Novelists strive to draw readers into their characters’ worlds, tirelessly crafting scenes to develop realistic settings within the limits of one novel or a series of books. There are some, though, who enrich their readers’ experience by inviting them deeper into the history of the settings in which their characters’ stories unfold.
Sarah Sundin welcomes readers to meet her characters in the World War II era she’s introduced through her three historical fiction series: Waves of Freedom, Wings of Nightingale, and Wings of Glory. Sarah’s unique approach to blogging taps into the heart of her family’s personal experiences and treats readers with her intriguing “Today in World War II History” facts.
Please help me welcome Sarah Sundin as she celebrates her latest historical fiction series, Waves of Freedom, and shares more about how she expands her characters’ world by building their real world settings through her blog.
Congratulations on the completion of your third World War II era series, Sarah. Would you share a teaser for Anchor in the Storm, which was released in May 2016? No spoilers, please.
For plucky Lillian Avery, America’s entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. She loves the wartime challenges of her new job but spurns the attention of society boy Ens. Archer Vandenberg. As Arch’s destroyer battles U-boats along the East Coast, Lillian uncovers a black market drug ring. Arch and Lillian work together on the investigation, but can he ever earn her trust and affection?
How and why did you decide to use your blog to enrich the setting of your novels by presenting historical facts through your daily posts?
While researching my novels, I’d started a timeline document to keep facts and dates straight. Before my first novel released in 2010, I decided to start posting Today in World War II History tidbits on my blog, then sharing them on social media. I never dreamed how many people would enjoy them!
I also post occasional articles on WWII topics. I’ve found the articles with the broadest appeal have to do with Home Front topics, like rationing. I look for topics in my novels that pique interest and explore them through blogging. For example, the heroine in Anchor in the Storm is a pharmacist, so I ran a series about pharmacy in World War II, and the hero serves on a destroyer, so I posted pictures of my tours of WWII destroyers.
I also enjoy writing posts around important dates, such as D-Day and V-E Day. For the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I’m running a series from December 5-9 with photographs from my recent visit to Pearl Harbor—plus I’ll be giving away some commemorative items I purchased there.
In general, I like to write articles that provide extra value for those who have read my novels—and might draw new readers as well.
I’ve heard fiction writers voicing their struggles with choosing relevant blog topics or themes to support their novels. How would you advise novelists, as they seek to determine a topic or theme for their blogs?
Finding topics that resonate with current readers and attract new ones requires creativity and trial-and-error. Look at theme, setting, time period, and characters for ideas. What makes you and your novels unique? You may have blog topics.
Also, think about frequency. Most true bloggers like to post weekly, even more often. While this does increase blog readership, it might not increase book readership—and it can steal valuable time from novel writing. Personally, I prefer to target my posts around a book release or around special dates.
Select topics that would appeal to your target readers—or attract them. Do your research and be careful to be accurate—I’ve had students use my blog posts for research. Also, be careful to check copyright information on photographs. Many historical images are public domain, but not all.
How has your blogging approach expanded your readership in ways you didn’t expect?
Some of the articles I’ve written, especially on rationing during the war, continue to draw hits through Google searches years after they were written. I’ve received quite a few emails from people who have discovered my novels through these articles. Definitely worth the time. Also, the Today in History posts are fairly popular on social media and increase interest in the WWII era, which—I hope—also increases interest in WWII novels.
What was your most rewarding experience with a reader through your unique blogging approach?
My favorite experiences have been when readers share their own stories with me, either their personal stories or family stories. I’ve heard some of the most amazing memories—funny, fascinating, heartbreaking, inspiring. Those stories remind me why I write.
What was your most challenging obstacle you’ve overcome as you began building your characters’ worlds through your blog?
The greatest obstacle has been time. Writing a thorough, well-researched article—even for a topic I know well—can take hours.
Blogs are a wonderful place to “dump” all that lovely research you can’t put into your novel. By exploring your time period or setting in greater detail on your blog, you can expand your readers’ experiences and allow them to immerse themselves in that world for a while longer.
Thanks for giving us a peek into the World War II era, through your novels and your blog, Sarah. I’m looking forward to the March 2017 release of your next novel in the Waves of Freedom series, When Tides Turn.
To see Sarah’s photographs in honor the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and to enter for a chance to win some commemorative items that she purchased during her recent visit to Pearl Harbor, please visit her blog on or before December 9, 2016.
You can also connect with Sarah through her Facebook Author page, Twitter, and through the comment section below. Sarah will be dropping in to answer questions and encourage Inspire blog readers today (December 8, 2016).