“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.”
― Rachel Carson
Meet Author Sara Ackerman
An Interview with Sara Ackerman, Author of “The Lieutenant’s Nurse and Linda Linda’s Book Obsession
Linda: What was your motivation in becoming an author and writer? What did you do before you were a writer?
Like most authors, my desire to write grew out of a love for reading. I started young and have gone through phases of reading all kinds of books, from Nancy Drew to David Baldacci to Into Thin Air to Lord of the Rings. I also fell in love with Barbara Kingsolver and Alice Hoffman’s books, and they were a big inspiration for me.
I was a school counselor on Oahu for many years, then took some time off for acupuncture school, which is when I started writing my novels. Not long after I got my acupuncture license, I also got my first book deal. Since then, most of my focus has been on writing, but I also went back to teaching part time, which is nice because it gets me out into the world.
Linda: How did you go about researching for your book?
I was raised on WWII stories because my grandparents always spoke about it, especially my mom’s parents. My grandfather was the school principal in Honoka’a (where my first novel is set) and my grandmother was a teacher. Back then, the war colored everything here. For The Lieutenant’s Nurse, I interviewed my mother and several family friends, as well as reading numerous books on Pearl Harbor. I sure wish my grandparents were still alive so I could speak to them.
I also found some wonderful books about making the five day crossing to Hawaii on the Lurline, medicine in the Pacific theater, WWII nurse stories, and codebreaking. A few internet articles were also instrumental. Before starting, I read all of the books, which helped me to form my ideas. Thankfully, I had already done research on my previous book, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, which is also set here during the war, so I was able to build off of that. They take place on different islands and one is towards the end and one the beginning of the war, but having that background helped.
Linda: What are your goals for readers to take away after reading ?
Mainly, a deeper understanding of what it was like for the people who lived here in Hawaii during the war. The early 1940s were dark times, to be sure, but I also got a real sense of nostalgia from my grandmother when she talked about those years. Mixed in with the fear and the horrors, was a deep sense of connection and love and hope. People banded together and leaned on each other. So much has been written on the horrors of war, so I wanted my story to portray the strength of the human spirit. I wanted it to show both the dark and the light — that though the war years were some of the worst years of my grandmother’s life, they were also some of the most meaningful.
I also want to transport readers to Hawaii, so they actually feel like they’re here. Not the sandy beaches and coconut trees portrayed by the media, but true Hawaii from all angles. On my website, I say that I like to write about love and life and all their messy and beautiful imperfections and the same goes for Hawaii.
Linda:: What is a typical day your life ?
I wake up early and write for an hour or two. If I have enough time afterwards, I’ll go for a walk in the hills behind our house, then head to work. In the afternoons, I like to be outside as much as possible, and drive down to the coast for a walk or paddle. At some point, I may try to squeeze in another hour of writing. I love watching the sunset and never miss it if I can help it. We have wonderful local beer here, so I usually enjoy a cold IPA with my sunset. We recently got a jacuzzi and it’s been freezing lately, so a nice soak in that. Then after dinner, our cat is very insistent about going for a walk down our street, so we take her and our dog Lucy out. The stars here in Waimea are amazing! Then off to bed early with a good book.
Linda: What are your hobbies or things you do in your downtime?
I love to hike, surf, bike, snorkel, stand up paddle, and explore the Big Island. There is so much beauty here, it’s hard to stay inside!
Linda: What can you tell us of any new writing projects that you might have?
I just finished my first draft of The Hiding Season, yet another WWII novel set in Hawaii. This one is set at the Volcano at the outbreak of the war and it involves a handful of people holing-up in a remote rainforest hideaway to escape the anticipated Japanese invasion. This one also has a hint of magical realism and has a potential contemporary sequel that I’ve already written.
Linda: What are your favorite genres of books that you like to read?
As I mentioned before, I like all kinds of books. Lately, I have been enjoying historical fiction (of course) and smart, fun beach reads. Some recent favorites have been Where The Crawdads Sing(best book ever), The Queen of Hearts, The Wild Birds, and Winter In Paradise.
Linda: What advice can you give to someone that wants to be a writer?
For many years, I had a Post-It note on my door frame that said Patience & Perseverance. If you want it badly enough, and are willing to put in the time, the magic will happen. I do believe that writing is magic and you have to be open to letting your stories unfold. Writing a good novel is not something that can be rushed, and often it’s not your first, second or even third novel that gets you a book deal. For me, it was my fourth. Conferences were (and still are) another key thing for me. They are the best way to hone your craft and meet other like-minded people.
Of course, you also have to love love love writing and be okay spending countless hours of your life lost in thought and daydreaming, or face down in the computer.
Linda: If your book were adapted to the screen, what actors, actresses could you envision for the main characters?
Sara: Wouldn’t that be fun?!
For Violet, I would love to see Reese Witherspoon and Jean maybe Scarlett Johannson? For Parker maybe Ryan Gosling?
Linda: How would you like the readers to connect with you?
Instagram is my favorite, but I’m on Facebook and Twitter, too:
I love talking writing, so thank you for asking!