Hello, I’m Mildred Colvin. I’ve come to interview Sarah Sundin, who has written a series of historical novels set in the 1940s. Sarah received a degree in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. She lives in northern California with her husband, three children, an antisocial cat, and a very social Labrador. She works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, teaches Sunday school to fourth and fifth graders, and teaches women's Bible studies. She is a member of Diablo Valley Christian Writers' Group and American Christian Fiction Writers. Her first novel, A DISTANT MELODY, will be released by Revell in March 2010, the first book in the Wings of Glory series.
Sarah, how did you get into writing?
I followed a non-traditional route to writing. I majored in chemistry and received a doctorate in pharmacy, then settled down to be a stay-at-home mom working on-call as a hospital pharmacist. Raised in a home wallpapered in books, I always told myself stories—but they weren’t any good. Then on January 6, 2000, I woke up from a dream with characters who grabbed me. I played with their story while changing diapers, and I was compelled to put it on paper. Six months later I had a 700-page simple contemporary romance. Burn-it-when-I-die bad.
Hmmm. I think I could find a few of those in my files. 🙂
However, I decided if God wanted me to write, He wanted me to write seriously. I joined a local writers’ group, attended writers’ conferences, read as much as I could about the craft and business of writing, joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and kept on writing.
How many books do you have published? What are a few of your latest titles?
Here's a short blurb of A Distant Melody, a novel set during World War II: Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie Miller will do anything to gain her approval–even marry a man she doesn't love. B-17 bomber pilot Lt. Walter Novak–fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women–takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives. 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?
How did you get your first book contract?
In 2003, I first submitted a trilogy set in World War II and began to collect “good” rejection letters stating they liked my writing, story, and characters—but historicals weren’t selling. After five years, the market shifted. At Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in 2008, I submitted to Vicki Crumpton at Revell. In September, she offered me a three-book contract. Then I signed with Rachel Zurakowski at Books & Such Literary Agency. Once again, I did things backwards.
What has helped you promote your books the most?
I should put “not applicable;” however, I’m getting started. Thanks to Tiffany Stockton with Eagle Designs, I have a website and blog and know how to use them. Obviously, this is central to promotion nowadays. Also, I recently sent out my first newsletter with Constant Contact. So far I’ve seen positive results from joining Facebook in March. I’ve connected with friends and family throughout the nation—many of whom didn’t know I was a writer, much less about to be published.
I also had a blast speaking at a local middle school about becoming a writer, and I plan on doing a lot more of this. The students and teachers were very receptive and interested—and I gained a dozen more Facebook friends.
What mistakes or wrong assumptions did you make with the marketing of your first book? Did those mistakes cause you to change? If so, how?
There will be plenty. I’ll make a list.
Did you see God open any doors you never expected in the promotion of your books?
I can’t wait to see how I’ll answer that question a year from now! So far, I’ve been thrilled with how God connected me via Facebook to friends from high school and college I assumed I’d never see again this side of heaven. This is an unexpected blessing—and an unexpected ministry. I’ve stayed up late e-chatting with a high school friend wrestling with a major decision and prayed for another who had to take a difficult stand for God.
What are your top tips for aspiring writers with their first book contract?
1) If you’re not on-line, do it now! Get a good website, join Facebook and/or Twitter, and start collecting your newsletter database. Even an antisocial technophobe can do this.
2) Subscribe to the CAN blog. I’ve learned so much from these experienced writers.
3) Be yourself. Not everyone is cut out to be a national speaker, Twitter queen, or mega-blogger. Yes, promotion is necessary, but use the gifts God gave you. Prayerfully choose what will fit best with your personality and other commitments, set the rest aside, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Thank you, Sarah Sundin! For someone just starting, you seem to have a good grasp of what it takes to succeed. You've given good, encouraging advice.