Friday, August 15, 2014

Christine Sunderland’s Journey to Publication

Christine Sunderland

Isn’t it both fascinating and encouraging to hear how God uses different experiences to lead authors down the path to publication? Today, Christine Sunderland shares how her travels plus prayer inspired her to write. Enjoy! ~ Dawn

Christine Sunderland’s Journey to Publication

I never intended to be a writer, much less a novelist, but my path to publication was an answer to a prayer.

In 1992 my husband retired, and we traveled often to Italy, France, and England, sometimes with our pastor and his wife. This was a remarkable educational opportunity to travel with a learned mentor. After taking photos and learning a smattering of French, I sensed I wasn't making the most of the experience, so I asked God, “What should I be doing with this time in my life, this fantastic exposure to Western Civilization? Lead me. Show me thy will.”

I increased my prayer life on the road, in the air, on trains, in hotels, monasteries and chateaus. I kept a travel journal, writing about the medieval churches, the Renaissance frescoes, the history of these many Christian historical sites. My tourist eyes soon became historian eyes, and I was fascinated by what I was seeing.

But I sensed, even with the journals, that I was meant to do more. So I wondered, why not compose a novel from the journals? As a gift to my grandchildren – a record of our travels? So I created Madeleine and Jack Seymour, a couple not unlike myself and my husband, and sent them on a quest to Italy. In this pilgrimage of healing, they visited Rome, Florence, Venice, and other sites of Christian history, and Pilgrimage was born. Then Madeleine and Jack journeyed to France in search of an expert surgeon for Jack's life-saving procedure. The characters visited Lourdes, Rocamadour, Provence, Lérins, Vézelay, Reims, and Paris, and their story formed Offerings. Lastly, the Seymours flew to London to found a children's home. Befriending a young woman running for her life, they visited Oxford, the New Forest, Winchester, Salisbury, and Glastonbury, providing historical settings for Inheritance (OakTara, 2009), the story of Christianity in England.

I finished the manuscripts with the help of many readers and editors. I queried agents and publishers and watched the pile of rejections grow. I posted summaries of the novels with Writer's Edge, an online agency for Christian fiction. All the while I prayed, what do you want me to do with these novels? Were they merely for my own satisfaction and that of my children? If so, that was okay, for the writing was a joy in itself.

I shelved the trilogy and began to write a novel from scratch. I began studying the writer’s craft, reading, and attending workshops. I developed my characters, crafted a plot, created tension, paying attention to the poetry of language, sound, cadence, metaphor, and symbol. Thus was born Hana-lani, set in Hawaii, a fast-paced love story about a material girl whose plane crashes on Maui. She is nursed in the home of a traditional family in the small rural village of Hana. Written for the general market, albeit with conservative family values, I thought for sure this would appeal to Random House.

I queried agents. I queried publishers. The rejection pile grew.

I was seriously looking into self-publishing when I received an email from OakTara. “Did Pilgrimage need a home? We saw your summary on Writer's Edge.” I emailed back, “Yes, indeed, Pilgrimage needs a home! Pilgrimage would love a home!”

And the rest, as they say, is history. OakTara graciously gave me a start. They published the trilogy. They published Hana-lani, and last year they released my Christian answer to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, entitled The Magdalene Mystery, a mystery/suspense about a quest to find the true Mary Magdalene in Rome and Provence, set in the present, dealing with current social issues and examining the historical evidence for the Resurrection.

I’m now in the middle of the first draft of a novel about the boundaries between civilization and the wilderness, called The Fire Trail, set in Berkeley, California. A love story dealing with the coarsening of our culture and the loss of Judaic-Christian ideals crucial to our world's survival.

But along the way, I continue to ask God, is this what you want me to do? Because if not, show me the way. I believe he wants me to keep at it. But in the end, it is up to him. So I pray and worship in my parish church and seek his will, day to day, hour to hour, and minute to minute. Dei gratia.


Christine Sunderland never intended to be a writer, much less a novelist, but her path to publication was an answer to a prayer. Click to tweet.

Author Christine Sunderland shares how her travels plus prayer inspired her to write. Click to tweet.

Ten years ago a gunman opened fire in a parking lot, killing her parents. No one ever found out why. But a trip to Rome might reveal the deadly reasons.

Thirty-year-old Kelly Roberts receives a mysterious envelope after the death of her godfather, director of a news service dedicated to exposing media lies, summoning her to Rome for a promising legacy. After losing her job, Kelly, a single parent, fears for herself and her five-year-old son. She could sure use the money implied in her godfather’s letter, but she can’t afford to go to Rome, she can’t leave Matt, and she can’t take him with her. Even stranger, the note says to contact Daniel Weaver, a professor familiar with Rome.

To receive the legacy, Kelly must first locate her godfather’s hidden research on Mary Magdalene. Accompanied by thirty-five-year-old Daniel, Kelly embarks on the journey of a lifetime, finding clues in Rome basilicas, the Apostles’ Creed, and her godfather’s letters. But she is shadowed by another professor who preys on the young, both online and on campus. Desperate to find the manuscript that could expose him as an academic fraud, he is willing to do anything to keep that from happening…even murder.

 Unlock the Magdalene mystery…and the power of historical truth.

Christine Sunderland graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in English Literature, cum laude. She attended the Maui Writers Retreat and the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. She serves as Managing Editor for the American Church Union. She has four sons, eight grandchildren, and lives with her husband and two incredible cats in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You can learn more and connect with Christine here:  (website and blog)