Sarah Creviston Lee is one of the very talented authors I get to brainstorm with in my critique group. Her debut novel, "The War between Us," is historical fiction with a most unique take on World War II. Sarah won the very prestigious Historical Novel Society's Editor's Choice Award.
Pretty much! I distinctly remember deciding that in first grade. As a prize for our writing, we earned these blank, white hardback books to write in and my imagination took flight. I was in love!
Tell us a little bit about your new book, and what inspired it?
The War Between Us, is set in WWII six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It’s the story of a Korean American young man from California who gets stranded in a Midwestern town on his way to DC to live with his uncle. He faces a lot of prejudice and violence because most people believe him to be Japanese. He’s befriended by a local girl whom he eventually falls in love with. The story delves not only into the Korean American wartime experience, but the consequences of a cross-cultural relationship.
My book was inspired by a couple things. I enjoy watching Korean dramas and I love studying about WWII. Eventually, my mind met in the middle, and I wondered what Korean Americans did during the war. Research didn’t take long at first, because there wasn’t much to find. As a historian, this was really thrilling. It’s so hard to find a topic in WWII that hasn’t been written about. As I had already fallen in love with the Korean culture, knowing that their story had yet to be told in historical fiction form was just the motivation I needed to write their story.
A further inspiration were the lives of my Great Aunt Elaine and Uncle Harry Chan. Aunt Elaine married a Chinese man, Harry Chan, in the 1930s and doing research on them and their unique relationship brought a lot of emotional depth to my story. I am so grateful to have had that as a muse.
Tell us about your other projects.
The War Between Us is my only published work at this time, but I’m currently working on four other stories! One is a modern-day paranormal romance, one is a modern sci-fi/fantasy, another is a historical fiction/fantasy, and the final one is a sequel of sorts to The War Between Us, though the main characters will be different.
You're a busy wife and mom. What inspires you, and motivates you to write?
A lot of things in life inspire me. Sometimes it’s as basic as something I’m curious about, a strange situation, or an interesting way of seeing the world. What motivates me to write is my own deep desire to express myself and to communicate with others. I love being able to share my thoughts with the hope of inspiring others or getting them to think about something in a different way. Plus, it’s a lot of fun!
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
Right now, I’d have to say that I really admire Jonathan Stroud and Sarah Sundin. They both write in a way that amazes and inspires me. Stroud has published a fantastic paranormal fantasy series that is so unique and clever which I really seek and hope to emulate in my own creativity. Sarah Sundin is an incredible historical fiction writer who weaves in amazing historical detail that leaves me in awe. I really aspire to that in my own historical fiction, though I have a long way to go!
My writer’s group is my collective mentor. They are a talented bunch of ladies and I really respect their ideas and opinions. I feel lucky to have their expertise to draw from!
Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Is music playing? What surrounds you?
When I wrote as a teenager, I usually wrote in bed, or at a desk in school when I should have been paying attention in class. It hasn’t changed at all! I still write in bed or at a desk at the library when I go out alone a couple nights a week. I always have music playing and that is a big part of my writing research – finding music that sets the mood or speaks to the emotion of the scenes I’m writing. I find it to be a great inspiration and motivator, and besides that, it helps me focus. I’ve found this has a subconscious benefit as well – when I hear those particular songs, I’m immediately placed in my story and the emotion of that moment I was writing. It’s an awesome trigger to kick-start my writing if I’ve been away from it for awhile.
Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?
Oh man, yeah! Some women eat chocolate or ice cream when they’re down, but I watch movies. I love watching a lot of BBC shows or mini-series, historical dramas or Korean dramas. My favorites are North & South, Persuasion, Nicholas Nickelby, My Love From Another Star, Pinnochio, and Rooftop Prince. I’d have to say that the emotions behind the stories are great motivations for me. For instance, ‘Pinnochio’ is a Korean Drama that deals with corruption in journalism as well as the power the ties of family hold. It’s such a gripping story, and I just relish stuff like that! It’s great fuel for my writing.
How has being published changed your life?
Well, it’s made it a bit more stressful! Haha! But in all honesty, it’s a bit surreal. I’ve wanted to be published since I was a girl. To have this finally happen is such a humbling feeling. It makes me so happy to have the privilege of sharing my writing with others and to hear that they enjoy it! I’m naturally an introvert, but being published has helped me open up a little more and have the chance to talk to them about a topic I love and am passionate about.
Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
Yes! I have a free e-book offer going on from May 27th to May 30th found on Amazon. I have two blogs my author blog: http://sarahcrevistonlee.blogspot.com and my history blog at http://history-preserved.blogspot.com.
So, my “I’ve made it” dream is when I see someone waiting for a flight, holding my book in their hands, and I walk up and offer to sign their copy. What’s yours?
It’s a bit wild, but my “I’ve made it” dream is to have a book of mine featured in one of Diane Rehms’s book review sections on the radio. It would be awesome if The War Between Us made that happen, because it would be amazing if more people could hear about and discuss Asian American wartime experiences.
You can pick up a copy of this wonderful book here.