Not Just a Novelist: Sara Ackerman, Acupuncturist
I met Sara Ackerman through debut author group Authors 18 and immediately wanted to go visit her in Hawaii and maybe stay for a little writing time. I suspect all of us in the group envy the stunning setting in which Sara writes her books.
Sara's debut, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, and her forthcoming novel, The Lieutenant's Nurse, both tell stories friendship, love, and loss against the evocative backdrop of WWII Hawaii. Sara's vivid detail and sensitive nuance paint striking and authentic images of a paradise faced with tragedy and the women who persevered.
It only makes sense that someone born and raised in such beauty would have a connection with energy and balance, and when I learned Sara was not only a novelist but also an acupuncturist, I had to learn more.
Jennifer Klepper: In layman’s terms, what is acupuncture?
Sara Ackerman: Acupuncture is one part of a comprehensive Chinese medicine system that involves putting very fine needles into points than run in channels along the body. The system is based on influencing Qi or energy that is thought to circulate through these channels. In Western terms, the needles stimulate the body's own healing response (through the nervous system, endocrine system and other bodily systems) and can be highly effective in reducing pain and treating numerous diseases and imbalances.
JK: You started acupuncture school around the same time you started writing your debut novel Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. What challenges did you face as a result of learning an intricate new practice all while trying to launch a career as a writer?
SA: I'm not sure how I managed to do the two at the same time, but I did have my mornings free, which helped. I usually only wrote for an hour or two before I started my day. There definitely were times when my brain was on overload, but I had acupuncture to help. The school is a four year program and right from the start, we were getting treatments from other students and teachers. So, during the whole four years, I had as much treatment as I wanted and took advantage at least several times a week. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have an amazing calming effect and I attribute that to why I was able to make it through doing both. In those four years, I wrote four books! Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers was my fourth, and I hope to also share the others with the world someday.
JK: You write historical fiction, which has taken you back to 1940s Hawaii. In your studies of Chinese medicine, you’ve likely studied ancient history. Could you see yourself taking your historical fiction farther back in time, or maybe over to China?
SA: First off, the first three books I wrote were not historical, nor are two others that I wrote post Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, so historical is not my one thing. Though I am working on a third historical now. Historical fiction adds another layer of difficulty because you have to research every little detail about the world. I feel like the farther back you go, the more challenging it might be. I could be wrong though.
I have often wondered about writing somewhere other than Hawaii and I'm not sure I can do it. Though, I just got back from Tofino and Uclulet on Vancouver Island in Canada and was thinking to myself, I would love to write a book set here. Of course, it would involve spending a lot more time there!
So, to answer your question, I don't see myself going way back in China, but I have included acupuncture and herbal medicine in many of my other books.
JK: What superpowers as a writer do you have because of your training and experience in acupuncture?
SA: Well...I know ancient Chinese secrets. Does that count? I have herbal formulas like Sublime Formula for Sustaining Life, Free and Easy Wanderer, and True Warrior Decoction at my disposal. I guess you could say they are my superpowers.
JK: I know you’ve also been a high school counselor and you still teach. If you could do a Freaky Friday swap with someone for a week to try out a different job, what (or who) would that be?
SA: I would love to work at a wildlife rehabilitation center and help nurse the animals back to health. I love animals, so this would give me so much fulfillment.
You can learn more about Sara and her books here.
Sara writes books about love and life, and all of their messy and beautiful imperfections. She believes that the light is just as important as the dark, and that the world is in need of uplifting and heartwarming stories. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and later earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine (read more). Prior to practicing acupuncture, she worked as a high school counselor and teacher on the famed north shore of Oahu. She is the author of historical novels Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers and The Lieutenant's Nurse, with several more in the works. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories.