I’m thrilled to be able to host a question and answer session with Sarah Lark about her latest book ‘Island of the Red Mangroves’. Sarah kindly answered some questions about her writing below, but first, let’s find out a bit more about her and her books.
Sarah Lark is an international bestselling author, famed for her captivating historical sagas with sales of 2.7 million in Germany alone. Her books ‘In The Land of the Long White Cloud’, ‘Song of the Spirits’ and ‘Call of the Kiwi’ have already been published in the UK and the first in the Caribbean saga ‘Island of a Thousand Springs’ was published last year. A captivating tale of love and hate, violence and kindness, family and romance, ‘Island of the Red Mangroves’ is the second book in the Caribbean saga. It is published 23rd July by Bastei Entertainment, price £3.99 in eBook.
‘Island of the Red Mangroves’
Jamaica 1753. Doug and Nora Fortnam have raised Nora’s illegitimate, mixed-race daughter Deirdre, born from violence, but who has grown up to be a beautiful and headstrong young woman. Despite her past, the stunning Deirdre attracts men wherever she goes, but has turned them all away, finding them wanting. However, when she meets the handsome and kind Dr. Victor Dufresne, who sees beyond her history and heritage, they fall in love and marry, moving to Victor’s modest house in Hispaniola.
In Grand Cayman, Jefe, a young free black man, and Bonnie, an escaped slave, leave home on a pirate ship in search of wealth, freedom and power, renaming themselves Caesar and Bobbie. When Bonnie is injured in battle, she relies on Jefe to find a doctor to save her – without revealing that she is a woman. Their worlds collide when Victor treats Bonnie for her injuries, reluctantly allowing the two black pirates into his home. Deirdre however feels an irresistible and mutual attraction to Jefe, which she finds she cannot fight.
Meanwhile, racial tensions are growing across the island, as white families are being poisoned by their slaves. A rebellion is in motion, led by the mysterious but captivating François Macandal. The rebels are dangerous and brave, feeling angry and mistreated and they are ready for an uprising…
An Interview with Sarah
Hi Sarah. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog as part of your tour for your new book ‘Island of the Red Mangroves’.
Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?
I am Sarah Lark, but my real name is Christiane Gohl – normally I’m called Christina or Chris. My job is to write landscape-novels, but I also love to work with horses. I live in Spain on a farm with a lot of animals – I look after abandoned and mistreated horses but I’ve also got a lot of cats and dogs. Caring for them definitely costs a lot of money, so I am glad that my novels are successful all over the world. So thanks to all my readers!
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
I always wanted to write, I wrote my first poem before knowing all the letters of the ABC. At school I wrote satiric texts about my teachers and romantic stories – and I told everybody that I would be a professional writer when I’m grown up. At last I studied to be a teacher, but I had not a little bit of talent for the job. So I gave it up and started to work as a texter for a public relations agency. I also wrote for reviews about horses – and that at last helped me to publication! An editor called me and asked me if I could write a riding manual for children. The book was a great success, I was asked to write more, and so I started with fiction and non-fiction for horsy girls, but also non-fiction for adults about looking after horses, breeding them, working with them and so on. I also wrote a biography of Ada Cole, the founder of the ILPH, and I always looked for a publisher for historic novels. The first ones, published under my real name, were not really successful – I was too famous as a ‘horse-expert’. So when we started with landscape-novels we changed my name to ‘Sarah Lark’, and everything went well.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead?
Writing is my only talent. So if I couldn’t write novels I would write commercials or work for reviews. Or write speeches for politicians or anything else. If I need to, I can write whatever anybody asks for.
Your novels have a strong historical setting. How do you go about researching historical detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I normally use the internet. I do the most important research before starting the book, and then, while I am writing, I have a second computer with the internet open to answer the questions which appear during the process of writing. The history of slave labor on the plantations in the Caribbean, the living situation of the slave holders and the Maroons of Granny Nanny were as well researched as possible. I also had to read as much as possible about Jamaica and its history, also, naturally all about fashion and etiquette of the 18th century. It was quite exciting and not very difficult. The research only became really complicated by the part of the story which plays out on Hispaniola – now modern day Haiti. The particulars of Haiti’s history aren’t well known – too much political upheaval and too many earthquakes to keep proper documentation.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I first write an exposé, so the plot is standing, before I start writing. But then I dive in, and sometimes I change a lot. Normally there aren’t any drafts. I write the story down, read it again to correct it, and then I have some test-readers, who tell me their opinion. I maybe make some changes, and that is it. I’ve never had the thing with the ‘writing blockade’ and I’ve never heard about a really good author who has had these problems. If you have got fantasy, you won’t ever lost it.
What are your top tips for writing?
My five top tips are:
1) You need discipline to write every day, but if you really like writing, it shouldn’t be too difficult. If writing is hard for you and each time you have to force yourself to start – find another profession.
2) Write about things, of which you know something. For example: If you like sailing, but you are afraid of horses, your story should take place on a boat – not in a riding stable.
3) Try to keep your sentences short and write lively dialogues.
4) Always ask yourself: Are my characters acting like authentic living people? Could my story take place or have taken place in reality?
5) Be open to criticism. Find people who tell you their real opinion about your work. If your test-readers will not understand a part of the story, it will be the same with the people who have paid money for the book – and next time, they will spend their money on a different book!
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I usually write in the afternoon, as in the morning I care for my horses and ride. While I’m out with the horses I think about the book I am actually writing, and how the story will go on. Then, at about three o’clock in the afternoon I switch the computer on, answer my e-mails and after that I start to write. Normally I do ten pages a day, which takes more or less until 8 o’clock.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
My favourite authors are Stephen King, Marion Zimmer Bradley and F. Paul Wilson. I also like Deaver and Kellerman. My preferred books are the ones I would not like to write myself – that means horror and criminal stories.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
I love my animals and spend half my day riding, so horse lovers may be interested in the Peruvian Pasos and Paso Finos on Hispaniola that play a small role in this book. Generally I care for the horses in the morning and work on my writing in the afternoon. However, I often think about how a book should develop when I’m on my morning ride. The horses are quite patient with me. Naturally, the dogs are always around me when I’m writing.
Your novels have very striking covers with women clearly illustrated as central to the plot. How important is it for you to portray strong women and how are your book covers chosen?
I’m not normally involved in creating the book covers. Covers are designed by specialists, working for the publishers. Certainly I’m asked if I agree, and I really like these covers, but I do not create it on my own. It’s defintiely important for me to portray strong women – but I think that is normal for writers of historic novels. The typical woman in the times we are writing about had a terribly boring life. She was married young, was obedient to her husband, had a few children, and she seldom lived long – often she died in childbirth. So for the novels we have to create special, strong personalities, who break this vicious circle. Certainly the story should stay authentic – I hate novels, that show for example medieval woman completely emancipated, fighting for women’s power. My heroines are exceptional women, but they stay daughters of their times.
If you could chose to be a character from Island of the Red Mangroves other than Deidre, who would you be and why?
Nora is one of my favourite characters. Not only in the Island of the Red Mangroves, but in all my books. Nora is very similar to me: we both are daydreamers, we both were born in the wrong country – Nora was freezing in London all her childhood and I did the same in Germany. So I can identify myself with her very well, and I also like Doug. I can imagine being married to him, living on a tropical island.
If ‘Island of the Red Mangroves’ became a film, who would you like to play Deidre?
I don’t know. I think I would give the role to a newcomer, a young actress who has read the book and came to the casting because she felt that she was exactly like Deirdre.
Thank you so much, Sarah, (or Chris) for your time in answering my questions.
You can buy ‘Island of the Red Mangroves’ here: