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Interview with Sarah Price

Sarah Price is a wearer of many, many hats and she seems to be wearing them well. The Amazon bestselling author splits her time with not only her passion for writing but also her husband and two children, her teaching career in Manhattan, volunteering with several entities, working on her PhD, being green, and inspiring other breast cancer survivors.

How do you juggle everything and publish more of your popular novels, including your latest release, First Impressions?
I’m definitely a high-energy, Type-A personality that finds a way to squeeze out that 25th hour in a day! I tend to work best under pressure which may or may not be a good thing. I can spend ten hours a day writing or go five days without writing a word. I write when I feel compelled to write. I don’t have a particular routine. I do, however, have places where I can write: a special recliner in my piano room or the cosy lounge chair in my bedroom.

When it’s warm out, I sometimes write outside on our patio or go down to our stables, sitting at a picnic table so I can be near our horses. However, I am easily distracted by a warm, fuzzy nose on my shoulder. There is always something amazing that happens when you are near a horse. My husband just bought me a little shed which is situated next to the paddock where our little zebra and his friends (a pony and three goats) graze. That is distracting. He’s still a baby and so cute! I’m not so certain how productive I will be this spring at the shed. I might have to rethink that location as a writing retreat.

Writing comes naturally to me. It’s just something I do. In fact, it’s all I ever wanted to do. That and rescue animals. So, I’m in a happy place right now.

Your latest release is the first book in your new series, which retells Jane Austen’s novels within a contemporary Amish setting. I, for one, think this is quite intriguing. Where did this idea stem from? How have you balanced staying true to Austen’s novels while also integrating them into the Amish community?
Great question. As many of my readers know, I like to push the envelope a little bit when it comes to my Amish books. I also like to challenge myself and my readers. A perfect example is my Plain Fame book. I was a college professor in Manhattan and hated commuting. At the time, I had a celebrity-crush on a particular Cuban hip hop singer who happened to be in NYC one day. My sister teased that maybe he would bump into me when I was crossing the street. Suddenly, I imagined an Amish girl in NYC in such a situation. The results? My best-selling Plain Fame Trilogy.

First Impressions evolved the same way. I am constantly looking for new ways to share my knowledge about the Amish culture and religion. Yet, as an academic, I also have a deep love for classic literature. Marrying the two together was a natural progression and challenged me to raise the bar on my writing.

Dissecting the plot of Pride and Prejudice and integrating it into an Amish setting was extremely challenging. However, there are quite a few similarities between the genteel world of late 18th century England and the 21st century Amish. Writing First Impressions taught me a lot about myself as an author. My deep, first-hand knowledge of the Amish aided tremendously in being able to keep that balance and stay true to Austen’s story and style.

In regard to your battle with breast cancer, do you believe you are now reaching even deeper emotional levels within your writing? Or perhaps have you seen your perspective shift toward your characters and plots in future novels?
On the surface, the answer is yes. However, I’m acutely aware that each and every experience in my life helps me reach a deeper emotional level within my writing. Breast cancer happens to one out of every eight women. From day one, I have felt relief that I was the one…and hopefully not my daughter, nieces, sister, or mother. I’m strong enough to handle it. In truth, it has been an interesting journey with one complication after another. I think I might go into medical journals for some of the strange things that have happened!

Throughout it all, I have kept (and continue to keep) an upbeat, positive attitude, looking for the “Pink Umbrella” hiding in every situation. When I stayed in the hospital for ten days due to an infection, I used it as a time to write. When I lost my teaching job due to extended disability, I applauded the extra time to spend with my children. When I went through chemo, I refused to get sick and just kept pushing myself. Now I start radiation and then more surgeries. And through it all, God surely walks beside me, ensuring that I didn’t overdo it or get too ahead of myself. He does that, you know. :D

In your About Me section on your website, Sarah, you mention you have always been a writer but weren’t able to writer for a while. After this pause, how did you build your momentum back up? Did you have newfound encouragement, develop a new routine, etc.?
My clearest memory from my early teenage years was my sister banging on the wall at night, yelling for me to stop typing! Yes, I used an old typewriter that made a clicking noise to write my novels. For me, nighttime was the best (if not only) time to write. I wrote at least ten full-length novels, typing each word on that typewriter, blowing through reams and reams of paper! My greatest birthday present was a case of paper!

