Sara Ackerman is the Hawai'i born, bestselling author of historical novels set in the islands. Her books have been labeled “unforgettable” by Apple Books, “empowering & deliciously visceral” by Book Riot, and New York Times bestselling authors Kate Quinn and Madeline Martin have praised Sara’s novels as “fresh and delightful” and “brilliantly written.” Amazon chose Radar Girls as a best book of the month, and ALA Booklist gave The Codebreaker’s Secret a starred review.
Sara grew up on O'ahu, hearing the stories of her parents and grandparents, who lived in Hawai’i when war came to their doorstep. Her grandfather was the principal at Honoka’a High & Elementary School, and her grandmother was a teacher. They spoke of marines camped out in their living room on weekends, of nearly getting shot for walking down the street at night, of the African lion that lived with the troops, and of hiding out in a lava tube when they first got wind of the attack. Back then, fear and paranoia ran rampant, but so did courage and strength and hope. Sara's novels pull from these memories and shine a light on ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
A few of her favorite things, in no particular order – hiking, homemade PIZZA, a good thunderstorm, stargazing, BOOKS, craft beer, her wonderful BOYFRIEND, snorkeling, 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. She blames Hawai'i for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW DID YOU GET INTO WRITING?
I have always written poetry, but one Wednesday in 2012, I sat down on my porch to write a novel. I had no idea how to write a book and no idea where it was going, but six months later I somehow managed to finish it. I told everyone, this may be the worst book ever written, but at least I wrote it! Fortunately, with a bit of constructive feedback from friends, a few key books on writing, and a couple of writers conferences (Santa Barbara Writers Conference, Mokule'ia Writers Retreat), I learned a few things. Not only that, but I kept at it (a post-it on my doorframe says Patience & Perseverance) and here I am today, many books later, loving what I do and enthralled by the magic of writing. I am a firm believer that stories write themselves, we just help them along – and of course revise and edit. Again and again and again.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
I write because I love to write. Is there any other reason? I love playing with words and arranging them a certain way and finessing them into a story that will touch people and entertain them and move them. There are so many curious and beautiful and heartbreaking experiences in this life that are worth sharing, and those that might only be born of me. Every author knows what I’m talking about. We all have those burning stories inside us that we have to get out.
Writing also gives my life a wonderful sense of meaning and purpose. Being a nature fanatic, I want to inspire others to feel the same and perhaps feel moved enough to help protect their small corner of the world––or big corner. Someone once told me that the smaller a story is, the more universal it becomes. I believe this. We each have stories of our own place and people that can resonate around the globe. Some tragic, some hopeful, and others downright heartwarming. There is no one way to write a story, there are only our stories.
WHERE DO YOU WRITE?
On my porch, or somewhere with a window and a pretty view. Occasionally in my bed.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS?
Too many to name, but off the top of my head I love Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman, Sue Monk Kidd, Jane Harper, and Liane Moriarty. Two of my recent favorite novels are Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy and Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt.
WHAT BOOKS DID YOU LOVE AS A KID?
James and the Giant Peach, Chronicles of Narnia, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Wrinkle in Time, Watership Down, Nancy Drew (read them all several times).
WHAT BOOKS ON WRITING DO YOU RECOMMEND?
The usual suspects. On Writing, Stephen King. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott. Stein on Writing, Sol Stein. Sin and Syntax, Constance Hale. Wired For Story, Lisa Cron.
DO YOU HAVE A PROCESS?
I usually start with a loose idea and go from there. I attempt to plot out the main story as much as possible, but know that it may well change. Great ideas and new characters often present themselves when I least expect it, which is always fun. I write 700-1,000 words a day and take a day off now and then if I need to. A first draft usually takes me four to six months. I spend A LOT of time revising and I LOVE working with critique partners and editors who help me take the book to the next level. I love feeding my own curiosity while I write, hence the historical and naturalist elements. One big thing for me is daydreaming. I need time to brainstorm about my work in progress as I walk my dog, swim, paddle, hike, drive or watch the sunset. It's taken time for all this to evolve, but I feel like it works well for me. And lastly, I go to conferences when I can and keep on learning and connecting with other writers. See my 10 steps to Getting That Novel Written.
WHAT'S YOUR MOTTO?
Patience and perseverance.