I am so thrilled to share this interview with author Sara Ackerman. Her book, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is a great story about Hawaii right after Pearl Harbor. Sara tells a wonderful character driven story about love and friendship. And there’s a bit of a mystery wrapped through the book as well. It’s got a little bit for everyone!
Here’s the official overview from Amazon:
Violet Iverson and her young daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives together one year after the disappearance of her husband. As rumors swirl and questions about his loyalties surface, Violet believes Ella knows something. But Ella is stubbornly silent. Something—or someone—has scared her. And with the island overrun by troops training for a secret mission, tension and suspicion between neighbors is rising.
Violet bands together with her close friends to get through the difficult days. To support themselves, they open a pie stand near the military base, offering the soldiers a little homemade comfort. Try as she might, Violet can’t ignore her attraction to the brash marine who comes to her aid when the women are accused of spying. Desperate to discover the truth behind what happened to her husband, while keeping her friends and daughter safe, Violet is torn by guilt, fear and longing as she faces losing everything. Again.
Now that you’ve got an introduction this wonderful book, here’s my interview with Sara!
Hi Sara! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today.
Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is a lovely story set in Hawaii. I know that you currently live there and find the nature inspiring. However, I wondered how this particular story came to light for you – a time just after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Thank you so much for having me! I was born and raised here, so I grew up listening to my grandmother’s stories about the war. Though many people fled to the Mainland, she and my grandfather remained on the Big Island after the bombing of Pearl Harbor because he was the school principal in Honoka’a and she was a teacher. She especially loved to talk about the lion that the Marines at Camp Tarawa had as a mascot and it was that lion, who I later found out was named Roscoe, that initially lured me in to write the novel. I also wanted to write a war story from a woman’s perspective that showed that while those were dark years here in Hawaii, they were also very memorable in terms of how people banded together––with each other and with the 50,000 Marines that were here to train for Iwo Jima. Once the ideas started swirling, I knew I had to write it.
Violet Iverson is a unique character –struggling with a husband who’s gone missing, a daughter who is also emotionally struggling, and friends who are in danger, yet she seems down to earth and focuses on helping others. Did you model her character after anyone in particular?
I modeled her after my grandmother Helen. She was the kind of woman who everyone loved––her students, the maids, the soldiers, you name it. She was kind and compassionate but also a very strong woman and a great storyteller. My mother, who was five when Pearl Harbor was attacked, remembers the house being full on weekends when the Marines were on liberty and how my grandparents did everything they could to make the boys feel right at home. My grandmother was very torn up when many of them never returned and she talked about them until the day she died.
Each of the characters in this story is so likable and relatable. Was there one that was easier or more challenging to write about?
I’m so glad you think so! Ella was the easiest to write. It was my first time writing in first person point of view (Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is actually my fourth novel) and I found that her chapters flowed out very easily. It was as though her voice was already there from the beginning, which is often not the case. In most of my books, it takes a while to get a sense of who the characters are and how they sound. I also enjoyed writing Bernard Lalamilo, he was a fun character who showed up out of the blue as the story evolved.
When writing about a place you are so familiar with it must be easy to reference places you’ve been to. Are there “easter eggs” or secrets hidden in your book that only a few people will find or understand?
I do find it nice to be able to write about places I know so well, and love! Hmmm, that is a good question. Nothing that I consciously put in there, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there!
I was on your website and found two really cool things – the first is that you have written more books about Hawaii! Can you share with us what’s next on the writing front from you?
I love all of my novels (I am now up to six) and they are all set here in Hawaii. One on Kauai, one on Oahu and the rest here on the Big Island. My next book with MIRA, which is still untitled, is another historical set on the Matson cruiseliner Lurline as it it sailed to Hawaii just before Pearl Harbor was attacked, and then on Oahu in the days and months following. It’s a tale of love and intrigue. As for the other novels, all are in various stages of revision and I hope to share them with the world soon!
The second thing I found was TWO recipes that are from the book. I have to admit that I was hoping to find these because I love to bake. How did these pies become part of the story? Are these family recipes?
My grandmother loved to bake pies and as kids we loved to eat them. Later, my father’s girlfriend used to bring us over here from Oahu and take us berry picking at the Volcano (Kilauea) which is one of my favorite places in the world. As it turned out, she was an amazing cook and we would then head down to her family’s beach house and stuff ourselves with fresh ohelo berry or blackberry pie and pretty much live in the ocean for a week or two. Those are some of my favorite memories, and I still love to pick berries or apples or lilikoi (passion fruit) and make pie whenever I can. For me, picking the ingredients is the best part. The recipes for the pies on my website are not family recipes but ones that I stumbled upon over the years and tweaked to my liking. I still have a few more to add to the site, so check back soon!
Thanks so much for talking with us today, Sara. I loved your book and really enjoyed working with you on the Hawaiian Coconut Pie candle!
Thank you, I am honored that you loved the book and I am so thrilled to share the Hawaiian Coconut Pie candle with everyone. It is the perfect scent for my novel!
is inspired by Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers by Sara Ackerman
A sweet blend of coconut, vanilla, butter cream and brown sugar in white
What I loved about Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers:
Although set on the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, this story is about the characters. And each brings so much to the story that you can’t really have a favorite. And even the ancillary characters pop from the page like real people. Sara does an amazing job of making each interaction realistic and palpable. I felt like I could transport myself onto each page with her descriptions.- Nalana @ Book Scents
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