t selling. In 2008, publishers wanted historicals again. At Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, I submitted to Vicki Crumpton from Revell, and she offered me a three-book contract. A Distant Melody was released in March 2010, ten years after I started writing.

How did you come up with the idea of the Wings of Glory series? Had you always intended for there to be three books? 

The idea for A Distant Melody 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? My husband and I watched a History Channel special on the US Eighth Air Force based in England during World War II, and I was hooked. My great-uncle was a B-17 pilot with the Eighth, so I had access to his stories and letters.
A Distant Melody was meant to be a standalone, but while doing research, I became enamored with the Eighth Air Force and wanted to tell the full story to V-E Day. Since my hero had two pilot brothers, I decided to write a series, with each book focusing on one brother.

Having read the first two now, it’s quite obvious that meticulous research goes into your writing. Can you tell me a bit about how you do research? 

I have to confess, I have over two hundred books and websites in my bibliography for this series. Yes, that’s sick. I started with basic texts on World War II, then got more detailed. Bibliographies are a great resource—when a book is mentioned in multiple bibliographies, it warrants attention. On the internet I found a company that sells copies of the actual B-17 pilot’s manual and the training film, which were pure gold! For A Memory Between Us, I did lots of research into nursing during World War II, flight nursing, and Army hospitals.

Two hundred sources in your bibliography? That is some serious research, Sarah. Wow. But you mentioned you have real life inspiration through your great uncle as well. Did you have him in mind with any particular character from your books? 

I based the career of Jack Novak, the middle brother and the hero of A Memory Between Us, on my great-uncle’s career. But Jack’s looks, personality, family, life-story, and romance are purely fictional. My great-uncle, Roderick Stewart (yes, the original Rod Stewart), was a true character, and no fictional character could have done him justice. By the way, Carla and I are not related…no nepotism here.

Well, I am honored that we have the same name in common! I’m fascinated with the way you’re able to put the reader spot-on in the setting. Have you been to England and seen the places you write about? How about the military planes? Have you flown in one? 

I was blessed with a husband with frequent flier miles. He took me to England in 2002 and 2003 without kids (romantic!!!) when I was in the early stages of writing the trilogy. I visited London and Bury St. Edmunds, and traipsed through the ruined abbey—which I had to put in A Memory Between Us. As for the B-17s, the Collings Foundation and the Experimental Aircraft Association tour the country with beautifully restored B-17s—and you can walk through them for a nominal fee. Wow! When you crawl through the narrow passageways, duck through the doorways, and poke your head into the top turret—and then imagine doing it as a full-grown man with bulky high-altitude flying gear in subzero temperatures under fighter attack—it gives you a new level of appreciation for what the airmen went through. Both organizations offer flights in the B-17s, but I’ve balked at the price. Some day…

What do you want the reader to gain from reading A Memory Between Us? Is there a particular take away you have in mind? 

I never write a novel with a message in mind, but I do hope my readers will learn from my characters’ experiences. Shame serves a purpose—to bring you to ask God’s forgiveness—but when it persists after forgiveness, that’s not God talking. Shame burdens so many people and holds them back from the wonderful plans God has for them. I hope my readers will learn to truly accept forgiveness, shove off shame, and allow God to use them. I also hope they see the insidious nature of pride and learn to trust in the Lord a bit more each day.

Your spiritual threads are quite organic to the story, Sarah. Very practical, which leads me a practical question. What have you learned between the publication of A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us? Any marketing secrets you’d like to share? 

I sure wish there was some way to measure which marketing techniques work and which are a waste of time and money. I’m still new at this, but what I’ve done that seems effective:
a)    Blog interviews like this one. Each interview exposes my book to people outside my sphere of influence.
b)    My publisher gave me book copies for “influencers.” These people have been wonderful. They’ve posted reviews, chatted it up on Facebook, recommended it to their book clubs and libraries, and my friend Marci Seither made a vintage 1940s apron with the book cover for A Distant Melody 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. I like that personal touch.
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. Low tech but effective.
e)    Local speaking. I’m still getting started in this, but lately I’ve spoken to middle schoolers, the women’s club, and the Soroptomists. Speaking at the women’s club led to two local newspaper features on me and my book. Those women know people!

Coffee? Tea? Sparkling mineral water? Or . . .
Yes, please! Well, I’ll pass on the mineral water, but I love anything in the caffeine family. Coffee with a dash of milk and flavored syrup, tea (hot or iced), and generic diet cola. Lots of it.

Sarah, you’re getting great reviews and gaining a lot of fans (including my husband and me). Congratulations! One last question:

Please tell us where to find you on the web and the burning question in all of our minds – when does book three come out? Title? 

The third book is called Blue Skies Tomorrow, and it comes out August 2011.
You can find me on the web (and please come visit) at:

Thanks, Sarah. I love the title Blue Skies Tomorrow. And thank you readers for sharing this time with us . . .

A reminder: If you haven’t entered Sarah’s Movie and Memory prize package, check it out on yesterday’s post.


Michelle said...

Great interview, Carla! I really enjoyed learning more about you and your writing, Sarah!

I will be reading A Memory Between Us very soon!


carla stewart said...

Thanks, Michelle! Sarah is a delight AND very smart. Hope you'll read her newest book soon.