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Interview with Sara Ackerman
Sara’s Path to Publication
Today I chat with the lovely Sara Ackerman, the debut author of ‘Island of sweet pies and soldiers’, who shares with us her path to publication. Her debut ‘Island of sweet pies and soldiers’ is scheduled for release on February 13th 2018!
Born and raised in Hawaii, when Sara’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean, which is where most of her inspiration happens.
Hi Sara, I’m so excited to have you on my blog, and thank you so much for sharing your ‘Path to Publication’ experience with us all. I know so many of my readers will love to hear about how you went from an aspiring author to a published one, and many will gather inspiration from the journey!
And I am so excited to be here!
Well, let’s get straight into it then 🙂
- How long have you been writing for?
I’ve been writing poetry since grade school, but I began writing my first novel in 2012.
- How long did it take you from when you started writing, to when you became a published (or soon to be) published author?
I signed with Mira in February, 2017, so about 5 years.
- Where do you write from, home, office, coffee shop, etc? And do you have any pre-writing or actual writing rituals (such as lighting a candle, listening to music, etc)?
I write at home, mostly, though sometimes I will go to Waimea Coffee Company to write if I feel like getting out of the house. Setting is very important to me, in life and in my books, so I usually sit on the porch or near a window. No real rituals, but I like the candle idea.
- Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in-between?
More of a panster, but I do usually have an end of some kind in mind. I try to plot the story out before hand, but the story takes on a life of its own and often changes entirely. I like to reread ‘Wired For Story’, or at least skim through it, before I start a new book.
- What is your favourite part of the writing process?
I love the surprises along the way, and how if you sit down to write, the story carries itself along. Not to say that it is easy, but there does seem to be an element of magic to the whole thing.
- What is the most important part of a novel to you: plot, characters, or setting?
I am big on all of them, but plot sure takes a lot of work. Characters and setting come more naturally to me, especially since I am writing about a place (Hawaii) that I love so much. I like happy, so I often have to work to create enough conflict.
- Describe your writing routine (how long do you spending plotting the novel, time spent writing, editing, submitting it):
I usually spin ideas around in my head for months before I start writing. Long walks, drives, and swims are all time spent lost in thought. Then I create characters, write up my ideas and start, knowing that I will probably go back and redo the beginning. I write in the morning for an hour or two and then sometimes another afternoon session. But I generally can’t write for extended periods of time. I shoot for 5,000 words a week. It takes 3-6 months for a first draft. Then I end up doing a lot of revisions, so I think about a year or more for a final draft. On Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, after doing a lot of revisions on my own, I hired a wonderful freelance editor, then I got an agent and she did a big edit, and then my aquiring editor at Mira did another big edit. So, it was a long process, but I love working with editors. They help make the book so much better.
- How many books a year do you usually write (or are you aiming to write):
1-2 books a year seems comfortable to me.
- How did you get your agent, or your publishing contract (if applicable)?
I got my agent via the slushpile and my agent sent my book out on submission about 4 months later. A month after that we had a 2 book deal with Mira. It really was a dream come true, and it still makes me happy every day!
- How did you cope with rejection during the querying process?
It was rough, since I had unsuccessfully queried my first books. So many rejections and I felt ready to give up at times. It helps to have at least one writer friend, in my case Lilly Barels, who you can commiserate with. And I spend a lot of time outdoors, so that also helps. Nature has an amazing power to heal and calm the mind.
- Describe the time when you got ‘the call’ regarding publication:
It was Valentines day, and I knew the publisher was interested, but you have to wait for the acquisition meeting and for other editors to read it and like it and that takes quite a while (and a lot of obsessive email checking). So when the call came from my agent saying we had an offer, I was a bundle of mixed emotions––nerves, elation, relief. It really was a pinch me moment.
- Can you describe what your own path to publication was like?
Like I mentioned earlier, many, many edits. And things take longer than you expect. And then I was devastated when I got the news (fortunately after we had finished major edits) that my editor was leaving Mira. She was wonderful. So that set things back, but I ended up with another great editor who helped finish off copy edits and has been guiding me through and will help with the next book. There were a few hiccups along the way, like trying to finalize the title and cover. I am still almost two months out from release and am working hard at promoting my book on social media and building buzz. Mira has a big team but as an author, we are also expected to do a lot of the promotional work to get the word out. It’s hard for debut authors to get recognition, so I’m looking at hiring a publicist, which is probably a bit late. My father just passed away, so life does happen and you still have to keep plugging away.
