How do writers get where they’re going? And, how does the destination change as an author’s journey continues through time? After thinking about my own road to my most recent publication, I thought I’d like to find out from other writers what road they traveled, and what obstacles and rewards propelled them onwards.
Today I have the distinct honor of kicking off “This Writer’s Road” with historical and children’s best-selling author Sara Barnard. Author of the An Everlasting Heart historical series, Chunky Sugars, a counting book for children, and her chart-topping ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, a children’s guide to lure kids away from video games and into the outdoors.
Sara’s work caught my eye because the Civil War period is of particular interest to me, and because she carries her characters’ love story forward through time–don’t we all aspire to that soul-deep kind of commitment and contentment?
Sara Barnard is a military mom, mother of four, and the proud author of A Heart at Home, released today as Book 3 in the Everlasting Hearts series.
Hello, Sara! Congratulations on the release of A Heart at Home. Glad you could make a stop here at Return to Rio and share a little about your writing road up to now. Let’s get started!
Your “Heart” historical series follows a love story over time. How did it come to you, and why is it important to you?
I wrote my very first novel, A Heart on Hold, when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan. So there I was with my history degree and just waiting around by the computer for him to come online all the time, so I decided to take what he was going through and what I was going through and throw our experiences back in the 19th century, my favorite time period. Over the rest of that deployment and the following year, A Heart on Hold was born. Unable to let the characters go, when I signed my contract with 5 Prince Publishing, we went ahead and did it for 4 books. A Heart on Hold is just the beginning … it takes us through the Civil War and immediately after while A Heart Broken (book 2) chronicles the tumultuous time period immediately following the Civil War. A Heart at Home (book 3) takes us into the young wild west when our characters, Sanderson and Charlotte, try to find where they fit in in this life. Book 4, coming later this year, ties everything together about in the Gold Rush years.
What genres do you write, and are there any you prefer not to write?
I love historicals and in my experience, life revolves around that one emotion called love. So historical romance is the most fun genre to write — especially with lots and lots of real period people and events. That gives my stories just enough plausibility so that the reader comes away questioning, “Was that actually true?” I also write children’s books … I have written one for each of my four children. They are such an inspiration!!! I also like regional nonfiction for younger people. My very first book, The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, is actually a bestseller right now. I plan on doing one of the ABC’s books for each of the states … Texas is complete, Alaska is almost done, as is New Mexico and Arkansas. I steer clear of horror and stuff … there is enough of that in the news. I don’t want sad — I don’t like to be sad. I like happy endings because I ultimately believe in happy endings even in the gloomiest of situations. There is always a silver lining in my books.
What projects are you working on now?
Oh so many irons in the proverbial fire. I am finishing up book 4, A Heart Forever Wild. Again, I am not sure if I can let these characters go. There may be more of Charlotte and Sanderson in the future, but I haven’t decided for sure. I have all of my ABC’s books that I am working on as time allows, and I am here to tell you that nonfiction is so much more time consuming to write than nonfiction. I love the research aspect, but it is the indexing that kills me!! It is all worth it though and the purpose of the ABC’s books is to get kids outside and discovering their neighborhood nature. I have a Christian western I am totally loving, and another western romance — though it is a bit atypical. I also have an 18th century Scottish romance that I began writing when I discovered the story in my family tree! Truth in this case is far stranger than fiction! Oh, and an Amish romance, as well! Plus the plethora of kids books that are either complete or in the works …
You are a military wife and mother, so I imagine that your time and your emotions must be stretched to the limit sometimes–I can’t imagine dealing with deployment, for example. Are you characters born out of the emotions you cope with, or can you separate them completely?
No, I am a horrible separator. The emotions and most of the experiences are real in my books, so in essence you are seeing into my soul when I write — especially my historicals. I try to put a piece of myself in all of my work, but sometimes I put in huge chunks of my emotions and when I read it, it feels more like I am reading my diary. Which is embarrassing. Things can get stressful around here which is why I carry my laptop with me everywhere. I write when it is slow at work — and if I can’t seduce the muse right then for fiction, I research facts for the ABC’s series. If the internet isn’t available, I will edit some long forgotten project etc. As you can probably notice, laundry isn’t high on the list of priorities … I save it for once a week 🙂
Laundry once a week? Sounds fair! Your writer’s road is an inspiration to me, Sara. Anything else you want to share with us?
Fun facts about the An Everlasting Heart series:
Sanderson’s character is based on the real life Confederate Soldier Captain E. A. Adams.
Sara had family who fought on both sides of the Civil War.
The An Everlasting Heart series is suitable for younger readers, too. There is nothing in there I wouldn’t want my eight-year old girl to read.
Watch for animals in Sara’s work. They are usually based on a real furry family member.
Here are a few of the milestones along Sara’s already remarkable road:
A Heart on Hold (Book 1)
War. Devotion. Deceit. Death. How long can a heart hold on before it breaks?
Most women would carry on with their lives after being thrust into widowhood, but not Charlotte Adamsland. Upon learning that her husband, Captain Sanderson Redding, was killed in a botched escape from a Confederate prison in Illinois, she clings to his promise to return to her no matter what, and quickly heads north through a war-ravaged country with only her faith in God and her beloved horse to bring her beloved Sanderson home—one way or another.
A Heart Broken (Book 2)
The war is over, Sanderson is home, and life is good … until the Army comes knocking. They’ve charged Sanderson with murder and in order to clear his name, he’s been ordered to track down the notorious outlaw, William “Bloody Bill” Quantrill — or face the hangman’s noose. Meanwhile, Charlotte is left to endure a complicated pregnancy alone and battle a rash of hydrophobee that threatens the countryside, her Sanderson included.
A Heart at Home (Book 3)
Gold. Massacres. Soldiers. Indians. Can Charlotte survive life on the trail or will the wildness of the west tear her family apart?
With Sanderson’s job as an Indian Agent beckoning from California, Charlotte must leave behind her life in Arkansas to follow the man she loves, and whose child she is carrying, in search of a place they can call home.
From Quanah Parker to Wyatt Earp, Charlotte and Sanderson rub shoulders with some of the American West’s most notable characters as they stumble into Government conspiracies, endure a hard pregnancy, and survive nature’s fury — all while struggling to remember what truly makes a home is love.
Mommy and baby fun filled with kisses and counting!
The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants
From stinky trees to sparkling bushes, this book has one interesting plant for each letter of the alphabet! The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants is geared toward getting middle elementary readers outside in the Sooner state and discovering awesome bushes, trees, flowers, and grasses right in their own backyards!Complete with one stunning photograph per chapter, each featured plant also includes hunting information, plant history and traditional uses, its Latin name, and insightful backcountry wisdom.
Sara, thank so much for sharing your journey with us, and I wish you much success as the trip continues!
NOW AVAILABLE AT www.sarabarnardbooks.com! Get your copy today!
Historical Romance and Children’s book author
A Heart at Home (An Everlasting Heart #3, June 2013)
A Heart Forever Wild (An Everlasting Heart #4, December 2013)