Q&A: Sarah Sundin
Lt. Walter Novak, a brilliant and fearless pilot, is completely hopeless when it comes to women. But when he meets beautiful Allie on furlough, things just... click. Their love of music sparks correspondence between Europe and the States that fans the flames of friendship and romance. But can they overcome war and a complex web of social expectations, secrets and commitments to find a home with each other?
The idea for the first book in the series, A Distant Melody, came out of a “what if” question—what if a man and woman met at an event, truly clicked, and parted before exchanging contact info? Wouldn’t it be romantic if he went through great effort to track her down? My husband and I watched a History Channel special on the US Eighth Air Force based in England during World War II, and I was hooked. My great-uncle was a B-17 pilot with the Eighth, so I had access to his stories and letters.
Through the research, I grew to admire the Eighth Air Force and decided to write a trilogy, with a story for each of the three Novak brothers. The oldest brother, Ray, is a true pastor with no inclination for combat. What would happen if he did fly a combat tour? And what could possibly induce him to volunteer? Also, young Helen Carlisle had been widowed in the first book, and I really wanted a happy ending for her. I mentally introduced her to Ray and the mutual attraction was strong. What I didn’t realize was how the romance would unearth something painful in Helen’s past.
STARTING OUT, WHO WERE THE AUTHORS WHO INSPIRED YOU? WHO INSPIRES YOU NOW?
That’s hard to pinpoint. It may be cliché, but an author I keep coming back to is Jane Austen. She has it all—laugh-out-loud humor, snappy dialogue, well-drawn characters, and endings that make you feel all warm and gooey inside. Another thing I love about Austen is that the rogues turn out to be—well, rogues, while the heroes are quiet men of integrity. Most romances hold up the “bad boy” as hero, and I don’t think that’s healthy. Too many women follow that example, choose charm over character, and regret it.
HOW DOES YOUR FAITH INFLUENCE YOUR WRITING?
I see God at work in the world and in people all around me, and I can’t imagine not including that in my stories. My characters tend to be Christians who have areas where their faith needs to grow, like obedience, honesty, pride, trust, or fear. Then the characters learn through the story situations.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR?
Since January 6, 2000. How’s that for exact? Although I always read voraciously, I didn’t consider a writing career. Instead I chose a practical career in pharmacy which allowed me to work on-call and stay home with our three children. Then in 2000, I had a dream with such intriguing characters that I felt compelled to write their story. That first novel will never be published, nor should it, but it got me started.
WHAT DO YOU MOST HOPE THAT READERS GET FROM READING YOUR WORK?
I don’t write with a theme in mind, but find it arises from my characters. A Distant Melody deals with obedience and sacrifice and honesty, A Memory Between Us with pride and shame and trust, and Blue Skies Tomorrow with courage and misguided efforts to earn grace. Pride does seem to run as an undercurrent through all three books, but I feel pride lies at the base of most, if not all, sin—the crazy idea that we could ever know better than God.