Sarah Dunster is happily married, mother to seven children, and an author of fiction and poetry. Her poems have appeared in several magazines. Sarah’s first novel, Lightning Tree, was released in 2012. When she is not writing, Sarah can often be found cleaning, cooking vegetarian meals, holding small people on her lap, or taking long, risky walks after dark, especially in thunderstorms.
Hello, Sarah. Your novel is written in first person and in present tense. It’s about a young woman having to deal with the death of her husband and how she learns to cope. It defines what struggling to survive is all about. This is what Mile 21 is about.
Abish's husband died suddenly just seven months after their marriage, so she's allowed to be a little crazy and mixed up inside. But it's been a year now since it happened, and her family can't handle her quirky behaviors and emotional disconnect anymore. When mom boots her from the family apartment, it seems her only choice is to move back into single-student housing and attend the ward that her drill-sergeant boss happens to preside over. Add in Bob, the divorced-single-parent who Abish accidentally walked in on in her pajamas when he was trying to fix her internet, and Abish is sure it's all some cosmic joke. Question is, will she be able to land on her feet, or is she going to allow her world to continue to fall apart until she has nobody left?
Why is this novel called Mile 21?
The 21st mile of a marathon is the point at which a lot of runners break down and struggle. My main character Abish is also struggling. She’s having the most difficult year of her life, and she happens to be twenty-one years old. It just worked!
Where did you get your inspiration for this book? Do you get any ideas from your own life experiences?
Oh, yes. This book is about struggling with unexpected tragedy and overwhelming difficulty, and struggling through inspiration, the help of others and sometimes, pure mean grit. I’ve had these sorts of experiences in my life. Abish and I, in fact, share a lot of traits and some of her experiences are ones I can relate to firsthand. That is what makes things so much sweeter for her (and have for me as well) when things turn around and she finds happiness again.
What kind of research did you have to do for this novel?
You won’t believe this but… I toured a women’s prison! It was so interesting. And heartbreaking. I also had to ask for information from a lot of friends who run. And I had to make sure I knew about LDS doctrine related to marriage and sealing and the death of a spouse, and so forth. People were very helpful.
Wow! You actually toured a women’s prison. That’s great research. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.
I think when I write, my drive and passion is to bring another perspective to readers who might not be able to go through certain things for themselves. I personally have gone through a lot of unusual things—I’ve adopted 2 girls from a foreign country. I had a very sad and tragic first marriage that failed. I’ve gone through a lot! And I’m happier for it. I know that sounds completely trite, but it is absolutely true. I would not trade any of these experiences because they’ve put me right where I am right now, with my husband, with all of my children. I’m so grateful for being able to weather tough stuff and come out well on the other side, with the help of my spirituality and friends who turned out to be more like family. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
You have certainly gone through a lot in your life. And yes, you’re right. Our trials make us the people we are today. Thank you, Sarah, for this interview. I hope my readers will check out your book and see what it’s like.