How long did Sweeter Than Birdsong take you to complete?
This novel had an unusual history because it was my very first novel. I wrote it in about a year in 2007/2008, and my agent signed me after reading it. However, the contract for this series began with my second novel, Fairer than Morning, a novel about Ben Hanby’s father Will and a young woman named Ann Miller. By the time I got around to rewriting Sweeter than Birdsong, I had grown so much as a writer than I found this novel needed a very extensive rewrite. Two rewrites, in fact. So altogether, I probably spent almost two years writing and rewriting this novel, which is unusual. My typical writing time for a novel is closer to a year.
Do you have a favorite character in Sweeter Than Birdsong? Why?
Though it’s a tough decision, I’ll have to choose Kate Winter because of her personal transformation from shy, anxious young woman into a person of great courage. I love it when ordinary people overcome their fears and discover true spiritual strength, and that’s what happens to Kate in this novel.
How much research did Sweeter Than Birdsong take?
All of my novels take a lot of research because I like to include vivid, detailed settings that allow the reader to walk through the same world the characters are experiencing. This is more risky than writing less-developed historical settings because more detail means more potential to make mistakes. But that’s a risk I’m willing to take—I do my best to research every detail, and I have friends and editors who also try to question inconsistencies or timelines. For example, in Fairer than Morning, I had to switch matches in one scene to flint, steel, and tinder, because matches were invented the year after the story takes place
What was the most interesting tidbit that you learned while writing Sweeter Than Birdsong?
My favorite research moment was finding a color sketch of a parlor in Philadelphia from the same year as my novel, in a house on the same street where some of my characters were staying as houseguests. That thrilled my history-loving heart.
How many books will be in the Saddlers Legacy series?
Fairer than Morning was the first, Sweeter than Birdsong is the second, and Lovelier than Daylight is the third and final novel about the Hanby family.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
My biggest challenge is making sure that I always place my family first. Because I feel so strongly about that, there are times when life can get stressful, when I haven’t yet made my wordcount for that week because I was meeting a family need instead. But it’s worth it. My second challenge is being so critical of my own work that it can be hard to keep writing, which is something almost every writer understands.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
Feeling that my novels have been uplifting and encouraging to readers, and knowing that I have helped in a small way to preserve some of our real American history.
What writing clubs or organizations do you belong to?
I belong to American Christian Fiction Writers, a fantastic organization for writers of faith. ACFW provided me with the information that allowed me to sign with my agent.
What were your favorite books as a child?
When I was younger, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, and later I added the Lord of the Rings trilogy. These fantasies that reinforce a Christian worldview captured my imagination and taught me what it means to stand up for good and resist evil.