Journal Inquirer article on page 29 of the June 2-3, 2018 weekend edition:
Interview by Sione Aeschliman, Author and Editor
June 1 Interview – Sarah was featured on Sione Aeschliman’s website and blog. You can read the entire interview at http://sioneaeschliman.blogspot.com/2018/06/interview-with-author-sarah-whelan.html
Here is an excerpt:
Congratulations on publishing your first book, Sarah! Thank you for making time in your busy schedule to do this interview. First things first: what was your inspiration for The Struggle Within?
Thank you, Sione. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce your readers to my debut novel. The concept for this book came from my love of stories with strong female characters. Since my work and interests revolve around the criminal justice system, the experiences of prisoners and the counselors who support them are particularly captivating. I envisioned a situation where a well-meaning but idealistic advocate might inadvertently inspire a powerful, strong-minded prisoner to use violence to force the system change. This is exactly what happens to my protagonist Beth Sharpe and the formidable José Ayala.
As someone who’s been immersed in the field of criminal justice for 20+ years, what do you see as the greatest challenge the U.S. justice system faces at this time?
The way I see it, inequality is the biggest problem in the criminal justice system, simply because it is so pervasive. In every facet of the system, treatment and outcomes vary depending on a person’s socioeconomic status, race, and gender. It starts with laws that punish certain crimes more severely than others and continues with police who have enormous discretion over who, when, why, and how they arrest people. Beyond that are issues with bail, prosecutor decisions, and plea bargaining that result in poor people going to prison when others with more resources do not. Finally, there are well-documented racial disparities in parole and in the services and opportunities available to prisoners. Whether or not the bias is intentional, the negative impacts on lower-income communities and people of color are devastating.
How does The Struggle Within engage with these issues? What do you hope readers will take away from it?
The Struggle Within touches on many of the inequalities in the criminal justice system. That said, I am not trying to teach my readers a lesson. Rather, my primary goal is to tell an interesting and entertaining story. I want readers of my book to feel emotionally invested and care what happens next. And if they gain a new perspective or pause to think about injustice, I will be beyond thrilled.
Let’s talk for a minute about process. What did your process for writing and editing this book look like?
I work out of my home office in Ellington, Connecticut. I am type of person who needs absolute quiet when I write. I even wear earplugs when other people are around! I get in “the zone” when I’m writing, and to the relief of my two teenage kids, I’ve learned to set a timer to remind me when it’s time to pick them up.
The storyline for The Struggle Within has been developing in the back of my mind for many years. Four years ago, I finally decided to organize all of the notes I’d made, which resulted in a basic outline for the book. I started writing the story of Beth and José, but what surprised me was how the subplots and the secondary characters revealed themselves. I experienced many “aha” moments, and I know the book would be incomplete without those motivating backstories and supporting characters.
Read the full interview at http://sioneaeschliman.blogspot.com/2018/06/interview-with-author-sarah-whelan.html