Q&A: FPU alumn publishes Christian romance novel

Get to know Sarah Beth Williams

Sarah Beth Williams is an FPU alumnus and former staff writer and editor for the Syrinx. Williams released her first novel, “When Hearts Collide”, on September and shares that the FPU experience helped her find inspiration for her novel. After graduating from FPU Williams returned to her hometown of Sacramento, California, where she now lives with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not focused on writing, she enjoys teaching children, playing guitar, reading and spending time with her family. “When Hearts Collide” is available for purchase on Amazon www.amazon.com/author/sarabethwilliams

How would you describe When Hearts Collide?
When Hearts Collide is a contemporary Christian romance about second chances, redemption and forgiveness. When a young ex-con discovers that his past is connected to the woman he’s falling in love with, he grapples with the decision of whether to break her heart with the knowledge of who he is or live a lie.

When did you discover your love for writing, and when did you decide to write a book?
I’ve loved writing from a young age. I wrote a lot of story drafts and poetry in high school. In 2004, I had begun sketching the early beginnings of what would become When Hearts Collide, but I didn’t know which genre I wanted to pursue. In 2007, while attending FPU, my flash drive with all of my writing on it burned out, erasing everything. That left me discouraged, so I focused on other things for a while. In 2013, I began to read a lot of Christian fiction and fell in love with all of it. That’s when I began to research what it takes to become published.

How did FPU inspire portions of your book?
The overall campus life of students, both academic and recreational, and the freedoms that college students experience as young adults, the living situations, those kinds of things influenced my story. One of the main settings in the story is a coffee shop, much like the coffee shop on campus at FPU when I attended.

What has the process of publishing a book been like for you?
It’s been a long process. It took 3 and a half years, 4 written rejection e-mails and a handful of ‘no replies’ before someone finally read through my manuscript and offered me a book contract. I debated whether or not to self-publish and I’m glad I waited to seek traditional publishing.  My goal was to produce high-quality Christian fiction to show the world that Christian fiction isn’t lame, bland or boring, so I was glad to endure a thorough editing process.

What was your major when you were a student at FPU?
I graduated with a Liberal Studies/elementary education major, with an emphasis in theater. I wanted to do a full theater major but they didn’t have one at that time.

You were a previous editor and staff writer for The Syrinx, what is something you remember about your experience?
I’d written a lot of poetry and fiction beforehand, so it was different to learn how to write for a newspaper. It was a new challenge and I picked it up quickly. As I said, I lost all my writing projects, so I wanted that new challenge. I made good friends and found a place where I could contribute my ideas and use my talents in a worth-while manner.

What was your favorite part about being a student at FPU?
I like the small-school atmosphere. I enjoyed intramurals. There is probably double the number of student attendance now, but it’s still relatively small compared to other universities. Things I enjoyed: helping backstage during Fiddler on the Roof; the game room; playing soccer and this ninja game on the Green at midnight; playing Mennonite Madness; playing on this gigantic teeter-totter. Some of you reading might not get any of those references. It’s been a while since I’ve graduated.

Did you have a favorite professor or class while a student at FPU?
There were so many fun classes and professors. It’s been a while but the ones that stand out are my theater classes.

Do you have any advice for students looking to become writers/publish their own works?
Research everything. Christian writing contests, writing conferences, agents, editors, publishers, Christian authors IN your genre. I cannot stress this enough. That means you need to decide on a genre. What stories are being written and sold? Which ones are popular? What authors do other people love? Why do they love those authors? What makes those authors so great? What stories are not being told that you want to tell? It takes a while to find your own voice. Majoring in English isn’t a must, but it’s a strong step to take. I’d go back and major in English if I could. Lastly, read a LOT in the genre you want to write in.

What do you want students to take away from When Hearts Collide?
This is a story about forgiveness and how it is possible, even under the most difficult circumstances. It’s also a story about second chances, not just in romance, but in life in general.

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