Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Through Waters Deep
It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Handsome and outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. On shore, Jim encounters Mary Stirling, a childhood friend who is now an astute and beautiful Boston Navy Yard secretary.
When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is discovered, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges—and dangers—await them.
“Fascinating history, interesting location, touching romance—Sarah Sundin packs it all in this page-turning story as she takes us Through Waters Deep. Readers are sure to enjoy living this stirring World War II era adventure with Sundin’s characters.”
--Ann H. Gabhart, author of Love Comes Home and The Innocent
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for the Waves of Freedom Series?
Sarah: When I was doing research for my other World War II novels, I noticed some little-known historical tidbits. In 1941, before Pearl Harbor, U-boats sank a US destroyer, damaged another, and sank five American cargo ships. Meanwhile, Americans argued bitterly—was it more dangerous to join the war or to allow the Axis to triumph? I thought this would be a fascinating setting for a story.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Sarah: Ensign Jim Avery is an American naval officer assigned to a new destroyer. He’s easygoing and congenial—but he finds his “float with the current” ways may not be enough as the situation heats up at sea.
Mary Stirling is an efficient secretary at the Boston Navy Yard, content to stay out of the limelight. When evidence of sabotage is found at the shipyard, Mary is thrilled to have her own mystery to solve—if she can do so quietly, without calling attention to herself.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
Sarah: Oh, they each have a secret—which is revealed in the novel!
Brock: In three sentences what is this book about?
Sarah: A country on the brink of war. Two friends on the brink of romance. Three threats to keep them apart.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Sarah: I’m a huge outliner. I have to know the characters thoroughly before I start, and I have a detailed plot outline as well. However, I do discover things as I write the rough draft, and I let them guide the rest of the story. For me, these are usually smaller details rather than huge plot points, but they always make the story richer.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Sarah: Many of us are impeded by our fears or by events from our past that have skewed our thinking. I hope as readers watch Jim and Mary’s struggles that God will work in their hearts in His own unique way. I’m always awed when readers tell me how God used my simple stories to help them grow—often in an area not even addressed in the books! The Lord is amazing!
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
Sarah: I love writing historical romance, and all my novels have been set during World War II. I find the era endlessly fascinating, with millions of stories. And I just can’t imagine writing a novel without a love story in it—hopelessly romantic.
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
Sarah: Three. Through Waters Deep is the first book, Anchor in the Storm will be released in the summer of 2016, and the third book in the winter of 2017.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
Sarah: Way too much research. Since Jim Avery serves as a gunnery officer on a Gleaves-class destroyer, I had to learn about destroyers, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the US Navy in general. I also ended up reading the 500-page Naval Ordnance and Gunnery Manual from 1944. Oh my. That was when I was glad I took all those physics classes as a chemistry major! For Mary’s end of the story, I learned about the Boston Navy Yard during World War II (now the Charlestown Navy Yard). My favorite research was visiting Boston and exploring WWII-era destroyers. And eating Boston cream pie.
Brock: How do you strike the right balance in your book?
Sarah: As much as I love research, I remind myself readers want a story, not a history lesson. I allow myself to write in as much research as I want in the rough draft, then I slash and burn when I edit. And my editor slashes still more. Only what the reader needs to know.
Brock: Why did you choose to focus on a male and female protagonist?
Sarah: I enjoy alternating between hero and heroine. First, it’s fun to watch a romance develop from inside both heads, as they each try to imagine what the other one is thinking and feeling. Second, it allows me to tell two related stories.
Brock: Are you working on the next book in the series?
Sarah: The second book, Anchor in the Storm, is going through edits at my publisher, and I’m busy writing the third book.
Brock: Can you give us a hint at Anchor in the Storm?
Sarah: For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. She loves the wartime challenges of her new job but spurns the attention of society boy Ens. Archer Vandenberg, even if Arch is her brother’s best friend. As Arch’s destroyer battles U-boats along the East Coast in the darkest days of the war, Lillian uncovers a black market drug ring. Arch’s efforts to aid Lillian’s investigation and to win her trust fling them both into danger—from torpedoes, drug lords, and opened hearts.
Brock: Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a combination?
Sarah: My publisher required a long synopsis of each book in the series before they gave me a contract, so I did have to think through each of the three stories. I didn’t mind. Although each novel stands alone, the main characters appear in each novel, so I wanted to know them well in advance—and know where they were going. In Through Waters Deep, this helped me give intriguing (I hope!) hints about the rest of the series.
Brock: How much leeway do you gives yourself with facts in a Historical genre?
Sarah: I try to stay as close to history as possible. However, since I use fictional characters, I automatically alter history. For example, in Through Waters Deep, Jim sails on a fictional destroyer, to allow me to create a fictional cast of characters. Although the adventures of the USS Atwood are imaginary, I based them on actual incidents involving destroyers at the time.
Brock: Where do you like to write?
Sarah: I’m blessed to have my own office now. I have a lovely L-shaped desk with cupboards for all my binders. When my kids were younger, I did a lot of my writing on-the-go—on the sidelines during soccer practice, in the karate studio, the dentist’s office—wherever I could. As our nest is emptying, I’m able to spend more time at my desk.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
Sarah: Both. I work full-time as an author, more than forty hours a week. But I also work one evening a week as a hospital pharmacist, because we have kids in college and pharmacy pays! Plus, I worked hard to get that degree, and I can’t bring myself to give it up quite yet. And I do hear fascinating stories working in a hospital…
Brock: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
Sarah: For the Waves of Freedom series, I’m on a nine-month schedule, faster than the year I’m used to. That means two months for character and plot development, five months for the rough draft, and two months for editing—with interruptions for publisher’s edits for earlier books and publicity for new releases—and life.
Brock: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Sarah: January 6, 2000. How’s that for exact? Like all bookworm little girls, I entertained a brief fantasy of becoming an author, but I shelved it with my ballerina fantasy and my Olympic figure skater fantasy. I loved science, so I became a pharmacist, a career that allows for flexible hours. In 2000, my kids were little, and I was loving my stay-at-home mom/on-call pharmacist life. Then I got slammed with a story idea—in a dream!—that wouldn’t let me go. I had to write it. So I wrote it. Now I’m addicted.
Brock: Coke or Pepsi?
Sarah: Diet generic cola. We’re cheap. I do prefer Diet Coke to Pepsi though.
Brock: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Sarah: Soft. I’m from California. We can be snobby about such things.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
Sarah: Anywhere! I love to travel. We had some fun years when my husband traveled a lot on business, and we were able to use his frequent-flier miles to take the kids to England, Germany, France, Italy, Australia—and Boston too.
Brock: Favorite season?
Sarah: Autumn! I love the crisp weather, the colors, and the school supplies.
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Sarah: Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon—hot in the winter and iced in the summer. Today I’m drinking iced green tea with blueberry and pomegranate—no sugar. I told you I was from California.
Brock: Favorite color?
Brock: Favorite pasta dish?
Sarah: I love trying new pasta dishes, but I have a lifelong fondness for a good old-fashioned spaghetti with meat sauce.
Brock: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what are some examples?
Sarah: Music distracts me when I write. I sing or hum or want to get up and dance. Ironically, I’m not distracted by the noise of a busy household—or soccer field or karate studio.
Author Website: SarahSundin.com
Author Twitter: http://twitter.com/sarahsundin
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