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Interview with Sarah Varland

Sarah Varland is celebrating the recent release of her latest novel, Alaskan Hideout, from Love Inspired Suspense.

Welcome, Sarah! What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
When I look at all my books, I feel like they’re connected by the common theme that God is in control. We can trust Him and be brave even when we don’t feel like it. If there’s one thing I could have people take away from the book, it would be the ability to be braver in their lives and trust God more.

How did you decide on Alaska for the setting of this recent novel? Or was it because you currently live there?
I LOVE Alaska. I grew up moving between here and the south (we loved Alaska but had extended family down south), and always wanted to move back one day. I was thrilled when I got that chance three years ago. Setting books in Alaska has more to do with my love for the state than being physically present here, but I do appreciate that I can convince myself that a camping trip is “research” and that I’m working when I’m having so much fun just being outside here.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey? What do you consider to be the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
I think the most significant part of my journey was the last agent rejection I received before I got an agent. It came after what had been a long conversation with that agent, when I’d gotten my hopes up high enough to believe my writing dreams were coming true. The rejection was polite, very helpful, and essentially told me if I could figure out the market, I could have a chance of success. I almost quit (for real, not like the other times I’d paused for a season) out of discouragement, but the moment I decided not to quit was the most significant point in my career. Seven months afterward, I got my first contract.

The greatest moment of my career comes every time I realize someone has read my book, especially if they send an email. I love knowing God can use my stories to encourage people.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
I love this question. They are all very intertwined. My husband is very good at reminding me that when I’m frustrated toward the end of a story because I don’t know where to go with the faith thread, it’s often because I’m learning the same spiritual lesson as my characters, but I’m being hardheaded and refusing to learn it fast enough.

Hmm, I think that can be said of ALL of us writers and authors. *big grin* God often uses our stories to not only touch the lives of our readers, but to also allow us to grow in our faith and move further along our spiritual walk with Him.

How did you make the connection with your literary agent and the agency which represents you?
I met my first agent at an ACFW conference in 2013. I really appreciated her professionalism and how well she knew the industry. Though she moved on, I stayed with the agency and am very grateful for the agent I have now, and thankful for how things worked out.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
Is there a way to answer this question without sounding full of myself? Haha, I’ll try. I think my characters make me unique. Even though I write romantic suspense, so there’s obviously a large thread dealing with people’s lives being in danger, I think my characters are well-developed and realistic.

Share up to 3 things readers have said about your books or your writing, or even you as an author.
I’ll share just one. The most impactful thing someone has said about my writing career (besides my family’s constant encouragement), is when I pitched the idea for what would become my first book to a friend. She shared it with other writers, and one of my favorite authors said it sounded like a book she would read. Highest compliment I could have received at the time, even though to my knowledge she hasn’t read any yet. *winks*

How did you get into the Romantic Suspense genre? Have you written or attempted any other genres?
I have always loved reading. Romance and romantic suspense were always my favorites to read, and when I discovered chick-lit, I fell hard for that. I tried to write something between chick lit and romantic comedy, but the market shifted a bit away from that when I wasn’t published yet, so I started writing romantic suspense instead. It surprised me that it’s where I landed, and surprised my family too (I may be one of the world’s biggest chickens—I plug my ears for scary commercials, hahaha), but I believe that’s where my voice fits best, and God knew I needed to be in a genre where my characters have to face their fears and conquer them rather than be controlled by them.

Have you ever written a series of books? If not, would you consider it?
I like to write series that are loosely connected. My last two books and upcoming two have siblings as some of the main characters. I enjoy writing books that are connected, but can still stand alone. Hardcore cliff hangers aren’t something I see myself writing, though they can be fun to read.

To what lengths do you go in your research to make the details in your stories authentic? What is the craziest experience you’ve had when collecting research material?
My dad has been in law enforcement for years, so it’s handy to have someone to answer my research questions. A lot of my research is done that way, and some is done by just being in the locations I use for settings. My favorite bit of research so far came when I took my kids on a camping trip, but spent time on the drive looking at the scenery around the highway and thinking, “Okay, this is where my characters will have to run into the woods and try to survive.” It’s the Seward Highway scene in Mountain Refuge, for anyone who has read that.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I’ve concluded that one of my hobbies is collecting hobbies. I love spending time with my family, and I love being outside. My favorite outdoor activities are hiking (especially on ridgelines in the mountains), kayaking, and camping. I am also learning to dog mush thanks to a generous friend, and I enjoy being involved with that sport during Alaska’s long winters.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
I just cleaned my nightstand! I recently finished The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond, Jaime Jo Wright’s new book, and it’s incredible. A great blend of spine-shivering shadowy mystery and redemption. The books I’m currently reading are re-reads. One is Kara Isacc’s Close to You, and another is Dee Henderson’s Full Disclosure. Romantic comedy and romantic suspense at the same time.

Finish this statement: In the future, I will…live my life to the fullest, remembering what Jesus said about giving us abundant life.

Any parting words?
Thanks for having me! If you’re interested in any of my book news, follow my Facebook author page:, and thank you for reading! If anyone’s planning a trip to Alaska feel free to get in touch for tourist recommendations! =)


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who works in the health & wellness and personal development industries, helping others become their best from the inside out. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and son, and a Shiba Inu-mix named Nova. She has sold over 20 books so far, three of which have won annual reader's choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

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