There was a dark period in my life when writing left. Fourteen years of silence. It was loud.

When I remarried, my husband, Marc Schumacher, encouraged me to write again. He read my work and began critiquing it. An educated man that speaks eight languages, having lived in Europe and the Middle East, he shares my passion for great literature and cultures. I value his opinion; so with his enthusiastic support, I began writing again.

It took a while to believe in myself again. When I was younger, no one read my work. In fact, my husband was one of the only people who ever read my pre-published manuscripts. I had low self-esteem when it came to my writing. Even today, when a book is published, I’m a nervous Nellie, waiting to hear feedback from my readers. It’s scary…like introducing your newborn to the world and hoping people think your baby is beautiful, inside and out.

Now, I try to write every day. Some days, I can write 7500-10000 words. Other days, nothing. Crickets chirping in my head. I use that time to catch up on other things until writing comes back to me. When I write, I tend to see the story unfold as a movie in my mind. I watch the book come alive and I transcribe what I see. I’ve heard a lot of readers say that they felt as though they were watching a movie when they read my books. That makes me so happy because, to me, that means I’ve achieved what I sought to do: truly share a good story.

In using a pen name, what was the basis for this decision? What advice would you give to others who waver between this path and using their actual name?
I chose a pen name mainly to protect my privacy.

At the time, I was a college professor and did not want to mix my academic life with my sacred and private world of writing. When I chose a pen name, I picked one that has deep meaning: Sarah is my Mennonite grandmother’s first name and Price is our Anabaptist family name. My grandparents introduced me to the Amish when I was eight years old. I was the youngest grandchild and simply adored my grandmother. She was definitely one of my role models in life. When I was nineteen, I wrote my first book, Fields of Corn. It was actually turned away by a publisher who wrote (and I quote) “No one will ever want to read romances about the Amish.” Ha ha. That was back in the late 1980s! When I published it on Amazon, it became a best-seller.

As far as advice, you have to believe in who you are. I definitely have become Sarah Price. My family calls me Sarah and knows when I’m in a “Sarah mode”—writing, focused, reflective. But it’s nice to go out and just be myself without people knowing that I’m an author. I cherish my privacy.

If you could go back before publication, what advice would you give to yourself?
I really do not have any advice that I would give myself. My progression was nice and I’ve had a wonderful time with my readers. I love interacting with them on social media. I do believe, however, that my genuine love for my readers has contributed to my success.

My advice to other aspiring writers would be the following three things:

1. Love your readers
2. Know your subject matter
3. Listen

As a writer, you have to read. A lot. I cannot go to sleep at night without reading. In doing so, I read everything from historical fiction to other Amish romances. I love biographies and also Christian non-fiction books. It’s amazing to me how many authors do not research their material. As soon as I start reading a book and I see errors in the subject matter, I cannot finish the book.

In addition, if you look at your readers as just readers and not part of your life, you are missing out on a lot of inspiration from great people! I see a lot of authors just doing the fly-by “BUY MY BOOK” or posting reviews with links to their Amazon page. You have to be willing to give of yourself and truly, genuinely to interact with your readers.

Finally, I interact with a lot of aspiring writers. I often read their emails, postings, and questions on social media. All writers, whether established or aspiring, need to listen. Being able to accept constructive critiques of our work is essential to our success. Writing is a process that does not have a definitive beginning or end. It’s a continuum. We can all learn something from others…every day. I know that I sure do…

I couldn’t help but balk a bit when I read on your blog that you were cyberbullied by another author. That is awful. What is the best way that you have found to deal with this type of situation?

