Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pharmacists & Jane Austen's "Penberley"? Interview with Author Sarah Sundin

Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie's cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson.
Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancée. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart.
Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they've made?

Sarah Sundin is the author of On Distant Shores and With Every Letter, the first two books in the Wings of the Nightingale series from Revell, and also the Wings of Glory series (A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow). In 2011, A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards and Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children. When she isn’t ferrying kids to tennis and karate, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school. Please visit her at and you can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Ten Questions with Sarah Sundin
What should readers know about your latest release? Does it differ from your past books, offer a new perspective on a familiar topic, or shed light on a unique situation?
On Distant Shores is the second book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, so it follows characters familiar from With Every Letter—although each book stands alone. In this series, I’m enjoying tracing the flight nurses’ journey as they followed the US forces in World War II from North Africa to Sicily to Italy to Southern France.
This is a combat theater rarely covered in fiction. And although I’m a pharmacist myself, this is my first novel with a pharmacist hero. I was fascinated learning about the practice of pharmacy during the war.
What was the main inspiration for the new book? Had the idea been on your mind for a while or just popped into it one day?
I had already decided to write a three-book series about WWII flight nurses. These women intrigue me. They were complete pioneers. But while researching medical care, I was surprised not to read about pharmacists. More digging revealed that Army pharmacies were primarily manned by technicians with three months’ training, and less commonly with graduate pharmacists.
The Army rated pharmacists as noncommissioned officers—even though most of them had college degrees at this time. And noncommissioned officers were not allowed to fraternize with commissioned officers—like nurses. Of course the concept of a forbidden romance grabbed my interest, especially since the woman outranks the man. Plenty of inherent conflict!
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
The stories won’t leave me alone. The characters won’t leave me alone. I can’t not write.
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
I was blessed to visit Italy and Southern France while researching this series (suffering for my art). The series was plotted enough that I knew where my characters would be stationed and what I needed to visit. So we visited all the tourist spots like Rome and Pisa and Florence and Pompeii, some of which worked their way into the novels. But we also visited Anzio and Paestum (where the US landed at Salerno Bay).
One memorable experience was finding an itty-bitty museum dedicated to the Anzio landings, a museum not listed in any of my guidebooks! The curator was a darling, effusive man whose knowledge of English was as limited as my knowledge of Italian. We managed to converse—although the results were hysterical. He gave me a fabulous tour, showed me everything I needed to see, and was thrilled to know I was writing about the hospitals based at Anzio.
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
Oh, so many people. My mother read to me, took me to the library, edited my essays in school, and taught me a love of story. The entire faculty at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has taught me, encouraged me, and helped me grow as a writer and a person.
And then there’s Marcy. Marcy Weydemuller led the first writers group I joined in 2001, and she’s become one of my dearest friends. She’s a first-rate content editor and shows me when I’ve neglected the forest for the trees. She has full “slap me upside the head” privileges, and I can always count on her to tell it to me straight, both the positive and the negative. I need that so much.
What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
The whole thing is baffling for someone coming out of the cut-and-dried health care field, where everything works by formula.  My most recent surprise has been as a published author. I’d been told that authors spend about half their time doing non-writing activities, primarily publicity. I was shocked, but I’ve found it’s true. Lots of little things to do, often with very short deadlines.
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
Relax, take your time, and enjoy the journey. God’s timing is always best. My five years of rejection letters were difficult, but looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t get my first contract even six months earlier. Not only would it have been hard to meet my deadlines, but my children were younger—and I wasn’t prepared, even though I thought I was.
Now to have some fun with travel…
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
It’s so hard to choose, but I’ll have to pick London. I’ve been blessed to visit three times now, and I just love the combination of beauty and history.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
Thanks to my husband’s frequent flyer miles, I’ve been able to see Scotland, England, Germany, France, Italy, and Australia—such a gift. Although I would love another trip to London and the English countryside, I think I’d like to spend more time in the Alpine area—Bavaria and Switzerland and Austria. We saw just enough to be enchanted, but I’d love to soak it in. (Note: I loved Bavaria and Austria too, Sarah!)
And now a fun tidbit—if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?
How about at an English country estate, with plenty of gardens and grounds for exploring and dreaming? Perhaps I’ve read Jane Austen too many times, but this setting would definitely inspire me. As for the name—prepare yourself for a bad pun—how about Pen-berley?


  1. Sounds like a wonderful story. I also like your choice of travel destination. Please reserve a room for me when you find it--no matter what name you choose!

  2. Thanks, Carole! I'd love to have you there!

  3. I would love to visit an English estate as well!! That would be wonderful!