Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Tenacity Interviews - Sarah Sundin

My first novel, A Distant Melody, historical fiction set in World War II, will be published by Revell in January 2010, the first in the Wings of Glory Series. I live in Northern California with my husband and three children. When I'm not running kids to soccer and karate, I work on-call as a hospital pharmacist, teach Sunday school to fourth- and fifth-graders, and teach women's Bible studies.
1) How long have you been on the road to being published?
I started writing in 2000, started submitting in 2003, and received an offer for a three-book contract in 2008.

2) What were the top three obstacles you encountered on the road to being published?
The main obstacle I encountered was the market. For years I received “good” rejection letters saying the editor or agent liked my story, characters, and writing, but that historicals weren’t selling. They wanted chick lit. The market flipped in 2008.
The next obstacle I faced was internal: what did each rejection letter mean? Did God want me to finish the series or write something else? Did He even want me to write at all? Was I wasting my time?

3) Which personal strengths did you use to remain tenacious in your quest to be published?
Persistence—all right, stubbornness—runs in my family. However, I don’t want to be like the robin that comes to our house each spring and flies into the window over and over until its little birdbrain must resemble Jell-O. Persistence is a strength—working toward a goal in the Lord’s will. Stubbornness is a weakness—working for a goal that isn’t in God’s will.
The key for me was to determine God’s will through prayer, time in the Word, and the advice of other believers.

4) What helped you to stay tenacious even when faced with rejection?
I couldn’t have continued without the prayer and encouragement of family and friends. However, family and friends are biased. To make sure I wasn’t deluding myself, I sought feedback from a critique group and writers’ conferences. Most importantly, I asked God to show me His will, and He showed me in numerous odd ways that He wanted me to write.
In 2005 I worried that I was wasting time and inconveniencing my family for nothing. At Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference I went for a walk under the redwoods. A little flower caught my eye, and I praised God for His creativity. Had anyone else ever praised God for that particular flower? Then I straightened up. Beds of those flowers stretched as far as I could see. How many of those blooms ever caused anyone to praise God? Did the Lord waste His time creating them? Of course not. Sometimes He creates for the joy of it—and He made us in His creative image. God called me to write, so I had to obey, whether or not I was ever published.

5) There is a difference between tenacity and being “bull-headed”. How have you been able to move your dream forward without turning agents/editors off?
If I don’t treat people with respect and good manners, my mother will give me the evil eye. She lives 400 miles away, but believe me, I’ll feel it. When an editor or agent said no, I said, “Thank you,” and moved on to another.

6) Where will your tenacity take you next?
If I’m not careful, my tenacity will take me someplace incredibly stupid. So I’ll stay hitched to the Lord’s guidance. Where He’ll take me—only He knows.

7) What advice do you have for a writer who is facing “no” right now?
First of all, verify that the Lord wants you to write. Then realize the call to write is not necessarily the call to be published. God is more concerned with our obedience than our success.
Then persevere! Keep writing. Keep learning the craft from books and blogs on writing, critique groups, and writers’ conferences. Keep meeting editors and agents, and submit as you feel led.
I love the answer to question 6! I read it a few times - it's just so true.
I bid you good writing.


Keli Gwyn said...

Great interview, Sarah.

I love the story of how God spoke to you through that little flower at Mount Hermon. He's the Creator, and He understands the hills and valleys we writers face better than anyone. If He gives us the call to write, that's all the validation we need. He doesn't promise publication, but I'm so happy your perseverance and talent led to that.

It was great to meet you in person at Mount Hermon.

Veronica Leigh said...

Ooh, I love WW2 fiction. I'll definitely be reading this!

Anonymous said...


I loved your interview! It's cool that your answers directly relate to what I blogged about today on the Books & Such blog. I'm going to go create a link to this interview.

--Rachel Zurakowski

Sarah Sundin said...

Thanks, Keli! Isn't God amazing how He speaks in so many unconventional ways? So glad I got to chat with you at Mt Hermon.

And thanks, Veronica! I'm glad to meet someone else who likes WW2 fiction. I grew up listening to my grandparents' stories, and that time period has always fascinated me.

Sarah Sundin said...

Hi Rachel,

How funny about that serendipity thing! I just read your post and I love it. Like all character traits, perseverance runs the spectrum between pigheaded obstinance and giving up too easily, and finding the right balance is tough!

And thanks for the link :)

Andrea said...

It is so important to be hitched to God...that is the only way to walk through this life, being able to share every step with God.

Koala Bear Writer said...

I loved this quote: "Sometimes He creates for the joy of it—and He made us in His creative image. God called me to write, so I had to obey, whether or not I was ever published." Wow! :) (BTW, I love historical fiction, so I'm glad an editor finally said "yes" to your books!)

Sarah Sundin said...

Thanks, "Koala"

I'd love to know the story behind that :) I'm glad others can learn that lesson from words - rather than through hard life lessons. And yes, I'm thrilled that the market for historicals opened up again. The past is filled with so many fascinating stories!