“Writing short stories, especially mysteries, taught me how to get the story down using tight plot lines and concise text. I learned that I had to present the conflict early and wrap it up with a neat ending. There’s no place for wordiness or extra details in a short story.”
Sandra, I am so excited to interview you at Writingsleuth, and look forward to reading the excerpt of False Impressions tomorrow. Congratulations on the creation of Megan Scott and the publication of her first mystery, False Impressions (Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mystery).
I absolutely LOVE the opening sentence of False Impressions. How long did it take you to write it?!
Susan, thank you for inviting me to Writingsleuth. I’m thrilled to be here! I wrote False Impressions a decade ago but dug it out years later and revised it several times before I was satisfied with the result. I knew that the first chapter, especially the opening sentence, had to hook readers in, so I worked on those segments of the book even more.
Tell us about Megan Scott and Michael Elliott.
Megan Scott is a ghostwriter whose job becomes the focus of her life when her husband increasingly travels out of town on business. Michael Elliott is a crime writer and investigative reporter who meets Megan when she’s assigned to work with him on a crime novel. Their growing friendship fills Megan’s lonely hours, and although she’s attracted to Michael, she remains loyal to her husband. While Michael didn’t set out to fall in love with a married woman, it’s clear Megan means more to him than just a friend. Their close relationship comes into question when Megan’s husband is murdered.
You chose Montreal, Québec as the main setting for False Impressions. Why?
I was raised and educated in Montreal and know it quite well. I thought the cosmopolitan aspect of the city—especially its French je ne sais quoi—would add interest to the story. Readers love to read about exotic places, and Montreal’s diversity in international cuisines, vibrant nightlife, shopping venues, and historic sites provided the backdrops I was looking for. Not to mention the hot, humid summers!
You are a distinguished short story writer, having published a dozen short stories and received an honorable mention from the Canadian Writer’s Journal. What has writing short stories taught you about writing novels? How do you think writing short stories is different from writing a novel?
Writing short stories, especially mysteries, taught me how to get the story down using tight plotlines and concise text. I learned that I had to present the conflict early and wrap it up with a neat ending. There’s no place for wordiness or extra details in a short story. A novel offers more flexibility for developing multiple plots and subplots; characters and their relationships; dialogue and thoughts; setting, POV, and other elements. A novel unfolds more gradually than a short story, allows for greater story depth, and provides more details. However, whether it’s a short story or a novel, readers will be just as unforgiving if there’s too much irrelevant information or the plot wanders for no logical reason.
How did you move from writing short stories to writing a mystery?
I learned all I could about writing mystery novels through how-to books, mystery writers’ conferences, and writers’ groups. Above all, I read a lot of mystery novels! When I felt I was ready for the challenge, I sat down and wrote False Impressions.
Do you write every day? In the morning or the afternoon or evening?
Yes, I write every day—usually in the morning or afternoon—but not more than several hours at a time. I take little breaks when the words stop flowing. Walking away from my work helps to clear my mind and often puts my writing back on track. I usually read and catch up on social media in the evening.
Who are the writers that have most influenced you?
Carolyn Keene for sure! Where would I be today without Nancy Drew and her friends?! I’ve read many authors in different genres, including the classics, so it’s hard to choose the ones that have influenced me the most. I’ve probably learned something from each one without realizing it! As far as current mystery writers go, I’d say Sue Grafton, Lisa Jackson, James Patterson…the list goes on. I’ve also discovered several independent writers whose work I admire and who will no doubt gain wider recognition with time.
Will there be a Megan Scott/Michael Elliott series?
Definitely! Fatal Whispers is the second book in the series and takes place in Portland, Maine. The theme revolves around the shocking deaths of a millionaire’s beautiful young wife, a homeless woman, and a priest. I visited Portland several times and was impressed by its quaint New England characteristics. I knew it would be the perfect setting for the mystery I had in mind. Look for it in the spring of 2013!
Thanks so much, Sandra, and I SO look forward to reading FATAL WHISPERS!
Sandra Nikolai held careers in sales, finance, and high tech before destiny allowed her to pursue her lifelong dream. Sandra is the author of False Impressions, the first book in a mystery series featuring Megan Scott and Michael Elliott. She is currently working on Fatal Whispers, book #2 in the series. Sandra is a member of Crime Writers of Canada.
Where to purchase FALSE IMPRESSIONS: