Saturday, July 15, 2017

Author Interview with Sandra Hart

Today, we welcome Sandra Merville Hart to Love Lines from God. Sandra is the Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com and loves to find unusual or little-known facts in her historical research to use in her stories. Her debut Civil War romance, A Stranger on My Land, was an IRCA Finalist in 2015. Her second recently released Civil War romance novel, A Rebel in My House, is set during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Sandra has contributed to four books and written for several publications and blogs including The Secret Place, Harpstring, Splickety Magazine, Pockets Magazine, and Christian Devotions.

Sandra, welcome.

When did you decide to become a writer? In other words, what made you actually sit down and write something?

I actually dreamed of being a writer in elementary school. I wrote my first book while in the sixth grade. It was a mystery novel, the type I loved to read at that age, where the heroes and heroines were in middle school and high school.

My English teacher asked to read my book but never got around to it. Instead, she gave it to my homeroom teacher. He read it. His only comment? “I read it.” Even a twelve-year-old knows what that means. I didn’t receive encouragement to continue writing. Eventually, I released the dream for the reality that I wasn’t a good writer.

For years, our church choir director encouraged us to share devotions on our weekly songs. I enjoyed writing them and received lots of compliments. The dream was reignited.

Every writer is eventually asked this question, but where do your ideas come from? Why do you write what you do?

Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere. Newspapers, shops, conversations, a chance encounter, and swapping old stories around the dinner table. Ideas have come to me in that dreamless state just before I fully awaken.

The inspiration for the Civil War novels that I write comes by visiting museums local to a battle and talking with folks at restaurants, shops, and visitor centers. Ideas come when I study research books about the battle. I study long enough to feel like I was there. Then I’m ready to write the novel.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you? How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

When I first began writing, I had to outline my stories. Outlines kept me focused enough to get from chapter one to the end. It’s hard work to write a book. I needed this structure to finish the novel.

After my first four or five books, I didn’t need that structure any longer. I noticed that my characters wanted to veer off in other directions. My story seemed stronger when I gave my imagination wings. Now when I write, I know the beginning and ending with a fuzzy idea of the middle. That works well for me.

What is the hardest thing about the creative process of writing?

Allowing the story the freedom to change from what you originally envisioned is like taking a leap of faith. A lot of time and energy goes into the writing process. If this path leads down a wild goose chase, you’ve wasted precious days—maybe weeks.

However, I pray for my novels before I write them. I ask God to give me His story and the courage to write it. That’s where the leap of faith comes in. And the editor makes suggestions that you never thought of that makes the story even stronger.

Name your three biggest frustrations about the writing business.

A lot of time is spent on tasks other than writing. Most novelists just want to write. Catch them alone with a PC and what they want to do is create.

Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time on marketing. There were a lot of things I never realized I’d have to learn when I decided to become an author—marketing is just one of them. Studying writing books to hone your craft is another necessity. Keeping track of your novel details requires work, too. Staying organized is key.  

On the flip side, what excites you the most about the creative process?

I learn the writing craft at writer’s conferences, but being in a room filled with writers inspires me. Hanging out with other authors feeds my spirit. They understand how rejections devastate you. They’ve been there. Writing can be a lonely profession. Taking advantage of meeting with other authors helps.

What are you reading at the moment, and who are a few of your favorite authors and why?

I am reading Bury Me with My Pearls by Jane Jenkins Herlong. These are humorous stories from Jane’s life that have made me laugh out loud. Her wisdom has inspired me. I’m also enjoying the novellas in The Cowboy’s Bride Collection published by Barbour.

I like to read novels by authors like Yvonne Lehman, Ann Tatlock, DiAnn Mills, and Kim Vogel Sawyer. I enjoy contemporary romances, romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries, but historical romances are my favorite genre. Research has me poring over a myriad of nonfiction resources.

Tell us about your most recent book. 

A Rebel in My House is set during the turbulent Battle of Gettysburg. The townspeople lived through a nightmare that extended months beyond the battle. This novel gives a glimpse of that suffering through the eyes of a Gettysburg seamstress. A Confederate soldier caught behind enemy lines after retreat needs her help. Sheltering him ushers in more difficulties than she ever imagined. Lines become blurred as her feelings for him grow. Loyalties threaten to divide them as Confederates seize the town. Both have made promises to family members. Some promises are impossible to keep.

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