An Interview With Award Winning Indie Author: Sarah Monzon

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An Interview With Award Winning Indie Author: Sarah Monzon

 

Sarah Monzon is a Navy chaplain’s wife and a stay at home mom. When she isn’t in the world of make-believe, she can be found in the pine forests of western Washington taking care of her family, fostering friendships, and enjoying all the adventures each day brings. Her debut novel, The Isaac Project, skyrocketed to Amazon bestseller status while her Sophomore book, Finders Keepers, won the 2017 SELAH award!

Vinnie:

Sarah, thanks for doing this interview. I have known you a long time, and I remember the first time we met. I have now reviewed a couple of your books, but for context and the sake of my readers, tell them how we know each other.

Sarah:

We first met at college in Tennessee. You were one of my now-husband’s good friends, and we all spent a lot of time hanging out. You were also the officiator at my wedding and dedicated my first child. It’s safe to say you’ve seen me through some big milestones.

Vinnie:

Yeah, that whole group was great people; some of the best friends of my life. It is awesome to see what you have done since then.

How many books have you written now? What are they?

Sarah:

I’ve written four full-length novels. The Isaac Project and The Esther Paradigm are contemporary stories inspired by Biblical narratives while Finders Keepers and All of You are the first two books in a dual-timeline, familial series. Along with the novels, I have written two novellas, 12 Days of Snowmen which is a free gift to all who sign up for my newsletter from my website www.sarahmonzonwrites.com, and Bookishly Ever After which is a part of an anthology that is up for pre-order right now (all proceeds are being donated to the LiveStrong Foundation) and releases in June.

Vinnie:

Why do you choose to write to Young adults? What is it about that age group you like?

The Isaac Project is Sarah’s debut novel and an Amazon top-selling novel. (Click image to see on Amazon)

Sarah:

Hmm… Well, technically I don’t write young adult (YA) books as my characters are generally older than that audience (20s-early 30’s). I have readers of all ages and pray that any reader would be able to relate in some aspect to at least one character, as we all tend to have similar struggles, hopes, and fears. However, I tend to gravitate toward writing characters that are in the same age category as myself. I’m not sure if I’ve done this intentionally or if it’s just a subconscious “write what you know” sort of thing.

Vinnie:

I don’t think I have ever tracked the ages of your characters. I guess when I think of young adults as a genre I think more of who is likely to read it, not the age of the people in the stories. I guess I am presumptuous that young adults would be your key demographic. So, how do you best characterize your genre?  

 Sarah:

The YA genre targets teens mostly from ages about 14-19 then there is the rising NA genre (New Adult) that targets a college-aged audience. I don’t think I would classify my stories as hitting a specific age group, per se. I usually just say I write inspirational romance or Christian fiction/romance.

Vinnie:

After reading your books, I am convinced that they are more than stories. What you are doing seems like a ministry to me. Do you see it that way and why?

Sarah:

I haven’t always looked at it as a ministry, mainly because I could never bring myself to compare it to that. Who am I to say that I’m “in ministry.” In my mind that was a term reserved for pastors or missionaries or others that worked in the church. I’ve always blanketed my writing in prayer and created with God, but it wasn’t until I attended a writer’s conference where a workshop teacher had brought a stack of empty journals, ones he’d prayed over and asked God to give a special, specific message to the receiver, that my eyes were really opened. These journals were passed out and sniffles could be heard around the room as they were opened and read. No two messages from God were the same but the Holy Spirit was moving those passing them out to put each in the right hands. Mine read, “I have called you to write stories of life and light.” That phrase called you gave me the courage to voice what I did as it really was—not a hobby, but a ministry.

Vinnie:

Sarah, if you’re a Christian, you’re in ministry or a really bad Christian. <laugh> What you are doing with your books, is not that different from what I do with sermons. Face the facts, you’re a preacher of a different medium. You primarily write about relationships, and relationships are the most broken part of people in need of instruction for the Gospel. You have a very powerful ministry platform.

Sarah:

*blushes* But actually admitting that always seemed so presumptuous of me. Who was/am I to claim that I had any talents, or anything to offer really, that would be useful to God. And, yes, I know that we all, as a body of Christ, work to minister to those around us. But knowing and claiming a specific “turf” of ministry, so to speak–*shrugs*–I don’t know…that was a big step for me.

Vinnie:

What are your ministry objectives?

Sarah:

I’m not sure I could say that I have any specific objectives. I pray for the stories and God places them on my heart. I pray as I write them, and God opens my imagination to the characters and their journey. I pray as they are published, that they will somehow touch a life. I just try to stay faithful to my part in the process and let God do the rest.

