Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: ebook, paperback
After two failed marriages, forty-eight-year-old Rosie Atkisson struggles through the painful process of rebuilding her life with her husband, Jesse, in Southern California. But the settled rhythm of her newfound comfort is interrupted by a tug in her heart when she encounters a haunting photo of another aging lady, the World War II vessel MS Restoration.
A special mission to transport Russian Jews from Sochi, Russia, to Haifa, Israel, means an adventure of a lifetime; does she dare pass up this dangerous assignment that will take her thousands of miles from her family and comfortable life? In spite of her fear of water and the unknown condition of the ship, Rosie thinks this might be the opportunity she’s been waiting for to serve God. After surviving fourteen months on board the old ship-from a hurricane to a heart attack, from miracles to menopause, and now being held at gunpoint in the Haifa harbor-Rosie wonders if she will ever return to her own safe harbor.
1. Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
After savoring my first cup of morning coffee, I begin my multi-tasking day. I have many daily-life activities, which includes my writing. I usually don’t have a writing schedule, but when I do, I get the job done. I love writing, but it is not my main focus (I hope that’s not too disappointing to my fellow writers who toil hours away daily). God, my family (I’m a care-giver to two parents), and my friends will always be my priorities. Perhaps that’s why I will remain an almost-famous author, and that’s okay with me. I love walking our malte-poo, Popcorn, visiting neighbors, and traveling the USA and the world with my husband.
2. When did you begin writing?
From the Christmas when my mother gave me my first diary (with a key!), writing came natural for me. After I ran my first half-marathon when I was in my thirties, I felt I could do anything, so I typed out two books on my Smith-Corona, one a non-fiction, Lady on the Run, the other a young-adult novel, Victory Run. However, I never took my writing to the next level of publishing until last year.
3. What inspired you to write Lady and the Sea?
After volunteering fourteen months on the WWII vessel, MS Restoration in 1994-95, I knew I had to tell the story of this miracle ship. When the government put her in mothballs after the war, she thought her glory days were over, until forty years later when a retired Alaskan sea captain bought her, then gave her to a church in Sweden to transport Russian Jews from the Black Sea to Israel. God saved the best until last for the old gal, showing the reader that the best is yet to come for us 40+ gals and guys.
I knew I had to give the Restoration her own voice because of everything she stood for: The restoration of over a thousand Russian Jews to Israel; the restoration of faith in the crew and volunteers who poured their hearts into the ship’s mission; and for her own physical restoration, to name a few. If only for those reasons, her story had to be told. But there is much more to her story, as the reader soon discovers.
4. Is there a message in your novel that you want the readers to grasp?
“You cannot discover new oceans until you are willing to lose sight of the shore.” This quote, without any preachy-ness, challenges the reader to let go of their fears and move forward. I want the reader to shake off their fears, lose sight of their safe shore (Rosie’s included her fear of water, her comfortable lifestyle, her family), and dive into a new ocean, whatever that may be. We each have our own ocean to swim in; not everyone is called to volunteer on a ship. But look around, what about that lonely neighbor? Or what about … fill in your own blank. When the reader closes the book, I want them to say, “It’s not all about me.”
5. Do you hear from your readers? What do they have to say?
I hear from my readers regularly. An 89-year-old lady read the book in one day and loved it so much that she plans to read it again at a slower pace. A thirteen-year-old girl read the book her grandmother gave to her mother and said, “Grama, I loved Lady and the Sea. I never knew about the holocaust.” A woman in her twenties told me at my book launch party, “I always wanted to travel for God, but when I got married I stopped believing. Your book gave me hope to believe that it’s not too late.” These are just a few remarks that have blessed me.
6. What books have most influenced your life?
Besides my Bible, the Zion Covenant series by historical fiction author Bodie Thoene are my favorites. I read them all while sailing on the MS Restoration. Her books gave me a sense of feeling part of what God is doing in the earth in these last days. I love books touched with humor, such as The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran.
7. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My short story, Moving Out to Sea, has been accepted in the upcoming book, Moving Tales, by author Linda Kozar. I recently finished an essay for author Susan Pohlman’s Expat Chat blog, I Sailed the Seven Seas on a WWII ship and Lived to Tell About It. In between hosting the blog talk radio show, Gate Beautiful (www.gatebeautifulradio.blogspot.com) and rewriting my manuscript for Lady on the Run, I continue to multi-task with a smile on my face.
8. How much of Lady and the Sea is realistic?
After reading my bio and the first two chapters of Lady and the Sea, you can see that the book is based on my true story. The story is 95% true; names were changed to protect the innocent—me! The moment I changed my book from non-fiction to a novel based on a true story, the characters came alive with challenges and issues that readers could relate to.
9. Who designed the cover of Lady and the Sea?
I designed the cover myself. From the beginning, I knew what the cover would look like: After fourteen months at sea, Rosie, the dark-haired beauty, with her arms raised high, is standing on the bow of the WWII ship, MS Restoration, on the eve before reaching their final destination, the Haifa Harbor, and declaring, “Victory at last!”
10. What is the most challenging part of being an indie author? The most rewarding?
The marketing end is the most challenging. I admit to having a hard time sitting for long periods in front of my iMac, researching, writing interviews, blogs, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love the writing aspect, but my body reacts in a very stiff kind of way (I’m sure any writer will agree). The most rewarding is meeting people face-to-face at book signings, speaking engagements, anywhere. I love listening to their personal journey and hearing how Lady and the Sea encouraged them to proceed ahead with their own dreams. One young lady recently published her book, thanks to my encouraging words at my book signing to just keep writing!
Sharon Leaf is the author of Lady and the Sea, a debut novel based on her adventures as a volunteer aboard a WWII ship secured for a hazardous mission to rescue Russian Jews from the Black Sea to Israel. Since turning forty, Sharon traveled to over fifteen countries, lived in Sweden while attending Bible College, and traveled the Trans-Siberian Railway. At the age of sixty she received a degree in theology, proving that it is never too late to fulfill another dream. Sharon and her husband live the sultry state of South Carolina.