The latest from Christian author Sarah Loudin Thomas is the nostalgic historical romance The Sound of Rain (Bethany House). Drawn together in the wake of a hurricane that changes Myrtle Beach forever, Judd and Larkin come to realize that it may take a miracle to keep them together. Here, Sarah reveals why she chose her story’s dramatic backdrop, how a frightening real-life incident inspired her opening scene, and an exciting collection coming in 2018.
After wrapping up the Appalachian Blessings series, how did you decide what would come next?
I thought it was time to add a little variety to my Appalachian setting. I lived near the coast of South Carolina for ten years and loved the idea of taking a mountain man and dropping him into that hot, sandy landscape. It let me use my own experience of trying to adjust to a different climate and way of life. Neither Judd nor I ever got used to how hot it would stay all summer, even in the middle of the night. We also share a deep appreciation for Southern cooking!
The Sound of Rain begins with your hero nearly dying in a mine cave-in. What was it like writing that scene?
The first pages of the story are drawn directly from my great-uncle Harry’s experience as a coal miner. He would often tell the story of being trapped in a mine with that boot pressed against his cheek—although his language was more colorful than Judd’s. Hearing him talk about his brush with death certainly captured my imagination when I was a child. It also convinced me that I never wanted to step foot in a mine myself!
Hurricane Hazel provides a turning point in the novel. Why did you include this catastrophic event?
My first job out of college was doing public relations for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. I learned a fair amount of coastal history and was impressed with the way Myrtle Beach came to be the tourist destination it is today, largely because Hurricane Hazel wiped the slate clean in 1954. Prior to that, Myrtle Beach was a relatively quiet seaside community. After Hazel, there was literally nothing left to hinder beachfront development. Except for the Pavilion, of course, which fit right in with hotels, restaurants, and shops. This beach music mecca weathered the storm—much as Judd does in the story—a little the worse for wear but still standing.
Larkin is somewhat naïve in her notion about helping the “backward” people of Appalachia. What attitudes do you run into about the region?
I hear a lot of West Virginia jokes when I tell people where I’m from and where I set my stories. Of course, the best defense is to know more—and funnier—jokes than anyone else. I’m well aware that much of Appalachia faces serious challenges and has for generations. I hope my books highlight some of what’s wonderful and special about the region: the strength and perseverance of the people, their willingness to lend a helping hand, their pride (which can also be a shortcoming), and their love for the land. I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture, but I do want to shine a light on the beauty of the people and the place itself.
What’s next for you?
In 2018, I’ll be partnering with three Bethany House authors to put together a novella collection that will trace a century or so of one particular family. A piece of jewelry links all the stories together, and each author is focusing on the generation that ties into her genre. Kristi Ann Hunter will start us out in 1827 England, with Karen Witemeyer tackling Texas in 1890. My story is set in 1950s West Virginia, and Becky Wade will close us out with a contemporary tale in Washington. It’s the first time I’ve collaborated with other authors, and it’s been so much fun. Writing can be solitary, so having others invested in my story has been a delightful experience.