Today we premier our first author interview in our new “Inside the Writer’s Life“. This series will be a regular and ongoing portion of our column.
Women continually find entertainment, inspiration and support in their life’s journey from the wisdom, insight and stories written by women “just like them”. Ordinary women who at some point in their life, knew they had something to say.
These authors bring their own brand of insight, wit, charm, and experience to you.
Today’s interview is with a wonderful and exciting new Christian author whose first book (sure to be a best seller) is scheduled for release this March.
Author Sarah Sundin, a Pharmacist by trade, leads a busy life, “Between writing and driving kids to soccer and karate, I work one evening a week as a hospital pharmacist, teach Sunday school to fourth- and fifth-graders, and teach women’s Bible studies.”
Along with her writing, Sarah is also available for speaking engagements and has a wide range of topics that will open your heart and let the fresh air of the Spirit breathe new life into your soul.
Thank you Sarah for your interview here today.
Q: How did you get started writing?
A: I grew up surrounded by books, so I’ve always loved reading, stories, and writing. However, I never considered a career in writing until 2000. In January I had a dream with such compelling characters that I had to write their story. That book will never and should never be published, but it got me started.
Q: How old were you?
Q: After you first started writing–how long was if before you were published?
A: I started writing in 2000, started submitting in 2003, received a three-book contract offer in 2008, and the first novel will be released March 2010.
Q: Do you have a particular degree or other educational experience that has helped you write well?
A: I’m laughing because my bachelor’s degree is in chemistry and my doctorate is in pharmacy. My degrees taught me to write with numbers and equations rather than words. One thing I did learn from scientific writing was how to be concise and precise without the flowery words I loved in high school.
Q: What compels you or has influenced you in your writing?
A: I’m compelled by the stories in my head that simply must be written down. My influences are hard to pinpoint since I’ve loved so many books. It may be cliché, but an author I keep coming back to is Jane Austen. She has it all—laugh-out-loud humor, snappy dialogue, well-drawn characters, and endings that make you feel all warm and gooey inside.
Q: How many hours a day do you spend writing?
A: I average twenty hours per week.
Q: I like to make a cup of hot tea, have some chocolate on hand (to keep my brain happy) and sit on the couch when I write, but sometimes I sit at my grandma’s desk- do you have any favorite places and routines when you write?
A: Kindred spirits! I’m a couch writer too, maybe because I associate curling up on the couch with a good book. And hot tea and chocolate definitely fuel my creativity. However, the necessities of life have taught me to write wherever and whenever possible. Once I penned a wonderful scene on the back of an envelope while standing in line at Disneyland.
Q: Who are your mentor(s) and supporters?
Too many to count! First of all, I’ve learned so much from my critique group (Diablo Valley Christian Writers) and from the faculty at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and from the membership of American Christian Fiction Writers. My supporters include my entire church family, which has prayed for me since I began this adventure, and especially my book club.
Q: When you first started writing, what was the biggest mystery to you about the process of publishing? And now?
A: In the scientific field good work leads to results as surely as a mathematic formula. However, the publishing field has many mystifying variables—timing, trends, what the publisher just bought, name recognition, and taste for example. Some of the best writers I know do not have a publishing contract, and many lesser writers are multi-published. I’ve come to accept it if not completely understand it.
Q: What steps did you take to get your work published?
A: I went through writers’ conferences. Most publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so conferences are a great way to meet editors and agents, and to pitch or submit your project. My sale came from a submission to Vicki Crumpton from Revell at Mount Hermon.
Q: Tell me about the day you first received word that your first work was accepted. What was it like? What did you do?
A: When my novel went to committee, I kept the phone in hand’s reach and checked my inbox constantly. A few days later I received an e-mail from Vicki. My heart sank. I thought good news came by phone (they call it The Call after all) and rejections by e-mail.
Her message started, “I have good news for you.” Good news? I know God can use rejections for good, but still. I had to read the message twice to realize they were offering me a contract. Then I squawked like a teenage girl and did some pathetic hand-flapping thing.
