Are you a re-reader? Why, or why not? And if you are, what are some of the books you have read over and over?
I’m a selective re-reader simply because there are SO MANY new books I want to read! I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s books several times. I re-read from Jan Karon’s Mitford series when I want something soothing and comfortable. And I like to go back and read books from childhood that I adored—the Little House series, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, and Narnia. It’s fun to circle back with an adult perspective.
When is your optimal time to read – do you prefer to read in one long block, or do you also read for five minutes here or there when you can?
My two favourite places to read are bed and the bathtub. I almost always wind down the day with a few chapters under the covers. It’s sort of a reward for finishing another day. And I read in the tub until I get pruny at least weekly. I used to read in snatches just about anywhere, but my ability to focus isn’t what it used to be, so I usually read in the evenings or while traveling when I have a chunk of time.
I’d love your thoughts on novellas. Are you thumbs up or down? Or does it depend?!
I’ll have to be honest here. I didn’t much care for novellas until my editor asked me to write one to introduce the Appalachian Blessings series. I read several to get my head in the game and then wrote Appalachian Serenade. Now I kind of like them, but I think it’s because I understand what they are—samples or teasers to hook readers on a story world. I think readers who don’t like them are looking for a full-blown, wide-ranging, deeply developed story that’s somehow boiled down. Which, trust me, is HARD. So if you look at them as fun, little tit-bits to whet your appetite, I think they can actually be quite nice.
Are you faithful to a genre, an author, or simply quality writing?
Pretty much the only genres I’m not wild about are fantasy and, hard-core romance or erotica. I love Ray Bradbury’s science fiction. Lisa Bergren writes great YA. My husband and I often listen to authors like John Grisham, James Patterson, or David Baldacci on long trips. Wendell Berry is probably my favourite author and he writes a bit of everything!
Which factors most influence your selection of a book?
The blurb is the main thing for me, although a snazzy cover can grab me, too. I want to read a book that has heart—not romance necessarily, but a story that makes me think and leaves me changed at least a little bit when I finish.
Your fiction pet peeve?
Promotional hyperbole. It used to mean something to say an author was “best-selling” or “award-winning,” but the terms have been so overused and even misused that they’re kind of meaningless now. I wish I could just use my five-year-old niece’s review for all my promotions. She flipped through a copy of Until the Harvest, saw my picture on the back and announced, “Aunt Sarah writes good books.” Now THAT’S an endorsement.
What book have you read this year that you could not put down, and why?
A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell. I fell in love with her books when I read The Widow of Larkspur Inn and then she sort of disappeared. But she’s back and her books appeal to me in much the same way Jane Austen’s do. They aren’t what I’d call action-packed or hugely dramatic. But they transport me to the time and place of the story and it’s utterly delightful to just sink into another world like that.
How do you mark your spot – folded page corner, bookmark, dollar bill, whatever is at hand?
I have folded corners and I’m so ashamed! Now I mostly use my own bookmarks because I have a bunch of them! My mom also sends me pretty or funny bookmarks, so I really have no excuse to deface a book.
Whose debut novel impressed you more than you anticipated?
Sondra Kraak’s One Plus One Equals Trouble was delightful! I’m in a writing group with Sondra and read her book because I wanted to support her with reviews and feedback. Who knew I was going to enjoy it so much?? It’s a really fun, western romance with duelling one-room schoolteachers. A great, romantic story without being cliché.
When reading, what makes or breaks a story for you?
I read a story where a character got ink on her hands in the opening pages and then went on to touch other things without the author either explaining how she got cleaned up or mentioning the mess she continued to make. That was hard for me to get past because I was so worried about the ink! I get terribly distracted when little details like that go awry. The colour of something shifts . . . a timeline is off . . . when I’m writing I can’t move past a detail until I nail it down. Even if it’s just a matter of whether a book a character is reading is leather bound or paper—minutiae matters!
What are some of your favourite CF reads from around 10 years ago, or further back?
Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series is what hooked me on Christian fiction. I thought it was all preachy and pious until I read A Voice in the Wind. Wow. The story was deeply compelling and left me changed. And then I discovered Rivers’ The Last Sin Eater set in my beloved Appalachian Mountains. I’m just sorry that story line isn’t still available for me to write.
Snack/drink of choice while reading?
A cup of tea and that’s it. Snacking requires me to use my hands too much and I’m typing here! Okay, a glass of wine once in a while, but like tea, I can snatch a sip quickly.
What book cover has really caught your eye?
A Moonbow Night by Laura Frantz. I’ve been a fan of hers for years and really like all her covers, but this latest is spectacularly gorgeous. The way the heroine’s face appears to be illuminated takes my breath away.
Which author makes it easy to turn off your internal editor?
Charles Martin. He almost makes me want to turn off my internal writer and just give it up, but his books are so different from mine I can usually rally and carry on.
What book do you wish you had written? Why?
There really isn’t a book I wished I’d written—I’m content to have written the ones I have. But just to play along I guess I’d say The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because it’s introduced generations of children to faith in such an inviting way.
This Decade-Spanning Novel of Family and Faith Will Delight
Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.
Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.
Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?
Thank you Sarah!
Relz Reviewz Extras
Character Spotlights on Perla (Miracle in a Dry Season) & Margaret & Henry (Until the Harvest)
Visit Sarah’s website
Discover Sarah’s free e-novella Appalachian Serenade
Buy at Amazon: A Tapestry of Secrets or Koorong