Monday, January 27, 2014

Interview with Author Sarah Dunster

Sarah Dunster is wife to one, mother to seven, and an author of fiction and poetry. Her poems have appeared on the online LDS poetry blog Wilderness Interface Zone as well as in Victorian Violet Press, Segullah Magazine, Dialogue: Journal of Mormon Thought, Psaltery and Lyre and Sunstone Magazine. She has published two novels with Cedar Fort under their Bonneville Books imprint: the award winning historical fiction novel Lightning Tree, and Mile 21, which is a contemporary fiction/romance novel. When she is not writing Sarah can often be found cleaning, cooking vegetarian or international meals, holding small people in her lap, driving kids to soccer and piano lessons, singing in local musical productions with her family or taking long walks after dark, especially in thunderstorms.

Welcome back to my blog, Sarah. Please tell us about Lightning Tree.

It’s a mystery-pioneer-history story, set in Utah in 1858 just after the Utah War ended. Maggie, my main character, is an orphan whose parents died on the pioneer trail, and she and her sister have been adopted/taken in by a family and they all now live in Provo. The book opens as she discovers something troubling that leads her to believe her foster family might be keeping some terrible secrets from her.

What genre is this novel and where did you get your inspiration for it?

Historical Fiction, Y/A.  I just love history, and so to write about it means I get to do a whole lot of research for a good reason. But also I’m fascinated by Mormon Immigration stories. This girl is from Italy, and she was part of a French/Italian Christian sect that was persecuted for centuries by the Catholic Church. They were called Vaudois, or the Waldensians. Lorenzo Snow and Thomas B. Stenhouse converted several Vaudois families in 1854, and when those families started being persecuted by their neighbors, they immigrated to the United States and to Utah. They are very special people.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Oh, I’d say I do a couple hours of research for every hour of writing. I know that sounds like a bit much, but I love research so much, why not? Why not get every detail right, you know?  And I hope it creates a real feel for the time, the people, the town, the way life was back then. I have deep sympathy for readers who love to immerse themselves in another time. And I’ve always loved the books that provide me with an incentive to do some research of my own, like… did that really happen? Was that place real? Etc. So that’s what I wanted to write.

I think it’s interesting when authors add real life situations to their stories. Did you put real experiences in this book?

In a way, yes. The story at the beginning of the book, where Maggie discovers the surprise that leads to her doubting her foster family, is straight from my own family history. I have a relative who ran away at 15 years old because of what he found. And it’s a bit of a heart-wrenching family history story, but his story (like Maggie’s) turns out happy in the end. 

Thanks, Sarah, for this great interview. I appreciate all the hard work that you have put into this book. I hope it touches many lives.


Marjorie/cenya2 said...

I just love the storyline of this novel and would love to read it.

cenya2 at Hotmail dot com

Michelle Willms said...

I love mysteries and the combination of history and mystery in this book sounds interesting. I, too, have always been something of a fanatical researcher. I love it. I would begin researching something and would dive in so deeply that I would have enough information for two or three projects when I finally stopped I cannot say I "finished" because I never "finished" researching anything. I simply forced myself to stop researching. michelle_willms at yahoo dot com

Amy C said...

Wow! This book sounds amazing! And a read for me.
Thanks for the giveaway !
Campbellamyd at gmail dot com

pol said...

I have not read this author before but love that she likes research and does lot of it for historical books she writes. would like to be in the drawing and read this story.
thanks for sharing

Paula O(

Shirley Strait said...

This is a new author to me as well. I find the premise very interesting. But I must say that I am a fan of historical fiction that is Christian of most any twist.
I find it very interesting that she is such a thorough researcher. That has to add much to her writing. I will be on the lookout for her books in the future.

Sonja said...

Being a Utahn, I love the history and combined with a little mystery, makes a wonderful combo! I love our local history here with it's very deep roots and would love a chance to read your book Sarah. By the way you sound like a very busy mom!
Sonja dot Nishimoto at gmail dot com

alle mc said...

I am a sucker for historical novels of any kind and this sounds amazing , i think i'll check it out regardless .

NicolettePaul said...

This book is greta for me because I love reading historical novels.. :D It's insightful and an exciting book as well! Really need to read this book! :D

Jessica said...

This sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I love historical fiction and the entire premise just sounds so interesting.

jessicaquadrel at gmail dot com

Vikkikim said...

Sounds really cool, can't wait to see if your research pay'd off :)

LAWonder said...

Sounds like a great book.
Thanks for the Interview and giveaway.
I appreciate authors wh spend time to do the research to make their book appear more real.

Anonymous said...

Sounds really good! I hope I get a chance to read it.

Gail Pallotta said...

What a fascinating story line! I love books that preserve our history, especially the little known. You're picture is lovely.

Jennifer Irving said...

I love historical books.. You get entertained, and learn a bit about history you didn't know before. :)

jennirv4967 at gmail dot com

Linda Weaver Clarke said...

Congratulations, Michelle Willms! You are the winner of this wonderful book. I know you'll enjoy it.