My kids ran in to see what was going on, and I said, “I’m getting published! I’m getting published!” My level-headed oldest son slapped the phone into one of my hands (between flaps) and told me to call my husband. To celebrate, I went to work at the hospital pharmacy that night. Bummer, huh?
Q: Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
A: Oh yes. Right now I’m spending about half my writing time in on-line or publicity activities rather on actual writing. It’s necessary (and usually enjoyable), but surprising.
Q: How do you deal with writers block?
A: I hate to incur the wrath of writers everywhere, but I don’t get blocked. I’ve usually played with my scenes so much in my head that when I sit down to write, they flow.
Q: Was your work ever rejected? If so, how did you react?
A: Many times. When I first started submitting, historical fiction wasn’t selling well. I mostly received “good” rejection letters—they liked my writing, story, and characters, but not my genre.
This was discouraging, of course. I kept praying about it, giving it back to the Lord, and when He prompted me to keep writing, I did. During this time, I kept learning the craft through conferences and books so if the market ever turned around (and it did), I would have a polished manuscript ready to go.
Q: What are your biggest distractions?
A: My biggest distraction is a yellow Labrador retriever named Daisy, Satan’s emissary to keep me from writing. When the kids are at school and my husband’s at work, I assume it’s writing time. Daisy tells me it’s play time! Always play time! And if I don’t play, she eats the house.
Q: What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
A: I’m still new at this! I’ve had many high points—from the first time an author told me my work was publishable to the contract offer to my first endorsement to times my friends read my manuscript in a three-ring binder and said it touched their hearts.
The worst? I could point to rejection letters, but I shouldn’t because they made me grow as a writer and led me to lean on the Lord.
Q: What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
A: Least? Getting permission to use song lyrics in my novels. A royal pain.
Most? Getting so carried away in a scene that the world slips away.
Q: What is the role and importance of an agent?
A: As soon as I had a contract offer, I contacted my dream literary agency, and they signed me within a few days. Although my agent didn’t help obtain this particular sale, she’ll be invaluable when it’s time to submit again.
In the meantime, she has helped so much with contract negotiations, discussions with the publisher about titles and cover art, feedback on the other manuscripts in the series, and career advice. I couldn’t do it without her.
Q: What advice would you give to new writers?
A: 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). Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep praying.
Q: What is your personal ministry focus?
A: My primary spiritual gift is teaching, and I feel strongly led to help others grow in their personal walks with Christ. Currently I teach Sunday school for fourth- and fifth-graders as well as a women’s Bible study. I think it’s important for a writer to stay grounded in their home church and give of themselves there.
Q: Can you share your personal testimony with our readers.
A: My testimony might be considered dull. I was raised attending church and accepted Christ at the age of ten. I turned away from God and the church in college (I call them my “stupid years”) but came back in my early twenties.
Since then, God has continued to work in my life and cause me to grow. If you’d told me in college what I’m doing now, I would have laughed. I’m sure many of my college friends would be mystified at me now.
Q: Do you have anything else you would like to share with our readers?
A: I have friends who served as missionaries in Chad at the same time I was in my rejection letter phase. While in Chad, they formed deep friendships with Muslims and used their nursing skills to care for them, but not one person dedicated their life to Christ.
My friends quoted Mother Teresa: “God doesn’t require us to succeed; He only requires that you try.” If God has called you to do something for Him, measure your success through His eyes: Did you obey? Were you faithful? Did you persevere?
Q: When you see God, what do you want to ask him?
A: Why mosquitoes?
Where can our readers find your book?
A Distant Melody, the first book in the Wings of Glory series, will be published March 2010 by Revell.
A Distant Melody is available now for pre-order at Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, Barnes & Noble, and from your local independent Christian Book Store such as The Door in San Carlos, CA who recently hosted a book signing featuring Sarah and four other excellent San Francisco Bay Area Authors.
In March, A Distant Melody, will be available at bookstores nationwide. The second book in the series, A Memory Between Us, will be released Fall 2010, and the third book will be released Fall 2011.
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: Sarah Sundin
Blog: Sarah Sundin Blog
Follow Sarah Sundin on Facebook
Publishing information and Agent for Sarah Sundin:
Publisher: Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Agent: Rachel Zurakowski with Books & Such Literary Agency