Welcome to another sparkling edition of Jen's Jewels, where I bring you the inside scoop on exciting new book releases! Today, I have the privilege of featuring an interview with bestselling inspirational fiction author Sarah Sundin, who joins us to discuss her latest World War II novel, EMBERS IN THE LONDON SKY. Known for weaving rich historical detail and poignant relationships into stories of hope and resilience, Sundin gives us an insider's look into the inspiration behind her new book. Like a precious gem reflecting light, her words offer a glimmering portrait of life during wartime, shining through the darkness of loss and adversity. So come along as we explore this treasure trove of insights with a talented storyteller.
Jennifer Vido: What inspired you to set your novel, EMBERS IN THE LONDON SKY, during the invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 and the subsequent events in London during the Blitz?
Sarah Sundin: The kernel of inspiration for this novel was the search for children after the invasion of France and the Low Countries. Since the Blitz has always fascinated me and I hadn’t written a novel centered around those events, I decided to send my heroine to London in her search for her little boy.
Jen: Aleida's journey to find her missing son is a central theme in the story. What motivated you to explore wartime separation's emotional and psychological impact on families?
Sarah: When researching Until Leaves Fall in Paris, I read about families fleeing the German army and thrusting their children into the cars of strangers, believing they stood a better chance in a car than on foot. After the armistice, people returned home and classified ads begged for information on lost children. This broke my heart! At the same time in Britain, urban families were urged to send their children into the country to live with complete strangers. The plight of parents forced to consider whether their children were safer with them or with strangers—and the plight of children forced to weather those decisions—tugged at me, and I wanted to explore it.
Jen: The character Hugh Collingwood is a BBC radio correspondent reporting on the Blitz. How did you research and develop his character to accurately portray the challenges faced by journalists during that time?
Sarah: The wonderful thing about researching journalism is that journalists love to tell stories, so a wealth of information exists about the BBC and the reporters pioneering the new medium of radio correspondence. I was able to read official BBC histories and memoirs of reporters, and to listen to radio broadcasts from the war to get the cadence and flavor of those reports—and the unique mindset of a journalist.
Jen: Aleida works for an agency responsible for evacuating children to the countryside. What inspired you to incorporate this aspect of wartime efforts into the plot, and how did it influence the characters' experiences?
Sarah: When we think of child evacuees during the war, we often picture teary separations at railway stations or apple-cheeked children frolicking in country meadows. Researching the evacuation showed more nuance. Many parents complied with government recommendations and sent their children away for the duration. Many refused. Many brought their children back home for a variety of reasons. And although some child evacuees were welcomed gladly, some were resented, neglected, and even abused. As Aleida witnesses all this, she grows as a mother and learns to see when she’s acting in her child’s best interests—and when she’s acting in her own.
Jen: The murders that occur in the story add a suspenseful element. What inspired the inclusion of a mystery subplot, and how did it contribute to the overall tension in the narrative?
Sarah: I’m probably watching too much BritBox. As if there’s such a thing. The English do love a murder mystery, so it felt right to include one in my story. My novel’s mystery was inspired by true cases of murderers using bomb damage to cover their crimes.
Jen: How did you balance the characters' personal stories with the larger historical context of World War II, and what challenges did you face in weaving these elements together?
Sarah: For me as a writer, these are completely interconnected. Both Aleida and Hugh start the novel with shortcomings, fears, and secrets. The events of the story and their relationship with each other force them to confront those shortcomings, overcome those fears, and deal with those secrets.
Jen: The novel explores themes of resilience and hope in the face of adversity. What messages or themes did you aim to convey through the characters' experiences during wartime?
Sarah: This is a theme that emerges in most of my books. I want to show my characters actually struggling with the adversity - as we all would with bombs falling and food shortages and family separations. For Hugh, a natural optimist, hope comes easily. But Aleida is an anxious sort, and this is difficult for her, but necessary. Every generation thinks we’re facing the worst crises faced by humanity, and we struggle and gripe and despair. I hope reading about how past generations dealt with adversity can help us find comfort and hope for today.
Jen: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find news about your upcoming works? Can readers subscribe to a newsletter for regular updates and exclusive content?
Sarah: Readers can find me on my website, on my blog, I share book news, World War II articles, and daily “Today in World War II History” tidbits. And please sign up for my newsletter—you’ll receive a booklet on life on the US Home Front in World War II: https://view.flodesk.com/pages/61f0446b6114df05454c3b35
Jen: Are you active on social media platforms? If so, which ones, and where can readers follow you to stay connected?
Sarah: Please find me on social media! I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/X, and Threads, as well as on Goodreads and BookBub.
Jen: What’s on your TBR stack?
Sarah: So, so, so many books! I’m at the tail end of a difficult life season when I couldn’t keep up with my reading. I’m currently enjoying Holly Varni’s lovely debut, On Moonberry Lake. I’m eager to read Laura Frantz’s The Seamstress of Acadie, Amy Lynn Green’s The Foxhole Victory Tour, and Karen Barnett’s Where Trees Touch the Sky (I have an early copy for endorsement).
Jen: Thank you for stopping by to chat about EMBERS IN THE LONDON SKY - best of luck with your riveting new release.
Sarah: Thank you so much!
As the German army invades the Netherlands in 1940, Aleida van der Zee Martens escapes to London to wait out the Occupation. Separated from her three-year-old son, Theo, in the process, the young widow desperately searches for her little boy even as she works for an agency responsible for evacuating children to the countryside.
When German bombs set London ablaze, BBC radio correspondent Hugh Collingwood reports on the Blitz, eager to boost morale while walking the fine line between truth and censorship. But the Germans are not the only ones Londoners have to fear as a series of murders flame up amid the ashes.
The deaths hit close to home for Hugh, and Aleida needs his help to locate her missing son. As they work together, they grow closer and closer, both to each other and the answers they seek. But with bombs falling and continued killings, they may be running out of time.
Women's Fiction Historical [Revell, On Sale: February 6, 2024, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780800741853 / ]
Sarah Sundin is the author of The Sea Before Us and The Sky Above Us, as well as the Waves of Freedom, Wings of the Nightingale, and Wings of Glory series. Her novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Her popular Through Waters Deep was a Carol Award finalist, and both Through Waters Deep and When Tides Turn were named on Booklist's "101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years." Sarah lives in Northern California.
Jennifer Vido writes sweet romances set in the Lowcountry filled with southern charm and hospitality. In between chapters, she interviews authors for her bi-weekly Jen’s Jewels column on FreshFiction.com. Most mornings, she teaches an arthritis-friendly water exercise class for seniors before heading to the office to serve as the executive director of a legal non-profit. A New Jersey native, she currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescue dogs and is the proud parent of two sons who miss her home-cooked meals. To learn more, please visit her website.
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