Vinnie:

Some feel it is not serious enough or a waste of time for people who should be spreading the gospel. What do you say to those people?

Sarah:

I say that God is the Author and finisher. That Jesus Himself used story to illustrate His sacred truths because it is such a powerful tool. That books that were created with God can be as powerful as a well-spoken sermon and reach audiences that may not grace a church pew for one reason or another.

Finders Keepers won the 2017 SELAH award for contemporary romance. It is Sarah’s second novel and the first installment of her Carrington Family Series. (Click the image to see this on Amazon)

Vinnie:

What an awesome and fitting application of Hebrews 12:2! Well done Preacher! I like to think of Jesus as the ultimate Writer and we are His story.

Why Romance? Do you get any flak for writing about this topic from the conservative side of the church?

Sarah:

I haven’t gotten a lot of flak but that could be because most people at church don’t know that I write because I don’t really talk about it (I don’t really talk period, as I’m pretty shy). However, as to your question of why romance… God is love! He’s the creator of love, and more so, the creator of romance. He wired our bodies to have all those fluttery and euphoric feelings and to yearn for someone with whom to share our lives. Romance is all about relationship; growing in grace, holding on to hope. Romance is also a picture of Christ’s love for us. After all, didn’t He liken Himself to a Bridegroom and His church to His Bride?

Vinnie:

Being a Christian Romance writer, does it get difficult not to blur the lines between purity and romance? As a pastor, I often do relationship counseling, and I am convinced Christians, in general, are the worst “daters” ever. They either draw the line between friendship and love so protectively it is hard to really fall in love or they have no line and it gets sinfully messy, fast. How do you find that balance when writing young love? Particularly, because not all your characters start out as believers; is it challenging to write realistically, yet keep to a high moral code?

Sarah:

Will you think I’m crazy if I say my characters ‘tell’ me? Honestly, characters are just people—fictional, yes, but based on the journey that real people have experienced. It’s what makes story so powerful and relatable. Which means I may have a character that is struggling with relationships due to “the purity culture” and I may have one that has premarital sex. That being said, the moral code I keep to as I write isn’t so much for my characters as it is for me and a line I won’t cross. All my books are clean, the bedroom door firmly shut.

Vinnie:

I read a lot of fiction. You seem to have brilliant, well-defined characters, and they seem to be something that is easy for you or comes very natural to you. You could do any genre you wanted. Have you thought about expanding or are you totally dedicated to romance? If you branched out, where would you go?

Sarah:

Now you’re making me blush! And I don’t know about all that but thank you. While all my books have the element of romance, I have written in a lot of different ways which actually makes me difficult to brand. I have rural, urban, and international settings. I’ve written both contemporary and historical; from more serious subjects to comedy. From both first person and third person point of views. As to whether or not I would write in a completely different genre I’ll say, “Where He leads, I will follow.”

Vinnie:

I am an avid, fiction reader and I can tell you that you’re a better character writer then you give yourself credit for. Every writer grows deeper with time but your character development style always reminds me of early Veronica Roth.

Who is your favorite Character you have created and why?

Sarah:

Now that would be like choosing my favorite child. Impossible.

Vinnie:

<Laugh> I only have one child, easy peasy for me!

They say a writer’s first book is special, looking back on “The Isaac Project”, is there anything you regret or would change now that you have several books under your belt?

All of You is Sarah’s second Carrington Family novel. (Click the image to see this book on Amazon)

Sarah:

I’m my worst critique and once I’ve published a book I don’t tend to go back and read them again. Maybe I will one day, but I haven’t yet. Mostly because I know I will see places where I could have strengthened the writing or deepened the character or made the setting more vibrant. Seriously, editing could last a lifetime.

Vinnie:

Ha. I totally get that! As a blog writer, it drives me crazy when a re-read my stuff. However, it is a website, not a published book so I greatly enjoy the liberty of being able to edit horrible mistakes. The edit never ends!

So, on the business side of things, are you getting rich, breaking even, or a starving artist?

Sarah:

Somewhere between breaking even and starving artist. So thankful my family isn’t dependent on my (lack of) income.

Vinnie:

Which book has sold the best, and does that give you any insights to your fan base? 

Sarah:

My debut novel, The Isaac Project, has sold the most copies and still continues to outsell my other books. I’m really not sure what kind of insight that gives me, though.

Vinnie:

It makes sense, it has had the longest time to sell.

Do you think paper books are dead? Are most of your sales digital books? Are you throwing in with any particular format?

Sarah:

No, I don’t think paperback books are dead. There are still a lot of people who love the feel and smell of a physical book in their hand. My sales are mostly digital even though I do sell paperbacks, but because I am an indie author, most brick and mortar stores won’t carry my books. Then again, I haven’t put much effort on that front either.

