I’m delighted to have award-winning author Sandi Rog as a guest on The Borrowed Book today. Sandi lived in Holland for thirteen years and now lives in Colorado with her husband, four children, a cat, and too many spiders. She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoma on November 1, 2010, the day her debut novel THE MASTER’S WALL was released. On Tuesday of this week she was admitted into the hospital for a bone marrow transplant.
Sandi has been an example to all of us as she’s faced her challenges by putting her faith in God and focusing on His love and what He’s done for her. And throughout it all, she's continued to write.
Welcome to The Borrowed Book, Sandi. Let me start right off by asking you what made you want to become a writer?
I love a good story. You see, after I became a Christian at 16, I decided it was time to clean up my reading. So, I started reading Christian Fiction. Well, I never thoroughly enjoyed reading Inspirational Fiction; it was boring and preachy. But I kept trying. Finally, after a "traumatic experience" with a Christian novel, I vowed to never read the genre again. While in Holland (I lived there for thirteen years), I purchased a 500+ page Inspirational novel during a short visit to the States (this was before we could buy books on Internet; wow, makes me feel old, lol). Anyway, I brought it back with me to Holland and devoured it, desperate for something in English that was trustworthy. Well, after wading through sermon after sermon and boring description after boring description, the story finally got moving in the last chapter! It was then that I found out it was a sequel (I had no way to get back to the States to buy the next books; not that I really wanted to)! I vowed to never read Inspirational Fiction again. That's when I decided to write what I wanted to read. So . . . that's what made me become a writer. Sounds negative, I know. But it's how I got started. Thankfully, much better writers have emerged since that time! And it’s a good thing I didn’t know about these great writers, I probably would have quit.
I'm glad you didn't quit. When you started your writing journey, did you encounter rejection along the way? If so, how did you handle it?
Oh, yes. One after the other. How did I handle it? I kept trying. Persistence is key . . . or so I’ve heard.
What made you decide to publish with a small press?
Because all the big presses rejected my work. LOL But I’m really excited about DeWard Publishing because I get to do what most authors aren’t allowed to do: write what I want. I’m very passionate about this series, and it’s important to me to write the story that’s on my heart and what I believe is pleasing to the Lord. That is so much nicer than trying to please a marketing department at a big house. (Some of my “big house” writing friends have said they felt like their story was no longer theirs.) One thing I’ve learned about big houses vs. smaller houses from my contacts with other small press authors is that quality and great stories aren’t necessarily only found in bigger houses.
Tell us the title of your book and about the award it won.
THE MASTER’S WALL recently won the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award in Fiction. CSPA honors books produced by small publishers each year for outstanding contribution to Christian life. Book lovers and retailers selling Christian products voted on the nominated titles in each of eight categories.
Give us a short blurb about the book.
Here’s the book jacket copy of THE MASTER’S WALL:
He fights for his freedom. She fights for her life. Together, they fight for each other.
After watching Roman soldiers drag his parents away to their death, David, a young Hebrew, is sold and enslaved to serve at a villa outside of Rome. As David trains to become a skilled fighter, he works hard to please his master and hopes to earn his freedom. However, an opportunity to escape tempts him with its whispering call. Freedom beckons, but invisible chains hold him captive to the master's granddaughter, an innocent girl with a fiery spirit. David vows to protect Alethea from his master, the murderous patriarch, and contrives a daring plan—sacrifice his own life to save hers.
Which character in the book is your favorite? Why?
I’d have to say my favorite character is Alethea. She’s named after my second daughter. Alethea’s personality makes me laugh with her surprising quirks and how she misunderstands David. She even surprised me a few times when I realized what her reaction would be to a certain event. It’s funny how characters come to life.
I know that you’ve encountered some difficulties regarding your health in the past year or so. Do you mind sharing with our readers how God has gotten you through this time?
I was diagnosed November 1, 2010, the very day my book released, with Non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoma (i.e. cancer). It’s very hard to describe how I felt that day. When they told me I had a tumor on my brain and was immediately being admitted into the hospital, I was fine, just taking things in stride. I picked up my cell-phone to call my mother to let her know what was going on, and that’s when it hit me. I started crying. I realized I couldn’t call my poor mother and tell her this devastating news.
Since then, I’ve shared quite a lot on my blog about what I’ve been through. I think the most powerful story of how God has gotten me through this is in one particular blog post that would be too long to copy here. If you’d like to read it, you can see it here.
I go in on May 17th for a bone-marrow transplant. God is my physician, so I know no matter what happens, I’m in His hands.
Since I have a book releasing soon that deals with sisters searching for a brother who they had never known, I was touched to read on your blog that you have recently been reunited with a sister you hadn’t seen since she was a small child. How has this event impacted your life and your writing?
Congratulations on your upcoming release, Sandra. That’s wonderful!
Finding my sister has been a wonderful experience, and I’m just amazed by it. I’ve searched for her for years! And it took my getting cancer to find her. My dad thought she could be a bone-marrow donor, so he gave me her information. I then found her on Facebook. Of course, I wasn’t interested in her being a donor, and I told her not to even be tested. I didn’t want her to think that that was why I looked her up. I was just so excited to finally have found her! It’s impacted my life in good and bad ways. I mean, it’s a wonderful experience but not without its stresses, and right now, stress isn’t good for me. It hasn’t really impacted my writing, other than for the fact that I got to send her a signed copy of my book! :-) Anyway, the good most definitely outweighs the stress, so I’m a happy camper.
God has certainly blessed you in many ways. Are you currently writing another book?
I should be working on my third book of this series, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I’ve found working on short stories and articles during this time is helpful. I am anxious to get started on the third book, so I hope I’ll be able to tackle that soon.
What words of encouragement and advice would you give to our readers who are struggling with problems in their lives or who are desperately trying to get a first book published?
Your readers won’t know this, but it’s taken me a long time to get this interview back to you because of this question. I’ve been sitting on it for weeks. And I’m still not sure how to answer it. The only thing I can think of at the moment where getting published is concerned is to suggest that the writer not be so “desperate.” I mean, there are more important things in this life. I know. That’s easy for someone to say who’s already been published. But that’s what I’ve come to realize more deeply since I was diagnosed with cancer. This life is temporary, and while we’re here, let’s do what we can to glorify and please God, even in our writing. Just take care that writing/getting published doesn’t become your idol. I’ve really had to check myself for that. I shake my head at the folks in the Bible who turned to idols and how stupid that was, but boy . . . when I think of the amount of time and energy I put into writing, I really have to make sure it’s not my idol in this modern age. That’s why I say not to be “desperate.”
When the problems come, don’t allow them to beat you down. Or worse, to cause you to turn away from God. Then Satan wins. Allow the problems to refine you, make you a better servant for the Lord. Overcoming struggles will also enrich your characters because if you’re an overcomer, your characters can be overcomers as well, and it will be believable to your readers and encourage them to do the same. That would definitely glorify God in your writing.
Those are wonderful words of advice, Sandi. It's been a pleasure to have you as a guest today. Our prayers are with you as you continue treatment for cancer.
Readers, I hope you will leave an encouraging comment for Sandi today. She has a rough few weeks ahead of her with radiation and chemo. Let her know you'll be thinking of her and praying for her and her family during this trying time.