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A Few Words About Me

Sandra's headshot


All Author, 2023; Historical Novel Society, 2023; Book Life, 2023; Kirkus Reviews, 2022

Sandra’s Thoughts

Have you been on a job interview and heard the dreaded words, “Tell us a little about yourself.” And you wonder to yourself, should I mention I was six years old when I got my first cat? Then you discard the thought and talk about why you’re well-qualified for the position. I mention this, because talking about myself is difficult. So I’ve put together a few questions I’m often asked.

How did you become a writer?

Before I became a writer, I read stories. Some were fairy tales, and some were myths. There were novels, and mysteries, and books about historical figures. By the time I got to high school, I was fascinated by stories from the past, whether “factual” histories or historical novels.

So it was hardly a surprise that I majored in history when I went to college, and eventually earned a doctoral degree. I learned how to write history and tell stories about history. Next step: a position as professor of history at the University of Hawai`i. For over twenty years I taught women’s, global and American history. As required, I wrote academic papers and a few books. You can check them out under “Pubs & Talks.” 

How do you choose your characters?

Sandra on research trip to Calcutta

The thing about writing academic papers is that they are, appropriately, tied to the written record. Not just what happened where, but what the subject wrote or what others wrote about her. There’s not really room to flesh out the subject as a person. As time went on, I realized I want to be tied to the historical record but I don’t like being confined by it as I develop my subject’s character.

Women of Determination & Courage

Bas Relief of Abbess Hild at Whitby Abbey

My first series gave me freedom to explore characters that appealed to me on a personal level. I was drawn to Indian social reformer Pandita Ramabai and her work to uplift Indian women. Daughter of a Sanskrit scholar, Pandita Ramabai’s conversion to Christianity placed her out of the mainstream of Indian social reformers, but her work with women and girls made her a prominent figure. Ramabai was a unique figure for her time, a woman unafraid to pursue what she thought was right. Rama’s Labyrinth.

While researching Pandita Ramabai, I came across Mary Pigot who went to court in Calcutta to defend her reputation. Mary won her case, but was only awarded 1 anna, or 2 half-annas. Hence the title Two Coins.

The next stories that caught my eye related to Northumbrian queens and abbesses who manipulated their position in Anglo-Saxon warrior society to make social changes. Saxon Heroines.

These are the stories in my first series: Women of Determination & Courage. You can find out more about them on this website.

Salem Stories

American Eagle

The series I’m currently writing was born during pandemic lock-down. I finished Saxon Heroines, and travel for research wasn’t possible. But I remembered research notes I took during a visit to the Philips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. In the back of my closet were notes from letters written by the Crowninshield women. I immersed myself in 18th century American history. Women are a strong, though not exclusive, focus in the story of their ambitions, frustrations, and fear as the conflict between Britain and her American colonies grew. Americans were defiant in their efforts to evade British restrictions, hence the title Ambition, Arrogance & Pride.

Elias Hasket Derby, a contemporary and rival of the Crowninshields, dominated Salem merchant society and is a major character in the book, which is why his portrait is on the cover.

Book 2 picks up the story in 1790 as the next generation begins seeking their fortune through trading networks while the friction between Britain and France increases the danger for neutral shipping on the seas. At sea and on land, male figures play a larger role than they did in Book 1.

How do you write your stories?

National Library of Scotland

My books require significant research in primary and secondary sources, and all have included site visits to research libraries and the locations where events took place. I try to understand the characters in my books through their documents and the places they lived. I want to know them as people and weave stories that are true to their experiences. I hope my readers enjoy meeting my characters and gain insights into the time they lived and the ordinary people who have come before us.

What do you want your readers to take away from your books?

I hope my readers enjoy the story and the historical characters they meet. I hope that they learn something about history they may not have known before. And I hope they pick up another one of my books. 😉

SANDRA’S BOOKS: Ambition, Arrogance & Pride; Saxon Heroines; Two Coins; Rama’s Labyrinth