At the end I will post links to my reviews of Ms. Sundin's books. They are pretty much the only World War II novels that I have truly enjoyed.
Sara: Hello, Sarah! It is a pleasure to be able to ask you some questions about your books and about yourself! Please tell our readers a little about yourself and how you got started as an author.
Sarah: Just your ordinary stay-at-home mom/pharmacist/author. My husband and I live in northern California, and our three children are in various stages of fluttering out of the nest—our daughter is getting married this summer! I never planned to write novels—I majored in chemistry and earned a doctorate in pharmacy. But in 2000, I got slammed with a story idea that wouldn’t leave me alone, and I had to write it. That first novel will never be published, but it got me started.
Sara: What do you like most about writing? Is there anything about writing that you do not particularly like?
Sarah: I love almost every part. I love playing with new story ideas and getting to know my characters. I love the heady, falling-in-love feeling when the rough draft is flowing and dialogue is zinging. I love the research and the editing. And I like many of the extra things authors need to do—speaking, teaching, and connecting on social media. When I’m in the middle of plotting a novel, I grumble and whine about how much I hate it. But when it all swoops together, it’s such a thrill.
Sara: Your books all take place during World War II, which I have to admit was not one of my favorite settings for historical fiction…until I read your books! You really have a way of taking a difficult time period and turning it into a story full of hope. What do you like most about this time period, and how do you make your stories hopeful instead of disheartening?
Sarah: What appeals to me about the World War II era is how a divided people came together to fight for freedom and how ordinary men and women learned they could do extraordinary things. World War II showed us the worst things humanity is capable of, but it showed the best of humanity and good prevailing over evil. I love writing fiction set during this era, because I can explore how individual men and women not only survived these difficult times, but thrived in them through their faith.
Sara: I also like that your novels are filled with historical details about the war but that they never get boring. How do you weave these details into the story without it getting bogged down?
Sarah: I slash and burn. I love the history so much that I have to restrain myself from throwing in all the great tidbits I learned. My rough drafts always have too much detail, but in the edits I hack out great chunks—and my editor hacks out even more. I keep reminding myself to include only what the reader needs to know to understand the story. Nothing more. Slash and burn.
Sara: Another thing that I really appreciate about your novels is how the spiritual aspects shine through so well. Is it difficult to incorporate Christ in your novels and have it feel natural as opposed to forced?
Sarah: For me, the spiritual aspects arise straight from the characters. I don’t come in with a lesson to teach, but I figure out what my character needs to learn, and then I put her in situations that challenge her and help her grow.
Sara: I really enjoyed your recent Christmas novel Where Treetops Glisten that you co-authored with Tricia Goyer and Cara Putman – especially since it took place in my hometown! Please tell us a little about the research you did for that novel and how you all worked together to make it a reality.
Sarah: That was so much fun! Cara asked Tricia and me if we’d like to write a Christmas novella collection set in WWII—and we loved the idea. Cara and Tricia brought so many great ideas and such energy to the project, and I—well, I made charts and spreadsheets to keep us organized. Sigh. That’s what I do.
Researching Lafayette, Indiana during World War II was a lot of fun. Not only could I find a lot of information online, but Cara lives in Lafayette! I spent a few days with her family, and she took me to all the sites, where I took gobs of pictures. Then I spent an afternoon in the library looking at wonderful issues of the Lafayette Journal & Courier from December 1943! And the phone book! What a treasure trove.
Sara: If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would go to Germany. Where would you go?
Sarah: I love Germany! My family spent the summer of 2007 in Mannheim, and it was spectacular. I’m also extremely fond of Britain, Scotland, and Italy. I’d be torn between revisiting a favorite location and exploring somewhere new. Wanderlust runs wild in my family.
Sara: I am so excited to read your upcoming novel Through Waters Deep, the first in your new Waves of Freedom series, which is due to release this August. Can you give our readers a little preview?
Sarah: I’m thrilled about this new series, which follows three American naval officers during the Battle of the Atlantic. Through Waters Deep is set in 1941, when the US was officially neutral, but our warships escorted British convoys—and were exchanging fire with German U-boats. One US destroyer and five US merchant ships were sunk—before Pearl Harbor!
In Through Waters Deep, Ensign Jim Avery serves on a destroyer based in Boston, and his childhood friend, Mary Stirling, works as a secretary at the Boston Navy Yard. When evidence of sabotage is found on Jim’s ship, Jim and Mary work together to uncover the culprit. As America teeters on the brink of war, Jim and Mary’s friendship teeters on the brink of romance. Action, mystery, romance…with a side of Boston cream pie.
Sara: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions for our site! We look forward to reading and reviewing your future novels!