01 Nov Alumni Spotlight – Rose Sandy ’92
Rose Sandy, a fellow graduate from Woodstock School, has achieved many great accomplishments that have created her legacy of being an established writer and avid thinker. Being the daughter of a diplomat, Rose grew to appreciate the experiences life gave her from traveling to several countries and aspiring to find the adventure in life. Accrediting Woodstock as the place where she discovered her gifts, passions, and talents, Rose went on to study International Business and International Economics at the American University of Paris. In fact, Rose also had the opportunity to participate to train for the Olympics! Yet, she continued to seek her calling as a writer and found expression in the books she wrote stemming from all the places she has lived and her upbringing. Many of her books involve mystery and suspense, where technology and espionage meet history, through pulse-racing and adventure storylines. Currently, Rose resides in London, England with her husband and two children Jayden and Malaika where she continues to explore her creativity in writing, communications, and everything to do with the lures of writing! Rose is an inspiration to us all when she reminds us that though working may be tough, those that stick with it, end up with the greatest rewards.
What do you remember about your years at Woodstock? During those years, did anything in particular help you in the process of discovering who you are and what you wanted to achieve?
One of the most memorable experiences and benefits of attending Woodstock School is the international friendships I made. I am honored to know many fantastic people I met at school. Many of these friendships are still in place, and I find it intriguing that even after leaving Woodstock, no matter where I go, I feel I can pick up a friendship or conversation from where we last left off.
Woodstock was also the place I discovered my gifts, passions, and talents. I was blessed to have teachers and mentors who invested in me and were bold in giving encouragement. Since leaving Woodstock, I have pursued my love for writing, music, the creative arts, and business. Woodstock offers a boarding school environment that prepares one for independent life in the real world. Without a daily home environment, you are left to discover who you are and what makes you tick.
Here you explore your identity. At least Woodstock did for that me.
I can’t say that when I left Woodstock, I knew what I wanted to be, but I am confident I wanted to pursue creativity and international business. I have been able to do both.
Could you tell us briefly about your life once you left Woodstock School?
Once I left Woodstock, I went on a year out to do social work and meet my extended family in my birth country Uganda. I felt I did not know much about my own country, having been raised a diplomat’s daughter living in a different country or continent, every three years from the age of four. Over my childhood, this included Iraq, Germany, India, France, and other places.
After that year, I moved to Paris for six years, where I studied and got my degrees in International Business and International Economics at the American University of Paris and spent some time at the Sorbonne.
Careerwise, my journey has taken me across various industries; consumer electronics and entertainment (Sony Corporation), FMCG (The Coca-Cola Company), technology (Cisco Systems), and publishing (HarperCollins).
My first job was with Sony Corporation’s European Headquarters in their communications department, which required a move first to Cologne, Germany, and then on to Berlin. Being stationed at headquarters, I worked across all Sony’s businesses, i.e., electronics and technology, and the film, gaming and music areas.
Here I worked alongside all divisions; executives, brand and design divisions, film and music stars, and research & development designers across the globe. I have many memories of trips to Tokyo, within Europe and US destinations. My work was diverse, including brainstorming about electronic clothing with the R&D divisions, working on film projects alongside names like Donald Sutherland, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Carmeron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Will Smith, Shakira, J-LO and more. My passion remains technology and the creative arts, so that was a perfect company for me.
After Sony, I worked for the Coca Cola Company in their German and Nordic headquarters in brand communications. I was proud to lead the internal European communications on the sponsoring of the FIFA World Cup and the launching of Coca-Cola Zero in European markets, amongst other exciting projects.
In Berlin, I met and married my husband, who is an architect. We then moved to London. Our two children Jayden and Malaika were born, and a brief period off work followed.
When I later joined Cisco Systems, one of the world’s leading technology companies, I worked alongside techies who design the complicated tech systems for corporates, banks, governments and learned first-hand about smart artificial intelligence systems. All great material for technothriller books!
And not too long after Cisco, I started my own publishing business that today publishes all my books and was then scouted by Harper Collins to run one of their publishing divisions. That is where I am today. HarperCollins is the world’s second-largest commercial publisher in the world. We publish huge authors like David Walliams, Tolkien, Daniel Silva, Agatha Christie, CS Lewis, and are the publishers of hits like Games of Thrones and more.
In my job, I get to work on the creative side of the publishing business (story development, book formation, author signing, etc.) but also on the strategic business side I am also in charge of distribution, sales, and marketing for the division.
When did you realize that you would pursue writing or take writing seriously?
