I’m interviewing Sandra Gardner who is the author of seven books, fiction and nonfiction. In a previous, journalistic life, she spent years as a contributing writer and columnist for The New York Times, covering social issues such as adoption, juvenile justice, lead poisoning in children, slum conditions in a medium-sized city. She also worked as a public relations writer. Now she's happily at work on her own (mysterious) writing.
Question: What is the title and genre of your novel? Why did you select them?
Answer: GRAVE EXPECTATIONS, a paranormal cozy, is book 2 of the three-book Mother-and-Me Mystery Series being published by Black Opal Books. I selected the title because the murders are all about greed over an expected inheritance. Suspects are the greedy relatives of Marabella Vinegar's friend and neighbor, Sam, who, it turns out, had a considerable estate. The paranormal part of the genre is because the Mother-and-Me series features Marabella and her sleuthing sidekick, her recently deceased mother, who comes back to help --- whether Marabella wants her to or not -- whenever there's trouble that involves her daughter. The book is a cozy because even though this is a murder mystery, it is humorous, without a lot of gratuitous gore.
Question: What inspired this novel? How did it come about?
Answer: The Mother-and-Me series, believe it or not, happened when I was ill with bronchitis, lying on the sofa. I felt, sensed, a dead mother hovering over me. An unknown mother, having no relation to any mother I've known. I dragged myself off the sofa, went to my computer and started typing about a relationship between an adult daughter and her dead mother. Later, I realized it wasn't going anywhere, so I began dropping the bodies...
Question: Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?
Answer: Marabella Vinegar is short, full-busted (but they don't measured up to her mother's), a brunette who's hair tends to frizzy without taming, a chocoholic who's always on a diet. Until recently, she was without a meaningful relationship at almost (gulp!) 40, and works in the public relations department at a college of last resort. She spent eight years in psychotherapy, including two in group, mostly because of her love/hate relationship with her mother.
Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?
Answer: Dead Shrinks Don't Talk, book 1 in the Mother-and-Me series, introduces Marabella and her deceased mother to the reader. When Marabella goes to her appointment with her longtime holistic shrink, she finds her therapist's bloody corpse and becomes the NYPD's perp of choice. Enter her mother, who has only been dead a week, who comes back to help get her daughter out of trouble and find the real killer.
Halley and Me, a coming-of-age novel, won the Grassic Short Novel Prize from Evening Street Press. Four nonfiction books include Teenage Suicide (Simon & Schuster) and Street Gangs in
Street Gangs in America received a book award
from the National Federation of Press Women America
Question: What are you working on now?
Answer: Currently, I'm revising a new mystery/suspense novel, The Murder Blog, a departure from my paranormal cozies, for sure. It features an investigative reporter turned crime-solving blogger who is on the hunt for a serial killer of teenage girls, with the help of the blog's readers and a psychic gravedigger.
Question: What made you start writing?
Answer: My senior high school English teacher encouraged me to write. She had us write what she called a "theme" every week. Basically, it was anything we wanted to write about. I'd lock myself in the bathroom and write until I was done. She told me I could write. And I'd also been writing poetry since junior high.
Question: What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?
Answer: My advice to a new and not-so-new novelist: Read, read, read, particularly in the genre you want to write. Join a critique group for feedback. If the feedback isn't constructive, or, God forbid, destructive, don't go back. Go to writers' conferences that deal with the type of novel you want to write. Take a writing class with an instructor who knows about (even better, writes about) the kind of novel you're interested in writing. Again, as with a critique group, if the class isn't helpful, don't go back. Trust your judgment.
Question: Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?
Answer: Grave Expectations is currently available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com; Kobo and Black Opal Books (www.blackopalbooks.com).
Note: I read Sandra’s latest novel and gave it a five star review on Goodreads.com. I recommend this mystery to fellow readers and writers.
Comments and or questions for Sandra are welcome here!