SARAH McCOY is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of the novels Mustique Island, Marilla of Green Gables, The Mapmaker’s Children, The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee, the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico, and Le souffle des feuilles et des promesses (Pride and Providence).
Her work has been featured in Newsweek, Real Simple, The Millions, Literary Hub, Writer’s Digest, Huffington Post, Read It Forward, Writer Unboxed, and other publications. She was the host of the NPR WSNC Radio monthly program “Bookmarked with Sarah McCoy” from 2018-2019 and a Board Member for the literary nonprofit Bookmarks from 2018-2021. Sarah taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso.
The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. After a decade in El Paso, Texas, she now lives with her husband, Dr. Brian Waterman, their dog Gilbert and cat Tularosa in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she is working on her next novel.
More About Sarah McCoy
I was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, the daughter of an Army officer from Oklahoma and a Puerto Rican elementary school teacher. Being an Army brat, I didn’t stay in the Bluegrass State long enough to wear a Derby hat or sip the whiskey. By two years old, Edelweiss was my lullaby in Schweinfurt, Germany, and so my gypsy life began. My family (me plus two baby brothers, now grown-up men) moved every ten months to two years until I hit thirteen. Then, by the grace of God, the Army let us take root in Virginia, and I stayed in the Old Dominion for the next fourteen years. So by all accounts, I consider myself a southern lady. Nothing is dearer to me than the morning fog creeping over the Blue Ridge Mountains, the sweet smell of cherry blossoms and magnolia trees in spring, or the lonesome horn of a ship in Norfolk harbor. But being the inherent wanderer, my love of travel and different cultures continues to tug on my life and writing.
It goes without saying that I’ve had a lifelong love affair with creative writing. But I’ve found that just about every published author has a similar tale: “From the time I could write my ABC’s, I’ve been writing little ‘books’ for my family and friends.” And so it was for me. I think I presented my mom with my first “book” when I was in pre-school. It had a cover design (tulips on a lawn, drawn by yours truly) and opened (like a book) to rows of carefully formed words of devotion for my mom and dad that culminated with “I love you.” The End.
I’ve tried to progress from there. Throughout my elementary and high school education, I found ways and reasons to hide out in the library, tipsy on the reading possibilities around, and writing, always writing diaries, essays, fiction stories, school news articles, poems, reviews, whatever! All that eventually led me to Virginia Tech, majoring in journalism and public relations. I was dead-set I’d either be an on-air reporter or a magazine writer. Either way, I was fascinated by people, places and most importantly, stories. But then a little birdie told me that journalists had a hard time paying back their student loans, and I had a mountain of them! So on graduation, I took a job as a public relations coordinator at a chemical company in Richmond, Virginia. It put food on my table but didn’t exactly feed the soul. I spent my days doing technical writing and my nights writing fiction. In fact, I wrote a whole novel—gobbledygook, but it showed me what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I applied to an MFA program at Old Dominion University near where my husband (fiancé at the time) was in medical school. I was ecstatic to be accepted and nervously quit my job to move to Norfolk, Virginia and join the unpaid, indebted graduate student ranks. I couldn’t have been happier. In that program, I met some of the most instrumental people of my life and wrote my first novel, The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico? People asked. Yes, Puerto Rico. Despite my transient childhood, I always felt my “home-home” was the one stable location where I had a majority of family on my mother’s side. Growing up, we’d fly to Puerto Rico once or twice a year. My grandparents lived and owned (still do) a farm in Aibonito, the mountainous heart of the island. The farm had seen my grandfather’s beans and corn, my great-grandfather’s sugarcane, and my great-great grandfather’s tobacco. Land is as constant as it comes. And unlike my ever-changing military childhood, I could always count on the island, my people and their stories. So it was natural that my first novel be set in that rich, beautiful culture. My grandparents still live on the farm with a majority of my second-cousins, great-titis and tios, et cetera, spread from San Juan to Mayaguez.
So how did I end up in Texas? It just so happened that my husband and I graduated from our respective graduate programs the same year. He was at med school on an Army scholarship and so, off we went to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, for his military residency. He’s a bone guy, an orthopedic doc. I get to hear a lot about fractures and splints and diabetic feet around the dinner table. And despite knowing him since I was seventeen, I still find him the most interesting, funniest man I’ve ever met. He sees me through long, dark days of writing for eight hours straight, my hair and teeth un-brushed, my face unwashed, the same clothes for days. He calls me beautiful when I am complete writing troll.
I wrote my second novel, The Baker’s Daughter, while living for nearly ten years in El Paso. It, along with my childhood in Germany, certainly served as inspiration.
The Mapmaker’s Children, set in contemporary and Civil War West Virginia, released in 2015.
My fourth historical novel based on the true story of authoress Hallie Erminie Rives and U.S. diplomat Post Wheeler released exclusively in French by Editions Michel Lafon in 2017. It is titled Le souffle des feuilles et des promesses (translation: The Breath of Leaves and Promises). The English title is Pride and Providence.
Marilla of Green Gables is my imagining of the untold story of Marilla Cuthbert, the adoptive mother of Anne Shirley in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. And yes, I am a lifelong kindred spirit devotee.
In Mustique Island: A Novel, I return to my Caribbean roots in the 1970s. Named a noteworthy book by The Washington Post and a Best Book of the Month Pick by Amazon. This family saga follows a mother, her daughters, and the ancestral branches that tangle, catch, cradle, and bear us up to unimaginable heights. It’s wild, baby.
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