I was between careers and at a crossroads after my children were born. There were often times between diaper changes, when my children were small, when I wanted to go back to work but wasn’t sure I wanted to do the same thing as before. Instead, I waited and pulled out a story idea I had had a few months earlier. I have always had a love for books and stories. So, I explored what it would be like to actually put a book together like some of my favorite authors. When my children slept or where at nursery, that’s really when I put pen to paper. It was January. I gave myself three months to finish a 400-page manuscript aiming for 100,000 words. By April, I had finished the first draft. I then jumped on my computer and searched everything I could find on writing fiction and the publishing business, and took many master classes from those who had gone before. My shelf was also full of creative writing books, I didn’t even remember buying. Serendipity, I guess.
I was also very fortunate to live in a part of London, where I met creative professional people. One friend worked in publishing, and I shared that story with her. She encouraged me to pursue it professionally. And I guess I’ve never looked back since.
Most of your books follow a Thriller and Suspense theme, could you share a little about your interest in this genre?
I love adventure! My interest in this genre comes from being a diplomat’s daughter who not only lived amongst worlds but traveled to destinations I grew up reading about.
My father was an avid reader of the genre and continues to be, and he shared the love of this genre with me.
From a very young age, I read a lot of thrillers, action-adventure, and suspense books from Frederick Forsyth to Ian Fleming’s work, to Robert Ludlum, and was also a fan of films made in this genre.
My favorite book is the Count of Monte Cristo, and Hitchcock is perhaps my favorite filmmaker and storyteller of all time. But my international growing up has lent itself much to my international thrillers. The thriller genre usually involves international travel, intrigue, and suspense.
I also draw from my own life and observations when I create characters and plots. Perhaps the book most related to Woodstock is the fourth book I wrote, The Code Beneath Her Skin.
The inciting incident in this story is set in the hilltops of the Himalayas. I also take my characters to Manali, not too far from Mussoorie, which is where I went an Activity Week in the 12th grade at Woodstock School. I was so enamoured with the culture, the people, and the landscape. I thought it would make the perfect place to set a tense scene in my book.
Besides living in the Himalayas, you have also traveled extensively all over the world and speak three languages. How do you think all those experiences help add to your craft and art?
Yes, I’ve traveled extensively not only for work but even as a child, and naturally, all these experiences and settings make it into my books. I try to take my characters to places I have visited, lived, and I cast a wide range of characters from these places. They, too, speak a myriad of languages.
For example, in the Decrypter and the Mind Hacker, when I describe the sights and sounds of Tokyo, Paris, Malta, or even London, these scenes come from lived experiences. In my first book, The Decrypter: Secret of the Lost Manuscript, Berlin, is prominent. I lived in Berlin for eight years. I had so much material to draw from, including time spent in the Pergamon Museum, at the former Checkpoint Charlie, the Adlon Hotel, the Unter der Linden avenue, and Tiergarten.
India appears in at least three of my books. Blood Diamond in My Mother’s House is a book that explores the controversy of the Kohinoor diamond, and therefore I bring New Delhi into the book. I’m finishing the fifth book in the Decrypter series, and this time we go to Agra, where I hide a mystery in the grounds of the Taj Mahal.
Most importantly, my characters are just as international as the places I have visited. Woodstock was a crossroads of cultures for me, and I learned so much from people from all over the world. In my books, you will find characters from every culture, race, religion, and corner of the world. This is hugely important to me.
You mentioned on your website that you were once selected to officially train for the Olympics! Could you share something about that with us?
When I was around 12 years, we were living in Bonn, the then capital of Germany. I attended the British Embassy Preparatory School, and they used to have a team that came in to do our PE lessons and conduct international standardised physical education tests each year.
I had always been a fast athlete and participated in several track and field sports. I performed well in these international sporting tests, and the call came to consider track training for the Olympics shortly before I moved to India. I never got the chance, and often, I wonder how my life would have been different had I gone ahead.
To settle this curiosity, right after the Olympics came to London in 2012, in The Code Beneath My Skin, I write about an Olympic athlete in intense trouble.
What advice do you have for young and aspiring writers?
First, there is a difference between an author and a writer. To be a writer, study the craft and master it. To be an author, study the craft and master it… and study the business of writing and publishing—every aspect of it as it changes daily.
Writing a book is so different from writing an essay in High School English. Immerse yourself in the art of storytelling even if you write non-fiction.
90% of manuscripts never make it to a finished book and stay on hard drives or a top drawer somewhere. It is extremely hard work, but those that stick with it, and take a long term view, usually end up with its rewards.
Edited by: Rhea, Class of 2022 & Ruhani, Class of 2023