An Interview with Sara Ackerman, author of “Red Sky Over Hawaii” with Linda’s Book Obsession
ABOUT SARA ACKERMAN
Sara writes books about love and life, and all of their messy and beautiful imperfections. She believes that the light is just as important as the dark and that the world is in need of uplifting and heartwarming stories. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and later earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine (read more). She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing and sees 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, 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 teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean, which is where most of her inspiration happens.
What was your motivation in becoming an author and writer? What did you do before you were a writer?
Sara: There have been times throughout my life when I finished a book and thought, I want to be able to write one! I’ve always loved reading and writing and used to compile books of my poems and give them out as gifts every year for Christmas. But it wasn’t until more recently––about 8 years ago––that I sat down and started writing my first novel. I was hooked right away, but I didn’t land an agent and publishing deal until my fourth one (Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers). When I started, I knew it would be a long process. I had a Post-It note that said Patience & Perseverance stuck to my door frame. That was my mantra.
I studied psychology in grad school, and have worked for many years as a school counselor and teacher, and more recently I studied Chinese Medicine. I still teach part-time.
How did you go about researching your book?
Sara: This was the fun part! I went to the Volcano as much as possible (it’s a two-hour drive from where I live). I also lucked out by finding a very long and detailed publication on the National Park before, during, and in the aftermath of the war. I got much of my information from that. I also interviewed a few elders who lived at or had a house at Volcano back in the day. Having written two previous Hawaii WWII novels, I also had that information to draw upon as well. And finally, my mom is a great resource. She was a young girl here during the war, so I often call her and ask questions.
What are your goals for readers to take away after reading?
Sara: I would love for readers to learn about a little known piece of American history and for them to perhaps see the world through new eyes. In Hawaii, we are a real mixed plate of races and ethnicities, and somehow we manage to all get along (most of the time).
Also, I hope that readers will experience the wonderful feeling that I get when I’m lost in a book that I love, and transported to another place and time. It’s magical!
What is a typical day in your life?
Sara: I usually get up and write (or write in bed) and then if I’m not going to school, I go for a swim or a hike with my dog. Then I come home and write some more and check social media and that kind of thing. I love to watch the sunset (often in the green rolling hills behind my house or at the beach) with a cold craft beer, and then eat dinner with family and/or friends. After that, I read and go to sleep. We go to bed very early!
What are your hobbies or things you do in your downtime?
Sara: I am definitely a nature girl. I grew up on Oahu and spent every possible moment in the ocean, swimming or surfing or paddling Hawaiian outrigger canoes. I also love yoga and hiking and am a plant/bird nerd. At night, you’ll often find me stargazing (the Hawaiians developed a brilliant ocean navigation system) on the beach, in my yard, or high on Mauna Kea in a secret spot. I also love to pick berries and fruit, and bake pies (hence the idea for Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, my first book). Animals are also a big part of my life, and I have a dog and three cats. My dream is to have an animal sanctuary someday. Finally, I love to read. Can’t forget that!
What can you tell us of any new writing projects that you might have?
Sara: I have just finished the first draft of my fourth novel. It’s currently called Radar Girls (titles have a tendency to change) and I’m very excited about it. The novel was inspired by the true events of the Women’s Air Raid Defense (WARD), which was formed in the Hawaiian islands by emergency Executive Order 9063 immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was top secret and critical work that involved local women, military wives, and recruits from the Mainland manning radar stations and command centers around the islands. Essentially, they were responsible for keeping us safe from attack.
I stumbled across their story while researching for The Lieutenant’s Nurse, and these women are my heroes! They were smart, courageous, tough, and so much fun. It is slated for release in July 2021.
What are your favorite genres of books that you like to read?
Sara: I read across a wide variety of genres, but I tend to read mostly historical fiction, psychological thrillers, and narrative non-fiction (Boys In The Boat, Unbroken, Born To Run, that kind of thing).
What advice can you give to someone that wants to be a writer?
Sara: In a nutshell: patience & perseverance. It took a little over five years and four novels before I landed an agent and a book deal. I also highly recommend writers conferences if you don’t have an MFA (or even if you do). You will learn so much, as well as getting great feedback. Feedback is essential, and you have to listen to people. Be willing to hear what’s not working and change it. Publishing is a long game, so you have to be willing to put in the time. You also have to love it. Which I do!
If your book were adapted to the screen, what actors, actresses could you envision for the main characters?
Sara: Tough question, since I’m not very up on the latest young actors and actresses! What about Gal Godot as Lana and Ryan Reynolds as Grant Bailey? That would be fun!
How would you like the readers to connect with you?
Sara: My favorite is Instagram@saraackermanbooks, but I’m also on Facebook @ackermanbooks and Pinterest Sara Ackerman Books and Twitter @ackermanbooks. And my website ackermanbooks.com has an events page and ordering links and a blog.
Thank you so much for reading Red Sky Over Hawaii and taking the time to chat with me!
Here are a few pics, just in case!
- Kilauea Volcano
- A building at KMC the detainment camp during the war
- Steam vents on the crater rim
- Lava in the mist (Kilauea Iki trail)
- Sailor, the dog who inspired the dog Sailor in the book
Thank you so much Sara Ackerman for your intriguing and wonderful interview!! I hope we get the chance to meet one day !!! Aloha!!!!!!!