© 2013 Clive Eaton
Sandra Nikolai grew up in Montreal, Québec, and graduated from McGill University. After a rewarding career path in sales, finance, and high tech, she took an early retirement and set out to achieve her most challenging objectives yet.
Sandra has since published a dozen short stories and collected Honourable Mentions along the way. False Impressions, her debut mystery novel featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott, is earning five-star reviews. Fatal Whispers, the second book in the series, promises more of the same captivating twists and turns and is scheduled for publication August 2013.
When not writing, Sandra enjoys baking, reading, shopping, going for long walks, and getting together with family and friends. She lives with her husband in Ontario, where she enjoys the countryside and the serenity it offers. Sandra is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.
Montreal ghostwriter Megan Scott falls under police suspicion when her husband and a female companion are found murdered. In what a Québec detective calls a crime of passion, startling evidence surfaces to implicate Michael Elliott, a young investigative reporter who’d rather rub elbows with scumbags than live the posh lifestyle he inherited.
Clutched out of her comfort zone, Megan is flung into Michael’s dark world of criminal investigation. As they make a last-ditch attempt to prove their innocence, an elusive enemy closes in and threatens their lives. Who wants them out of the way and why?
Their only path to freedom is to catch the twisted killer before they become the next victims. But not knowing who to trust or where to turn can have consequences that are just as lethal…
What do you do to relax when you are not writing?
I like to read (of course!), listen to music, or watch a movie. Taking a drive in the countryside or walking along the beach (on trips down south) helps to refresh my mind and relax me too.
What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?
My parents inspired me from an early age. They’d often read stories from children’s picture books to me at bedtime. I received my first set of Nancy Drew books as a gift when I was ten years old and fell in love with mysteries. A growing passion for the genre finally compelled me to write my own short stories and novels.
What or who inspired you to write your current novel?
False Impressions stemmed from my interest in reading mysteries about amateur sleuths. I liked the notion that extraordinary events could happen to ordinary people. I created ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott – two characters with conflicting approaches to solving crime. Megan digs for clues behind the security of her desk. Michael meets informants face-to-face in shady places at night. Whenever they combine forces to solve a case, there’s potential for conflict—emotionally and physically. Loads of fun!
Tell us three interesting facts about your book which are not covered in the synopsis.
1) Megan Scott is half Italian and half Irish. She loves chocolate almonds.
2) Michael Elliott is passionate about all kinds of food. He enjoys listening to music from the 60s and 70s.
3) My book is set in cosmopolitan Montreal, the site of gangland shootings that made international news in recent years. I kid you not!
What research did you need to do for this book?
Montreal was my hometown years ago, which meant that I had a fair bit of research to do. I needed to verify physical changes, like new stores, buildings and street names. I decided to use fictitious names for certain places I mentioned in my book. No hotel wants their name to be linked to a murder, fictitious or not, right? I also had to interview people in law enforcement in Canada to confirm that the details in my book were accurate.
Are any elements/characters of your book based on real life experiences or people you’ve met/known?
I try to develop a character’s personality based on their role in the story. I might borrow a physical trait here and there from someone I’d once met, but I prefer to create each character from scratch, including their habits, likes and dislikes. As I’m writing and building my story, I set up charts to record the detailed descriptions and personalities of each character. The charts make convenient reference tools in case I need to go back and verify certain details in my book. After all that work, I’d have to say that any similarities between my characters and real people would be a fluke!
Tell us a little about your current work-in-progress.
I’m wrapping up Fatal Whispers, the second book in my mystery series, scheduled for release Summer 2013. Megan Scott and Michael Elliott probe for clues when their trip to Portland, Maine coincides with the mysterious deaths of a millionaire’s young wife, a homeless woman, and a priest. They discover ominous secrets buried decades ago and ruthless killers looking for revenge.
What process did you adopt from inception through to the finished book?
I started with a premise, then set up a story outline and created character descriptions as I went along. I researched people, places, institutions, legalities—bits of information that would add credibility and authenticity to the story. I revised the draft numerous times before it all fell into place. My critique group reviewed it, I integrated more changes, then off it went to my editor. After more revisions and a final proofread, it was ready for publication.
It might sound simple, but the process demands persistence and a repetition of tasks to ensure that the story is the best it can be. My readers are paying customers, so they deserve a quality product.
What do you need (or not need) around you whilst writing?
I need a quiet place where I can work on my computer. Coffee helps!
What prompted you to self-publish your current book?
I grew frustrated waiting for replies from literary agents. One agent kept me waiting a whole year! When a writer friend mentioned self-publishing, I took the plunge. I prefer having control over my work and managing the various aspects associated with publishing, even if it is a juggling act at times.
What were the three biggest challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Finding time to handle the promotional side of the business
2) Putting my writing on hold to research facts I need for the story
3) Finding a balance between writing too much and too little about a person or place in my story
Every author seems to suffer with writer’s block at some point. How do you overcome it?
I do something else, even it’s only for a few minutes. Or I jump to another scene and work on it instead, then go back to the first one.
What single piece of advice would you give to any aspiring writer?
Get a professional editor.
What genre does your book fall into?
Mystery, amateur sleuth, female sleuth.
How did you get interested in this specific genre?
I’ve enjoyed reading mysteries all my life. I like trying to guess whodunit. Though it can be challenging, I like writing mysteries even more!
You as a reader
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) Agatha Christie – accurate observations from the world around her
2) Sue Grafton – easy writing style, neat wrap up at the end
3) Linwood Barclay – gripping pace, suspenseful in the simplest ways
What was your favourite book as a child?
Aesop’s Fables. I loved the way the animals in the stories managed to get the message across in subtle ways.
What is the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?
I can’t pick just one. I’ve read many books by traditionally published as well as independently published authors that were quite good.
What was the last book you recommended to a friend, and why did you think it was worthy of recommendation?
206 Bones by Kathy Reichs. Technical, but easy to follow and so thrilling!
Kindle (or other e-reader) or paperback, and why?
Both Kindle and paperback. Kindle because it fits into my purse. Paperback because it doesn’t need to be recharged.
Hollywood is calling
You’ve had the call from Hollywood and they want your opinion on who should play the leading roles in the film based upon your book. Who would you choose, and why?
Emily Blunt as Megan Scott because she’s a versatile actress and would adapt easily to this role. Chris Pine as Michael Elliott because he has a twinkle in his eye that spells a combination of mischief and charm. This young couple would have great charisma!
The film of your book is now going to need a soundtrack. Which musician(s) would you want to write and play it?
I’d like a contemporary soundtrack that would express the spirited tempo of fast-paced events and the gentler mood of intimate scenes in the story. I’d leave the choice of musician up to the experts in the field!
Drink – coffee, wine
Meal – lean meats, pasta
Holiday destination – Europe, beaches
TV programme – Law & Order CSI, The Good Wife
Film – The Bourne Identity, James Bond series
Method of travel – plane, train
Sport – watch hockey, Olympic Games
How can people connect with you?
Where can readers find your book?
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