Today on the blog I am happy to interview fellow Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas author Sandra Merville Hart!
1.) When did you decide to become a writer?
I wanted to be a writer in elementary school. I wrote my first mystery novel while in the sixth grade, The Mystery of the Missing Diamond Ring. Unfortunately, I received little encouragement. The dream died but the stories kept coming.
Encouraging comments about a devotion I wrote reawakened my long-forgotten dream. I prayed over the decision to quit my job and pursue writing for a year while everything continuously guided me to write. Quitting my job was a leap of faith.
2.) Where do your ideas come from? Why do you write what you do?
I find ideas in unusual places. If I search for inspiration, it always comes from unexpected sources.
I write historical novels so visits to museums, historic towns, quaint villages, and vintage stores inspire me. I once visited a small city that captivated me. Research revealed a significant historic event which I used in a novella that I hope to publish.
I knew a story awaited me in Gettysburg. I visited the battlefields and museums but didn’t find it there. I walked the streets of town and discovered how my story wove together.
3.)Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you? How has your writing evolved?
When I first began writing, I wrote chapter outlines before starting the novel. I needed the structure. These days I know the beginning and the end with a vague idea of the middle. The latter method turns out more creatively for me. I pray over my stories and the second method allows freedom for constantly unexpected twists and turns.
4.) What are the challenges that you, as a Christian writer, face now and in the future?
I hate that small Christian bookstores are disappearing. They struggle to compete with larger bookstore chains and Amazon. This avenue for Christian book sales is decreasing.
Having spent countless hours browsing the shelves as a reader, I don’t want to see bookstores close. The ones that survive seem to diversify and also sell novelties, DVDs, etc. Bookstores with comfy chairs and/or a coffee shop are so inviting, like a good book.
5.) What is the hardest thing about writing your last book?
My last book was set in 1863 Gettysburg, beginning five days before the famous Civil War battle. This book challenged me to be as historically accurate as possible, so I constantly stopped to verify facts in my copious notes and library books. History drove the action in my story; my characters walked a difficult road.
I worked hard to maintain historical authenticity, but my emotions further challenged me. I ached for my characters. I experienced the battle, the occupied town, the fear, the suspicion, and the devastating loss with them.
Writing this novel changed me.
6.) How long does it typically take you to finish your book?
This depends on how much research the novel requires. I finished one novella in two weeks. My Gettysburg novel took about fifteen months.
7.) Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.
I try not to focus on the negatives but this question demands it.
’ve already touched on one of them. I hate that online booksellers like Amazon have run many bookstores out of business. Because the online seller doesn’t pay for shelf space in a physical location, Amazon dramatically lowers prices to attract customers.
The second frustration is that booksellers don’t keep unsold books on their shelves very long. Sometimes they only sell them a month before returning unsold products to publishers.
The third frustration hinges on the second: publishers or authors pay the shipping cost for the unsold returned books. Royalties paid in advance when the books went to the bookstore must be reversed.
It’s a tough profession.
8.) On the flip side, what excites you most about the creative process?
I love allowing my imagination to soar beyond my dreams. My desire is to take readers to a place they’ve never been to spend time with characters they love.
9.) What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors?
I write historical fiction and articles and spend most of my time reading nonfiction. My current task is writing articles for my blog, Historical Nibbles, so I’m studying old cookbooks and trying the recipes. Fun!
I love reading Yvonne Lehman’s books. She has over fifty published novels. The last one I read was Hearts that Survive about the Titanic. I’ve learned so much from her.
I love how Ann Tatlock weaves a story together. Kim Vogel Sawyer’s My Heart Remembers has stayed with me since reading it a few years ago. I’ve also enjoyed Eva Marie Everson, Alton Gansky, Eddie Jones, and Marianne Jordan, to name of few. I have a stack as high as my windowsill of fiction novels that I can’t wait to read.
10.) What is the story behind your book A Stranger on My Land?
While researching another novel for the Civil War time period, I found fascinating books written by Union and Confederate soldiers. One of these soldiers wrote about the “Battle Above the Clouds” on Lookout Mountain. He talked about people living in caves. Women made these temporary shelters comfortable and cozy.
How did it feel to find a wounded soldier on your property after a Civil War battle? It surely happened. Would you walk away and leave him to die if he fought for the other side? What if your members of your family fought for the opposite army? Does that change anything? Suppose you help them anyway and fall in love?
I pondered these questions and the story was born.
Sandra Merville Hart is the column writer for “History in the Making” at the popular and growing site, www.AlmostanAuthor.com. She is Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com where she contributes many historical articles. Her debut book, A Stranger On My Land, IRCA Finalist 2015, released in 2014. She has written for several publications and blogs. Sandra loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories and drags her husband along on her adventures. Thankfully, he also enjoys these fact-finding missions.
Buy her Civil War Romance – A Stranger on My Land – here!
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