“When Tides Turn” is the final book in the “Battle of the Atlantic” series. The plot has readers spell bound as they find out about the brutality of the Nazis, the threat of German spies and saboteurs, and the anti-submarine efforts including radar, weapons, and tactics. They will also learn about the WAVES, a unit of the U.S. Naval Reserve where women contributed to the war effort performing jobs in the aviation community, medical professions, science, technology, and communication. Part historical, part mystery, with a tinge of romance the finale of this three book series is a home run.
Elise Cooper: Since you write books that include a military theme, do you have experience in the armed forces?
Sarah Sundin: Not personally. The year I started writing this book is the same year my son enlisted in the Navy. I was walking the path with him as we adjusted to the culture and the terms. I also had a military connection through my family. My grandfather was a medic in the Navy during World War II and my great uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot. My grandfather also trained U.S. spies in the German language.
EC: Why the Battle of the Atlantic?
SS: It was almost entirely Britain’s fight. The U.S. Navy played a role before we declared war. We actually lost a destroyer and five merchant ships to U-boats. I was stunned to discover we were not neutral. Roosevelt got us surreptitiously involved while maintaining the pretense of neutrality. Most Americans know little about the German submarines attack on U.S. shipping. “When Tides Turn” takes place at the peak of the battle, during 1943. This was fascinating to me.
EC: Why the WAVES?
SS: My main character, Tess, was a side character in the first two books of the series. She could be described then as self-centered. After deciding she needs a fresh start, she joins the WAVES. She wants to contribute to the war effort. Remember, before the WAVES, the previous role of women was to be nurses. I wanted to show how the Navy did not want the WAVES at first, fearing women would get in the way and distract men. I hope I showed through my characters how women helped to replace men who went off to combat: Nora is an engineer, Lillian a pharmacist, and Tess, using her degree in business to supervise the clerical staff. Eventually women like my characters were seen as professional, efficient, and competent.
EC: How would you compare the WAVES to women currently in the armed forces?
SS: I know the picture of Rosie The Riveter is still popular today. I have had people today think it sexist that women were not allowed in combat during World War II. But we must remember the times. I think the WAVES were actually progressive. We have to be careful not to judge the past by the standards of today. The WAVES were brave and forward thinking women. I think they paved the way for women in the military today.
EC: How would you describe the main female character, Tess?
SS: Cute, playful, intelligent, conscientious, and a colorful personality.
EC: How about Dan, the male main character?
SS: He is black and white in the beginning of the book, but grew into the gray. I wrote Dan with affection because my husband and son have the same qualities. All are hard working, ambitious, patriotic, and no nonsense.
EC: The mystery surrounds German spies in America. Is that realistic?
SS: I did take some liberties. In Europe German spies did land by U-boats and there were home grown ones as well. They went after the Resistance to try to quell them. For example, they took over much of the Dutch resistance. I used creativity in taking what the Germans did in Europe to America.
EC: Can you explain this quote, “My papa says that without perspective, a painting is flat and dull.”
SS: Perspective adds depth and life. Tess said it to Dan because he had such an unfavorable view of his father. He framed it based on a series of incidents. He never thought why his father did what he did. With this quote Tess forced him to look at the situation in a different way. I hope the major point to come across is that there is more than one side of a story. We need to look at things from all sides. We need to realize why people act in a certain way and fill that in with understanding instead of judgment.
EC: What do you want the readers to get out of the book?
SS: A good entertaining story where people can learn a little about the Battle of the Atlantic and the WAVES. To understand what kind of woman would go into this field, and how they never sacrificed their feminity. I hoped I showed the courage of all the characters. We should always be conscious of the stereotypes we keep in our heads and challenge ourselves to look beneath the surface.
EC: Can you give us a heads up about your next book?
SS: I am currently writing a new series about three estranged brothers who fought on D-Day. They are in different branches: an Army Ranger, a sailor, and a pilot. The first book will be released next year.