Monday, April 26, 2010

Sarah Sundin’s first novel, A Distant Melody, was released in March 2010 by Revell. She lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to soccer and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.

When did you decide to be a writer?

January 6, 2000. How’s that for exact? Although I always read voraciously, I didn’t consider a writing career. Instead I chose a practical career in pharmacy which allowed me to work on-call and stay home with our three children. Then in 2000, I had a dream with such intriguing characters that I felt compelled to write their story.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

Over eight years. A Distant Melody is actually the third complete novel I wrote. The first two novels will never be published, nor should they, but they got me started.

Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?

Be teachable and learn as much as you can about the craft of writing and the publishing process. Join a writers’ group, attend conferences, read books on writing, and join American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

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.

Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?

I didn’t realize how much juggling I would do with different projects. Currently I’m doing publicity for A Distant Melody, doing edits with Revell on Book 2, A Memory Between Us, polishing Book 3 before I turn it in, and preparing a proposal for another series.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

Most people think I’m disciplined, but it’s more that I love writing so much it takes discipline for me to do the other things in my life. However, right now I’m restructuring my time to deal with the new business activities I need to manage.

What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

Can you hear me laughing? My kids are in high school and middle school, so I live in my car—go, go, go. Writing is what helps me relax when I step away from my other responsibilities.

What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?

It may be cliché, but all of Jane Austen’s novels—Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice are my favorites. Austen has it all—laugh-out-loud humor, snappy dialogue, well-drawn characters, and endings that make you feel all warm and gooey inside. Another thing I love about Austen is that the rogues turn out to be—well, rogues, while the heroes are quiet men of integrity. Most romances hold up the “bad boy” as hero, and I don’t think that’s healthy. Too many women follow that example and choose charm over character—and regret it.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

In so many ways. Of course I observe the mechanics of how the author constructs sentences and scenes, how they evoke emotion, etc. More importantly, a good novel gets my imagination humming.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

In A Distant Melody, Lt. Walter Novak flies a B-17 bomber in battles over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II, while Allie Miller serves in the Red Cross against the wishes of her wealthy parents and controlling fiancé in California. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and begin a correspondence. As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

Where did you get your inspiration for A Distant Melody?

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. My research fascinated me so much, the story expanded to become a trilogy, with each book focusing on one of three brothers.

Which character is most like you?

That’s hard to say. Any time one of my characters starts to sound too much like me I know it’s time for me to back up and get out of the way.

Who is your favorite character and why?

I adore Walt and Allie, my hero and heroine, but my favorite has to be Cressie Watts. I didn’t plan for her—she just showed up. Allie, a wealthy, educated, well-mannered young woman, goes out for a walk after a horrendous day and enters a rundown church. She needs to get away from her parents’ superficial congregation, so I thought she might talk to the pastor. Instead, Allie and I both find—to my surprise—this feisty older woman who ropes Allie into helping her air out the pew cushions. She’s Allie’s opposite in every way—exactly the mentor Allie needs at this point. I adore her brusque ways, her deep faith, and her humor. And there’s a funny story regarding her name too.

Did you know how A Distant Melody would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I knew how it would turn out. I do lots of outlining before I start. However, I was surprised by side characters—like Cressie—and incidents in the story.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

I don’t write with a lesson in mind, but I do hope my readers learn from my characters’ mistakes. I hope they learn the importance of honesty and obeying the Lord no matter the cost, and I hope young women will see that they don’t have to be beautiful to find true love.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

My book’s been on the market for less than two months, 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 my friend Marci Seither 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 to connect with people—other writers, old friends, and new readers.

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.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

A Distant Melody is the first book in the Wings of Glory series, which follows three brothers who fly B-17 bombers with the U.S. Eighth Air Force during World War II. The second book, A Memory Between Us, releases in September 2010, and the third book releases August 2011. I’m preparing a proposal for another World War II series.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

If God has given you a dream, have the courage to do what He asks you to do. Persevere, learn, seek support, and keep praying.
To learn more about Sarah and her work, find her at:
Want more? Stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin.


  1. Very interesting interview! I especially love Sarah's "parting words." Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I would love to win your debut novel. I love WWII historicals. Plus, I get to 'meet' a new author. Please enter me. Thanks.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

  3. I would love to read this!!! Huh, now you made me curious as to what your first two were like!!!martha(at)lclink(dot)com

  4. The cover itself was enough to make me want to read the book. Isn't it gorgeous??

    What about y'all? How important is an appealing cover to you? Will you read a book if the cover doesn't 'grab' you?

  5. "A Distant Melody" sounds so good, I can't wait to read it. And yes, the cover does draw me in! I didn't realize that the book was going to be the first of a three part series and I am so eager for the next two to be released. Your description of "Cressie" sounds wonderful and I'm dying to met her.

    Thank you for the wonderful interview and thanks to Elizabeth for bringing Sarah to us! Please do enter me in for the drawing.



  6. Thanks for dropping by, everyone! Didn't Revell do a fabulous job with the cover? Since I have no artistic ability at all, I'm totally impressed.
    Martha - no, you do not want to read my first two unpublished novels. Horrible. I can't even look at the manuscripts any more - though I still love my characters.

  7. Loved the excerpt!! Certainly makes me want to read more!! And, I want to find out about Sarah's favorite character, Cressie! I always like those brusque, loveable characters!

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy!


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