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Interview with Sarah Sundin


I’ve met Sarah Sundin. She is sweet, charming, and lovely. The covers of her novels are equally attractive—couples arm in arm, emotions of love and tenderness across their faces belie the hint of conflict inherent in every novel.

And then I open the worlds Sarah has created.

Navy ships toss on mountainous waves while guns thunder a last-effort defense. Depth charges rock the deep. Torpedoes cut through the waters on missions of death. Aircraft buzz the skies. And that’s just the plots.

Intrigues put heroines in the heart of danger. Heroes fight to save those they love, while discovering flaws can help make you strong.

And, under all those circumstances, will love find a way?

What goes on in Sarah Sundin’s brain? I tried to find out.

Meet Sarah Sundin

“I didn’t intend to be a writer,” Sarah said.

How does one go from unintentional writer to award winning novelist? The year was 2000, and Sarah Sundin was a happy, stay-at-home mom and on-call pharmacist. “I had no business writing novels. I majored in chemistry!” Her only claim to writing fame was when her AP scores got her out of freshman English. Besides, novel writing was different from writing essays and lab reports.

And yet, she had a dream and a story idea. With three children and a part-time job, she had too much on her plate. To pursue the storyline and write would be impossible.

But, the idea wouldn’t leave her alone. “I was too terrified to tell my husband for almost a week. So after arguing with God a bit—as if He doesn’t always know best—I started writing, in pure, terrified obedience.” Sarah’s obedience turned into a book contract.

Pursuit is required

As a plotter, Sarah outlines her books. “I’m not a naturally creative person, so I have to chase down ideas and nurture them.” To do that, she asks herself ‘what-if’ questions, watches movies, travels, reads newspapers, and listens to music. Only after she’s fully captured an idea, does she proceed—but not to write the novel, not yet.

“I write my synopses, character charts, plot charts, and short chapter summaries. By the time I start my rough draft, I know my characters intimately and can easily weave in theme and symbolism.”

She has always loved reading and writing, but felt as if she had a lot of catching up to do when learning the craft of fiction. She reads craft books and adores writers’ conferences to stay sharp. But how did she learn to write action so well?

Action scenes, as well as writing male characters so well, comes from the boys in her life. “Watching my boys grow up—they’re 18 and 23 now—has given me such insight into how men think and react. Now, I see big, strapping manly men. But I can always see the goofy little boy inside.

"I never really meant to write action, but that’s where my stories took me. However, I’ve found I do enjoy writing those scenes. They can be challenging because of all the research, but they’re exciting."

Daily routine is vital

Sarah spends nine to 12 months writing a book—and she does it one day at a time. Each morning, an alarm “brutally awakens” her at six and she stumbles downstairs to make coffee and breakfast. Incoherent until noon, she uses the time to work emails, social media, errands, and a stop at the gym.

After lunch, she strolls into her silent home-office, surrounds herself with research books and other materials, and gets to work. Like the hand of a master sculptor, she chisels flawed characters, molds situations that magnify those flaws, and spurs them to grow by sanding away the imperfections.

“‘Perfect’ characters are a disservice to readers,” Sarah said. “They make the reader feel dejected because she can never be that perfect and therefore will never deserve love. They raise unrealistic expectations for romance that real-life men and women can’t possibly fulfill. Watching a flawed character overcome her fears and flaws and pride and misconceptions—watching her become truly heroic—that gives us hope that we can do likewise.”

God surprises her constantly, since she doesn’t start writing with a theme—the theme routinely rises organically from the characters’ journeys. Readers tell her how God used the stories to speak to them. “Sometimes it’s about the theme—and other times it’s something I never even intended, maybe never even saw. God is amazing!”

The last book in the Waves of Freedom series, When Tides Turn, is currently in edits. Sarah is also writing (my fingers tremble as I tell you this) a novel about three estranged brothers fighting on D-Day—sea, air, and land.

When not writing, she’s hanging out with family or working in church. Now that she’s a recent empty-nester, she’s trying to reestablish her sanity in a gym and coffee time with friends. She honestly loves writing. “To think, as a child I was chastised for exaggerating. Now I get paid to do it!”

Sarah’s latest Waves of Freedom book, Anchor in the Storm, is out now!


Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books and researches the traits of gentlemen, looking for new novel ideas. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy, but fun, research trips. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at

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