That was definitely an interesting period of my life. It taught me that I am a lot stronger than I realized. I believe that God never gives us more than we can handle. I also believe that God sometimes teaches us lessons as building blocks for future events. My favorite Scripture is Jeremiah 29:11. God has a plan. We don’t always know what it is.

One day, this person contacted me, demanding that I rename the subtitle of a book which had the words Amish Christian in it. Prior to this communication, I had never heard of this Indie author and, obviously, never had any contact with her. Her bullying escalated so out of control and involved my friends, family, and even my employer. This lasted several months and we had to contact lawyers, police, detectives, and even the FBI. After legal authorities got involved and basically told her to knock it off, it stopped…for me, anyway.

The lesson learned was powerful. Throughout it all, I chose to simply ignore this particular “Christian” author, even when she made outrageous claims about me. I refused to feed into the negative energy or pay any attention to the harassment. Instead, I wrote. I wrote about bullying, paralleling my own experiences into an Amish series that I share with school-age children and their parents. No one is immune to the hurt and pain of being bullied, no matter how old we are.

Additionally, I learned that not everyone who claims to be a Christian truly is. I wish readers understood that, especially in the Amish genre. Writing about the Amish requires knowledge and respect of the culture and the religion. They deserve that respect…so do the readers.

Finally, I learned that there is a downside to being a published author. As public figures, authors are not immune to becoming targets. We are not immune to the craziness of stalkers, jealousies of other authors, and competitiveness of the writing world. But, as long as you stay true to yourself and your beliefs, God takes care of you.

According to your website, Sarah, you also mention that you have traveled extensively within the U.S. and abroad. How have these differing environments affected your writing? And are you planning any future novels within an international setting?
I started traveling internationally when I was 9 years old with my family. I believe experiencing other cultures and different parts of the world is the best education that any person can receive. I’ve lived in Argentina and Alaska, traveled throughout Europe, and toured Israel.

These are experiences that have taught me to be accepting of different cultures and people while recognizing that there is a whole world out there…so much more beyond my small microcosm. It’s very humbling when you see how magnificent God’s creation truly is! It’s bigger than us. I think we forget that sometimes.

I have an idea for a novel that I’ve been kicking around, paralleling a young woman who survives Masada in 70 CE Israel with an Amish woman in the 21st century. I haven’t quite figured out how to weave the two stories together and, of course, I’d have to cajole my husband into returning to Israel for research (wink wink).

Since your featured novel and series centers around the Amish with a touch of Jane Austen, I thought readers would be interested to know your favorite Austen heroine? And why you chose her?
Definitely Emma. I just completed writing my novel that retells Jane Austen’s Emma for Realms (The Matchmaker, 2015). I simply adore Emma. When you initially read Jane Austen’s Emma, she is not the most likable character. However, after I disassembled her and reconstructed her in the Amish setting of my own tale, I realized that she has such good intentions, wanting to please so many people even though she sometimes makes mistakes. I also found her very brave in stepping up to face her mistakes, rather than hide or deflect accepting responsibility. That is an admirable trait and one that, personally, I have adopted.

In today’s world, when things do not go as planned, some people have a tendency to point the blame on other people or situations. It’s a rare person that can stand up and say, “I did this to myself. I’m sorry.”

Despite the best of intentions, Emma made mistakes. We all do, after all. She did not hide or run away. Instead, she faced them and learned from them.

Finally, I like the fact that her true God-given love was in front of her the entire time. I find that particularly romantic. So many times when we attain goals that we felt were so important to us, we discover that it wasn’t what we really wanted or needed.

Or, even worse, those things we desired come with a lot of problems. It’s a reminder that God provides. We just have to trust in Him. And, like the Amish, we need to appreciate the beauty of the simpler things in life instead of always looking for something grander, better, fancier. Life is about living, not about acquiring.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Sarah.

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