Vinnie:

Sarah, it is long overdue, so when are we going to get an Audio or Audible version of one of your books? I believe your work would really come alive in that format.

Sarah:

I would love to create audio formats, but it is very expensive, and I simply don’t have the funds. I’ve thought about narrating them myself, but the learning curve is daunting, and I haven’t had the time, energy, or money to invest in equipment or software to make it professional.

Vinnie:

I have heard some horrible audiobooks, but they are mostly older. These days there is great free recording software, you just need to find a starving artist actor to do the reading. Meanwhile, Amazon’s Alexa reads you pretty well. I normally listen to your books.

Tell our readers a little bit about family, life, being a wife and a mother and how that impacts writing? Do you consider yourself a full-time or part-time writer?

The Esther Paradigm is a Contemporary Christian romance novel. (Click the image to see this book on Amazon)

Sarah:

Considering I only write for 60-90 minutes, four to five days a week, I’d definitely say that I’m a part-time writer. Most of my time is filled with being a mom and a wife. My husband is a chaplain in the Navy and we have a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. They are my full-time job, and I take great pains not to let my writing encroach on being there for them.

Vinnie:

Ha! That is crazy! I write that much and barely get blogs out! Wow, you make productive use of your time! Amazing!

In college, I remember you as quite a classic or even definitive introvert. In fact, I use to call you, “The Invisible Girl.” It seems, at least to me, writing has really freed the “inner” you. It seems to me to have forced the “truer” Sarah to be bolder. Do you think writing has been therapeutic for you? Or has just needing to be in the public eye, promoting, giving interviews, etc. impacted you?

Sarah:

I think that maybe this is all a bit deceptive. I’m still incredibly awkward and don’t know how to make small talk with people. I still refuse to do any public speaking and shy away from things that put attention on me…in the real world. I can be bold behind a computer screen but face-to-face you probably wouldn’t find me much changed.

Vinnie:

I hear you are working on a collaborative with some other writers, tell us about that.

Sarah:

It is a novella collection of seven stories that span time periods from 1812 to the present day. All the authors have come together in an effort to give back by donating all the proceeds to cancer research and relief through the LiveStrong Foundation.

Vinnie:

Who are the top Christian authors you love to read?

Sarah:

It really depends on the mood I’m in. I love books from legal thrillers to fantasy, to Biblical fiction. Give me a subgenre and I’ll tell you some great authors. 😊

Vinnie:

I really want to read more Christian fiction. At your recommendation, I have read and enjoyed Jennifer Rodewald/J. Rodes. Who is doing legal thrillers? Humor? Or retro stuff based on the 70’s 80’s or 90’s?

Sarah:

For legal thrillers check out Randy Singer and Robert Whitlow. As far as humor, there haven’t been a ton of books that have made me laugh out loud, but I really enjoyed The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner. I think Millennials especially would really enjoy her voice, and I did snort-laugh quite a bit throughout the book.

Vinnie:

Who are your top non- Christian authors you love to read?

Sarah:

I like to read and reread the classics. L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott to name a few

Timeless Love is a part of a collaborative effort with all proceeds from the sales being donated to the LiveStrong Foundation. (Click the image to see this book on Amazon).

Vinnie:

As a pastor who preaches 42 weeks out of a possible 52 weeks in a year, I know firsthand that creativity can get drained and bottomed out. Do you take breaks in writing? To you feel you need to always be producing in this stage of your career? How do you keep creative?

Sarah:

It’s really important for me to keep my creative tank full so I read a lot even when I’m in the middle of a writing project. I do usually take a break for a couple of weeks in between projects, too.

Vinnie:

Lastly, what is ultimate success for you, how will you know when you have hit the top of your stride?  

Sarah:

I honestly don’t know. I feel like the word success is really ambiguous. It’s a little elusive and when you think you might have pinned it down, it disappears to show up somewhere else. I’ve decided to stop striving toward it. Writing and ministry is a journey, not a finish line.

Vinnie:

Sarah, I can count on one hand the amount of people who have made a dream like this happen in life. As soon as The Isaac Project came out and started selling, you were a success and more of a success than most people we know will be. Success is not ambiguous, it is defined by what you have done. The only thing ambiguous is where you go next.




Keeping up with Sarah

 

Sarah’s Website: http://www.sarahmonzonwrites.com

Twitter:  monzonwrites

Instagram: sarahmonzonwrites

Pinterest

Facebook

Sarah’s Amazon Author’s Profile 


Sarah Mozon related blogs on SimplyVinnie.com 

Finders Keepers/12 Days of Snowmen Review

The Isaac Project Review

 

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