How have you set your goals for writing for the new year?
Setting writing goals has been part of my routine for many years. Before I was published, my writers’ group had us write our monthly goals on an index card. I liked seeing them before me and highlighting them as I completed them. Now I have a document with a table, with columns for various tasks, from novel writing to interviews to publicity, and with rows for each month. Every month I sit down with my goal chart, update it, and print off a fresh copy to hang over my desk. Every week I use the chart to draft my daily schedule, and every day I highlight completed tasks in color. It really keeps me on track. Since my goal chart runs through 2023, my writing goals for 2021 have already been set.
How has the virus affected your writing?
Because I already work from home and our children are grown up, I didn’t think my writing routines would be much affected. But I found the shift of routines, the loss of favorite activities, the social isolation, and the general uncertainty caused some upheaval in my writing life. And I don’t have young children distance learning from home—I can only imagine how disorienting it’s been for so many other families.
Do you feel the pandemic has changed your writing in some way?
In a way, the pandemic has given me some insight for the novel I’m currently writing. The book is set in Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941, where people lived very closed lives and didn’t know whom to trust. That sense of apprehension and distancing reminded me of today—although it came from a far different cause!
Where did you get the idea for your new book, When Twilight Breaks?
When we visited Ellis Island a while back, I entered some family names into their computer and found my grandfather’s trip from Hamburg to New York in 1936. I knew he’d studied in Germany, but it had never struck me that he’d studied in Nazi Germany. That raised a question for me—what would it have been like to have been an American student living in Nazi Germany before the war? In the novel, Peter Lang is an American graduate student studying in Munich, where he meets American foreign correspondent Evelyn Brand—and they get themselves into a bit of trouble.
What was the easiest and most difficult part of writing your new book?
The easiest part by far was the dialogue. Peter and Evelyn banter and spar and simply have fun together—especially when they’re arguing—and their dialogue flowed.
The most difficult part was the dark setting. Researching Nazi Germany is very difficult emotionally, and I read things that shook me to the core. But I needed to be shaken and shocked and appalled, so that my readers will also be shaken.
How did you become interested in the World War II era?
Family stories drew me to the World War II era. One of my grandfathers served in the US Navy during the war, and he was a born storyteller. My grandfather Ebelke used his skills in the US Army Specialized Training Program to teach American soldiers the German language. Growing up hearing these stories— plus my father’s love for WWII movies!—gave me a love for the era.
Many of your World War II novels are part of a series. Why did you decide to write a standalone novel?
These three-story ideas came to me as standalone ideas. Since a series presents a few writing and marketing challenges, I decided to keep the novels separate and not link them. I did find a minor connection between the three—I can’t help myself! —but each story is completely independent.
When Twilight Breaks touches upon ethics within a war setting. Can you expound upon this topic?
Peter and Evelyn wrestle with these topics—which are so timely. While writing this story, I was struck by the similarities between the divisive 1930s and our own time. Very sobering.
What do you hope readers can learn from your novel?
I hope readers think through the roles of freedom and order in their own lives and in society, and I hope they learn along with Peter and Evelyn how to lean on the Lord and on the people he places in our lives.
How can readers connect with you?
I love to hear from readers! Please visit my website at www.sarahsundin.com. There you can send me a message or sign up for my email newsletter. I’m also active on Facebook (SarahSundinAuthor), Twitter (@sarahsundin), Instagram (@sarahsundinauthor), and Pinterest (Sarah Sundin).
Sarah Sundin’s novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. The Sky Above Us received the Carol Award, her bestselling The Sea Before Us received the FHL Reader’s Choice Award, and both Through Waters Deep and When Tides Turn were named on Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” Sarah lives in Northern California.
Visit www.sarahsundin.com for more information.