- What were your biggest learning experiences or surprises throughout the publishing journey?
I guess how long everything takes. And also that it’s hard because to me, the book is everything, but to others out there in the world, it is just one book of millions.
- Looking back, what do you think you did right that helped you break in?
Going to writers conferences was the best thing I could have done, on so many levels. You learn so much and meet like minded people and get inspired. I highly recommend attending as many as you can. I went to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Kauai Writers Conference and the Mokuleia Writers Retreat. All were great. I applied to LitCamp, and was chosen as an alternate but did not get in. Sadly, I heard their venue recently burned down.
- Is there anything you wish you could do differently?
- Best advice you’ve ever been given, or have heard, about writing?
Never stop at the end of a thought/chapter/scene. That way, when you pick up the next day, you have a jumping off point and it is MUCH easier to keep the flow going.
- Any advice for aspiring writers on writing and submitting?
Have trusted readers or hire a good editor if you are serious, and don’t jump the gun and submit early. Which is what I did on my first couple books.
- What advice can you give to other writers on building a platform and gaining a readership base?
It takes time and work, so be ready for that. Unless you are already a famous figure. And engagement is key. Comment and like and interact with other authors. The Authors 18 group has been the best thing that has happened to me in connecting with others. Join a group if you can!
- What’s up next for you, and what are you working on now?
I wrote two books this year, the second is another historical fiction set around Pearl Harbor (2nd book in my deal with Mira) and I anticipate massive amounts of editing for both books. I have a few ideas brewing for the next book. Again, set in Hawaii. I’m not sure if I could write a book about a place I am not intimately familiar with.
- How can people connect with you?
On my website there is a contact form or Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. Instagram is my personal favorite of the bunch.
- Anything else you want to add?
I believe in big dreams and creating the life you want. For many years I’ve been writing in a journal and envisioning my life as a published author, setting goals along the way. For example, I set five and ten year goals, and I got my first book deal two months after the five-year mark. Patience and perseverance are my mottos. Thank you for having me, Aloha!
Thank you so much Sara for sharing your Path to Publication with us! What an awesome journey, with many more adventures to come. Good luck with your release of ‘Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers’ – can’t wait to have a read 🙂
And for those of you who want to have a read of Sara’s awesome book ‘Islands of Sweet Pies and Soldiers’, it’s scheduled for release on Feb 13th, 2018. Click on the pic below for more info.
When her husband mysteriously disappears and rumors swirl about his loyalties, a mother must rely on the remarkable power of friendship in war-torn Hawaii
It’s 1944, combat in the Pacific is intensifying, and Violet Iverson and her daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives back together one year after her husband vanished. As suspicions about his loyalties surface, Violet suspects Ella knows something. But Ella refuses to talk. Something—or someone—has scared her.
Violet enjoys the camaraderie of her friends as they open a pie stand for the soldiers training on the island for a secret mission. But even these women face their own wartime challenges as prejudice against the island Japanese pits neighbor against neighbor. And then there’s the matter of Sergeant Stone, a brash marine who comes to Violet’s aid when the women are accused of spying. She struggles with her feelings of guilt but can’t deny the burning attraction—or her fear of losing another man when Stone ships out for Iwo Jima.
Set amid the tropical beauty of Hawaii, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers offers a fresh perspective on World War II as it presents timeless depictions of female friendship, the bond between a mother and her child, and the enduring power of love even in the darkest times.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and later earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. Prior to practicing acupuncture, she worked as a high school counselor and teacher on the famed north shore of Oahu, where surf often took precedence over school. She is the author of six novels – Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, Fallen Water, Volcano House, The Ranch at Redwater, Salt and Seaweed, and Honeycreepers – with several more itching to be written. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and see no end to its untapped stories.
A few of her favorite things, in no particular order – hiking, homemade PIZZA, a good thunderstorm, stargazing, BOOKS, craft beer, her wonderful BOYFRIEND, surfing, mountain streams, her friends, and ANIMALS. In fact, animals inhabit all of her novels in some way, shape or form – dogs, donkeys, sea turtles, a featherless chicken, endangered Hawaiian crows, horses, and even a lion. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean, which is where most of her inspiration happens.
Sara can be found on the following platforms: