Meet Novelist Sarah Forgrave

Sarah Forgrave, a 2010 ACFW Genesis runner-up, writes lighthearted romance with Amish flavor. Her stories focus on modern people living in Amish-centric settings.

Sarah lives in the Midwest with her energetic and entrepreneurial husband, spunky three-year-old son, and a sweet, smiley baby daughter. They have a pet fish named Finny who likes to play dead and give menacing stares to anyone who comes too close. Sarah received her bachelor’s in accounting and business management and worked as a CPA for eight years until leaving her job to become a stay-at-home mom. She never thought doing taxes for global companies would be easier than changing diapers, but some days she wonders.

When she’s not spending time with her children or her fictional characters, Sarah loves to cook and bake, getting excited when she makes a recipe healthier and it still tastes good. She enjoys watching reality TV, especially The Amazing Race, playing racket sports, and is “kind of addicted to keeping things orderly.” She and her husband are avid supporters of international missions. She would love to adopt a child from Latin America someday.

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Sarah has a fondness for her mom’s Dutch apple pie, especially when it’s still warm from the oven and served with vanilla ice cream. I’m providing the best virtual version of the pie I could find, along with a big tub of Dreyer’s Double Vanilla ice cream, so help yourself to a slice and a scoop, sit back, and enjoy this opportunity to learn more about Sarah and her writing journey..

Sarah’s Journey Begins

•Many writers have been creating stories since they were kids. Have you?

I wouldn’t say I created stories at an early age, but my creativity was always ticking. My early writing experiments were more along the lines of poetry and music in high school. When I showed up for freshman orientation at college, I didn’t know what to declare as my major. I did well in English, so I confidently stated, “I’m majoring in English.” One semester later, my practical side struggled with what to do with the degree, so I followed in my siblings’ footsteps and switched to accounting.

•Your early interest in writing grew into something more. When did you decide to write with a goal of publication, and what led to that decision?

I took a 180-degree turn in my life two years ago. Even though I enjoyed reading novels since I was a teenager, I never really thought of writing one myself. All that changed with the birth of my son. I experienced painful medical complications and went through 18 months of tough times, involving multiple surgeries, depression, suicidal thoughts, the whole gamut.

When I came through that, God planted a seed in my mind about writing. Within a month’s time, the seed grew until I had one novel started and ten other ideas stored away in a file for later exploration.

•You joined American Christian Fiction Writers and made some great connections. How did this come about? In what ways has your involvement in ACFW helped you grow as a writer?

After my “a-ha” moment, I immediately started researching and learning about how to write a novel. Being the perfectionist that I am (I’m convinced CPA stands for Certified Perfectionist Asylum), I was hungry to develop my writing skills. After I saw several authors mention ACFW on their websites, I knew I had to check it out.

It’s impossible to measure how ACFW has helped me grow as a writer. Beyond the learning opportunities, I think the biggest benefit has been meeting other writers and understanding that I’m not alone in this journey. The friendships I’ve made and solidified at the national ACFW Conference are ones that remind me I’m not the only one who has conversations with make-believe characters.

Sarah’s Squee-worthy Successes

•You’re a regular contributor to the webzine Ungrind and get to see your byline on a regular basis, which is way cool. How did you link up with this publication, and what has writing articles for them taught you?

Early on in my serious writing days, I didn’t have any writing friends other than my laptop and a dear friend from college who lived on the other side of the country, Christin Taylor. Christin had written articles and was a writing professor, so I figured she could tell me whether I was insane to try this new venture or not. She gave me great feedback on an essay I wrote and encouraged me to think about writing articles for Ungrind (she’s also a regular contributor). I checked out the site and loved its honest and encouraging content.

When I scrolled through the list of Ungrind’s contributors, I was shocked to not only see Christin’s picture there but the picture of an acquaintance from my own church! So in addition to honing my skills of writing for publication, I made a new writing friend who I now meet for writing dates at Starbucks.

•You recently joined an awesome group of women as one of the “shopkeepers” at The Writers Alley. Congrats! The blog is such a fun place to spend time and is one of my regular stops when I’m cruising cyberspace. What can visitors expect when it’s your turn to post?

I try to write posts that are short in length but have one good takeaway for writers (or maybe a few if I’m feeling extra brilliant). I’ve got a new series coming up that will take a good part of the year called “Self-Editing Checklist.” I’m treating it almost as an online class with a short point or two in each post for readers to add to their own self-editing checklist. And for the extra motivated, I’m also adding homework assignments. 🙂

•You experienced your first contest win last year—in your first contest, no less. What did your first place in the Phoenix Rattler mean to you?

It meant that the voracious learning and reading I’d done in a year actually did seep into my brain and out my fingertips. It was great validation to know that I was on the right track. But it also showed me I had a lot more work in front of me to be publishable.

I went away from that contest and spent the next year paying for two professional critiques, attending two intense online courses, and writing, writing, writing. So it served as a great catalyst for me to push myself to be better.

•Your contest success continued. You finaled in the 2010 ACFW Genesis. How did you react when you received the exciting news?

I’m pretty sure I was shaking when the coordinator called me, and I probably said “Wow” a bazillion times. It was thrilling, for sure.

•You went on to become the runner-up in your category, Contemporary Romance. What thoughts went through your head when you saw your picture on the screen and heard your name announced?

To be honest, I wasn’t thinking. I darted out of my seat because the finalists were originally told that the runner-up should go across the stage. But ten steps into my journey (I was all the way in the back), someone stopped me and said, “Only the winner goes up. Remember, they changed it?” So then I hurried back to my seat with a scorching face.

After I had time to process the news, I was mostly excited because my sister was able to attend the banquet with me. She  happened to be visiting the conference city for doctor appointments, and a lady I met at the conference gave me an extra ticket. So it all came together last-minute and was a very cool moment to share with her.

Sarah, the Overcomer

•Sometimes in life, we encounter obstacles in our paths. That’s certainly been the case for you. But you faced them head on and moved on. Please tell us about what got you through that tough time, what you learned along the way, and how those experiences have shaped you into the writer you are today.

Wow, this is a heavy-loaded question. That period before I turned a new direction was the most difficult I’ve faced to this day, and the one thing that pulled me through was my faith. I’ll be honest, that faith was held together by a frayed string at times, but deep down inside, I knew God was with me through everything, and I also knew I couldn’t let my family down. That experience made me realize I can’t deny who God made me to be. I want to be an original masterpiece that He’s created, not a cheap knockoff. That’s something I want my children to grow up believing because they’ve seen their mommy live it out.

Sarah’s Sources of Inspiration

•I had such fun getting to know you at the ACFW conference, Sarah, and have wonderful memories of our time at dinner. I learned about a new sub-genre that night: lighthearted romance with Amish flavor. Your unique twist on Bonnet Fiction caused some publishing pros’ eyes to light up. What exactly is lighthearted Amish romance, and why did you choose to embrace this little-explored niche?

(For the record, I might be a wee bit older than you with a mature memory that ain’t what it used to be, but I really was listening to you that night, my friend. For the benefit of your visitors, though, please enlighten us. :-))

Lighthearted romance with Amish flavor is about modern people living in Amish-centric settings. I grew up in one of those settings, right in the heart of Amish country. It never seemed weird that whenever we left my grandma’s house, her farewell warning was, “Watch out for the buggies!” That was just normal life.

But after I moved to the city, I realized what a unique upbringing I had, living and interacting with the Amish on a regular basis. With the popularity of Amish fiction, I thought it’d be fun to create a fictional town like the one where I grew up and show life from the perspective of people like me who experienced the humor and the unique lessons from living around the Amish. And who doesn’t want some good romance thrown in for good measure? :-).

Sarah’s Journey Continues

•What captivating new ideas are swirling in your creative mind? Have new characters begun chattering away?

I’m starting to plot a new book that features two characters from my previous one. They’re already like old friends to me, so I can’t wait to see them figure out that they’re supposed to fall in love. Besides that, I have several other basic plot ideas jotted down for future visits, but I like to focus on one thing at a time.

Let’s Learn a Little More About Sarah . . .

•You’re a mom with young children, so I’m sure you spend a fair amount of time reading stories to your kiddos. Which are your favorites? Do any classics from your childhood make the list?

Oh boy, this is a toughie! My mother-in-law used to be a school librarian, so she keeps our bookshelves overflowing. I always loved Richard Scarry books growing up, and I got one of the big word books for my son. I found one with both Spanish and English, so sometimes I start rattling off the Spanish words and my son looks at me like I lost my mind. 🙂

•When you head to the mall, what stores will you be sure to pop into?

I have a magnet that pulls me to Ann Taylor Loft whenever I’m close to one. I really have no control over it. I also love DSW. (What girl doesn’t, right?) The heroine in my latest book was addicted to shopping, particularly Nordstrom, so I naturally have to do some “research” there, but I’ll admit…that research is a bit too expensive for me sometimes.

•What TV commercial is guaranteed to get a reaction out of you?

Would you believe I don’t watch commercials…ever? I’m in love with my DVR and the mute button, both of which allow me to save my eardrums from the noise. Once in a while, I see those E-trade commercials with the talking baby, and I have to turn on the volume just to hear what they say. Babies get me every time.

Sarah’s Question for You

Since I made a career change lately, I’m curious to know… What was your original dream job and are you doing it today?.

Learn More About Sarah

Visit her website ~ http://www.sarahforgrave.com

Visit her personal blog ~ http://www.sarahforgrave.com/blog

Visit her group blog ~ The Writers Alley

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Sarah Forgrave

Follow her on Twitter ~ SarahForgrave

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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36 Responses to Meet Novelist Sarah Forgrave

  1. T. Anne says:

    What a fantastic journey you’ve had! How thrilling to have your sister join you at the conference and share in your big night. I can’t wait to get a chance to read your work. I already know I would enjoy it. Right now I’m living my dream, writing, raising my healthy happy children, a wonderful husband and above all a loving God that is always with me.

  2. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Sarah! It’s great to have you here. It was a pleasure to meet you at the ACFW conference in Indy last year. I’ve been looking forward to having you as my guest ever since then.

    You certainly did make a career change, from CPA to mommy writer. Though you’ve switched from number cruncher to wordsmith, I have a hunch some of the skills cross over. For example, I feel certain living with deadlines won’t be new to you. CPAs are faced with them all the time. What are some other lessons you learned while working as a CPA that serve you as a novelist?

    I’m living my dream. Ever since I was seven, I wanted to be a writer. =)

    • Thanks, Keli, for having me here! You are certainly the hostess with the mostest. 🙂

      Oh boy, lessons that carry over from being a CPA…there are so many! You nailed one of them with the deadlines. The public accounting world operates around deadlines for sure. Some others are communication, handling difficult situations or clients, managing time or heavy work loads, and goal setting. I had the privilege of working on a team that focused on internal initiatives, so I got to help write training courses and develop marketing materials…all skills that I hope will help me whenever I get that first contract. 🙂

  3. Sarah, your story is very compelling and I am sure the path you have taken will bring you the success you deserve. You have come to the writing life through the back door as it were and you have found great resources.

    I had the “curse” of being very good at things I didn’t really like to do. However, they paid the bills. I have finally come to the time of my life where I can write full time. My dream job is to be a published writer.

    Good writing to you 🙂

    • Ramblings, Thanks so much for stopping by and for your kind words! Paying the bills isn’t such a bad thing, but I’m glad you’re living your dream now. 🙂

  4. Mary says:

    Hi Sarah,

    What an interesting read this was. Keli has a way of eliciting such illuminating responses.

    Thank you for sharing so much of your life – struggles and successes – with us. I wish you all the best.

    You should join us over at healthywriter.com. We’re always looking for ways to make recipes healthier or just to live healthier lives as writers – you know, so we have many years to enjoy getting and staying published!

    To answer your question – originally I wanted to be a lawyer. Fortunately I figured out in time that TV lawyers and real life law practice had little in common so I saved myself much pain. I always considered writing my dream job, but I have to admit that I love my teaching job so much that I don’t think I could ever give it up to write full time now. I just want to do both. 🙂

    • Mary, I like your theory on being a healthy writer! I’ll admit, I allow myself to indulge once in a while, but I’m amazed at how good things can taste with a few tweaked ingredients. And how wonderful that you’re living both your dream jobs! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  5. Jilian says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey, Sarah. I love reading about author’s journey to publication. I have a day job that prohibits me from writing full time, but that is certainly my dream. In the meantime, I’ll budget my time and write in the early mornings and after work and hit DSW on the weekends! 🙂

  6. Hello, everyone! I’m so, so thrilled to be here with the fabulous Keli Gwyn and all her friends! I’ll pop in and out as I have time, so feel free to ask any questions you might have. Well, except for the last four digits of my social security number and the name of the street I grew up on. 🙂

  7. Hi Sarah,
    I have a lot of questions for you, but no answer to that question. I think I was such a daydreamer I never did pin down my ‘what do I want to be when I grow up.’ (I know now, of course!)

    Congratulations on your Genesis final!

    Loved getting to know more about you. Keli asks the best questions, doesn’t she?
    The Writer’s Alley is a great blog and a nice way to keep up with you. I wish you much success with your stories and your desire to adopt.

    • Debra, I switched “what I want to be when I grow up” a lot too. My answer for a long time was a nurse. Then I took biology class. Ick! A strong stomach I do not have. 🙂

      Look forward to seeing you around The Alley! 🙂

  8. Jillian Kent says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It’s always fun getting to know other writers a bit better. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was a kid. I grew up on a farm. When I went to college I’d totally changed that vision( chemistry and biology, etc. Not my strength). Long story short I ended up being a social worker. I’m now counseling student nurses as they prepare for their careers and deal with life stuff as they work toward their RN. I love my job. I’ve been a social worker for 30 years now, my hubby is too. Wow, that makes me sound so OLD! But I don’t feel old. Not today anyway.:)
    And I’ve got my first book coming out in May. Congratulations on your Genesis final. That’s awesome! I’ll have to go check out the Writer’s Alley. Blessings! Jill

    • Jillian, Wow, how interesting that even though chemistry and biology aren’t your strength, you sort of came full circle to counsel nurses! Sounds like an amazing job…I never knew there was such a thing! Congratulations on your book coming out! Does it feel surreal? Have you gotten to see the cover yet? Feel the book itself?

  9. Sherrinda says:

    Hey Sarah! I loved your interview! Doesn’t Keli do a great job? She has such wonderful questions to help us know more about you. Loved it!

    I am living one of my dream jobs. I’ve always wanted to be a mommy and I am! I was able to stay home will all my kids until my youngest went to elementary school. It was such a blessing to be able to stay at home with them as long as I did.

    I’ve always loved to read and dreamed about being an author one day. I’m not an author yet, but am doing all I can to become one someday. 🙂

    You have the trait that I have noticed is common among those who become published: self-discipline. Seriously, the online friends that have become agented or published recently all have that similarity. They stick to a plan, they write every day, they are disciplined in all areas of life. Wish I could grab some of that discipline!

    • Hi Sherrinda! Waving to you from the FRIGID temps here…brrr! 🙂

      Oh, you sell yourself short, my friend. Self-discipline is in all of us who blog regularly, which you do at The Alley every other week. And how about finaling in your first contest with your first m/s? Pretty sure you had some self-discipline to accomplish that. 🙂

      Hope you have a great week!

  10. Terri Tffany says:

    What a great interview! First, I want to shop with Sarah–my fav stores;) I love your answers and getting to know you more. You sound like a fun kind person that someday I hope I get to meet.
    My dream job was as a counselor and I did it forever it seemed but God knows when it is time to move on and then He gave me my next dream job –owning a Christian bookstore.
    Thanks Keli for doing this interview. I love getting to know more about my blogger friends!

    • Terri, Yes, a shopping date is in order! Are you going to the ACFW Conference this year? If so, I’ll meet you at The Loft. 🙂

      I didn’t realize you own a Christian bookstore. What a great way to see what sells! (Or to make sure your friends’ books sell) 😉

  11. Loved hearing more about your journey!
    How wonderful it must have been to have your sister there at the ceremony with you!!

  12. Hi Jennifer, Yes it was great to have my sister there! We knew she was coming into town that night and debated about having her come to the banquet. Then we found her ticket would cost $100. *gulp* So we ended up passing on the idea.

    A lady I met in one of the workshops found me Sunday morning and said she had to leave town before the banquet, and did I want her ticket in case a family member wanted to come since I lived in town? I said, “Yes!” and the rest is history. 🙂

  13. Susan Mason says:

    Sarah,

    So nice to meet you! Congrats on your Genesis placement. That must have been so thrilling!

    Wishing you many more successes!

    Susan

  14. Yay, Sarah! It’s so great to see you here. And it was great meeting you in person at ACFW 🙂 I enjoyed learning more about your journey, and how exciting you’re working on a new story with characters from your old one. You’re such a talented writer!

    When I was really young, I wanted to be a mother when I grew up. When I got older, high school age, I added writer to that short list. I’m still working on the writer part (at least professionally) but otherwise I’m doing exactly what I’ve always wanted.

    • Cindy, thanks for saying hi here! I loved meeting you in person too. And who can forget our sneaky Starbucks breaks? They’re the only way I survived the brain overload. 🙂

  15. I’ve enjoyed the virtual apple pie and ice cream while reading your interview. I like this mood-setting aspect of Keli’s interviews. I also like hearing the accounts of writers that left jobs to concentrate on their writing. Your progress has been steady. Kudos to you for keeping focused.

    I’m not sure I ever had a real dream job, but I’ve always wanted to write. There have been periods in my life that allowed me to write more than other times. I retired early in 2008 from a clerical job in my church that I truly enjoyed to become a full-time caregiver to my husband, who has Alzheimer’s. I love my current positions. It’s been the most rewarding one of my life so far. Blessings to you, Sarah…

    • Carol Ann, Wow, what a lot you have on your plate, caring for your husband. But what a testament to your love and the grace you must display in your everyday life. Thanks so much for stopping by and grab another piece of pie before you go. I promise it’s calorie-free. *wink*

  16. Casey says:

    It is so good to know more about you Sarah! Keli did a great job with this interview.

    I would have to say, yes I am living out my “dream job” though being at the age I am, I’m not sure I’m old enough to have considered what a “dream job” is. Ha! My ULTIMATE dream job though would definately be walking closer with Christ. Though I suppose that would qualify as more of a dream “life”- that I hope to make a reality more every day. 🙂

    • Casey, bless your heart, you are too cute. 🙂 And I never thought of it that way, but you’re right…As long as we’re walking close with Christ, we’re living our dream job every day.

  17. Jill Kemerer says:

    Great interview, Keli! I felt like I was right there with you at ACFW!

    Sarah, what an inspiring journey you’ve had. Your books sound really intriguing and good. I’m a huge Indy fan, too!

  18. Great interview, Keli! So interesting that God used a difficult situation involving depression, etc. to nudge Sarah to write – I experienced something very similar. I’m so thankful the Lord can use those dark times to draw us closer to Himself and refine our lives. Thanks for giving us a look at the life of an up and coming author!

    *I look forward to reading one of your novels, Sarah! God bless!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Maria! Those dark times are painful, aren’t they? I once wrote an article about my experiences and compared it to God being the blacksmith and putting us through the fire so He can shape us into what He wants us to be. It’s nice to meet a fellow work-of-art. 🙂

  19. My original dream job? Writer! Although I also wanted to be a firefighter — I did that as a volunteer, and now I have my own novel coming out, so it only took a few decades!

    Did you originally live in the northern Indiana area? We have a large Amish population just north of where I live, in the LaGrange County area.

    • Hi Mark, Yes, my grandparents lived out in the country near Shipshewana during my growing-up years, and their neighborhood was surrounded by Amish farms. Interesting that you’ve gotten to do both of your dream jobs! Thanks for stopping by and saying hi!

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