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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Finding the Clues to Write a Mystery:Author Interview with Sandra Nikolai

I love mysteries, so I am pleased to introduce a mystery author this week who'll tell me 'who dun it' or at least how she does it and makes the mystery work. Her first two novels in her series cover the adventures of a ghostwriter and an investigative journalist. Sounds like a great start. 

What drew you to the idea of writing mystery novels? Was there a specific book or author that made you think – I could write like that?
Mysteries have always intrigued me. The notion that I could create such a story encouraged me to study the techniques and styles of other mystery writers—successful or not. I learned what worked and what didn’t until I felt confident enough to write my own stories.

How long did it take for you to write the first book in this series? Was it harder or easier to write your second book?
It took me several years to write False Impressions, the first book in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series. I actually re-wrote it three times before I was satisfied. After that practice run, it was much easier to write book two in the series, Fatal Whispers, which was published the following year.

What were your writing credits before publishing these novels?
Before I began writing books, I’d written a dozen short stories that were published online and in print. I received Honorable Mentions for a couple of them.

Are you active in any writing critique groups?
After I wrote my first mystery novel, I joined a critique group. The constructive criticism from the other members was—and still is—a definite benefit, and I learn from reading their work as well.

What type of research do you do for your books? Tell me about the process.
For False Impressions, I researched law enforcement procedures and legalities in the province of Quebec. They differ in certain aspects from laws in the US and abroad.

Since your books take place in and around Montreal, how much “artistic license” do you use in creating locations for your stories?
As for Montreal, I was familiar with the downtown core of the city, but I checked the names of streets and buildings I mentioned in my book in case they had changed. Sometimes I’ll use “artistic license” to create a fictitious restaurant or hotel where something unsavoury might occur in the story, like a murder.

Did you go through the normal process of pitching your book to agents and traditional publishers?
Like many writers, I pitched my book to agents. I received positive feedback on it, but no publishing offers. Regardless, I started to write the second book.

What made you decide to self-publish?
The trend to independent publishing had already begun when a writer friend persuaded me to jump on board. I researched the topic thoroughly before I decided to self-publish. I haven’t looked back since.

How much time daily do you have for writing? How do you write? 
I devote about four hours a day to writing. I use a plot outline and character charts but add notes as I go along—ideas that I might consider integrating into future scenes to build suspense. Like any plan, my outline is a general guide. I’ll deviate from it a little if I feel it will improve the story.

What do you think is the hardest issue in writing a mystery?
The hardest issue in writing a mystery is introducing viable clues. Mystery readers are quite perceptive, and you can’t bluff your way through a novel by dropping clues that aren’t logical or credible.

What type of publicity do you do to promote your book? What has worked best for you in generating sales?I belong to several writers’ groups, and we support and promote one another through social media. I offer two international giveaways every month on Goodreads and have gained many new readers and reviews as a result. Online ads for discounted books have also attracted new readers. It’s hard to say what works best, but I believe it begins with having a good product.

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?Whether you go the traditional publishing route or decide to self-publish, the promotional effort is the same. You have to be prepared to devote as much time to selling your books as you devote to writing them. It’s a lot of work but I love it!

What is the best advice you've been given about writing or that you've learned that you would like to pass along?
If you can afford it, use a professional editor to review your manuscript. Too many books have hit the market with umpteen typos and inconsistencies in them.

What other works do you have in the process?
I recently published Timely Escape, a short story in the mystery series that acts as a prequel to my upcoming third novel, Icy Silence.

Any other writing tips you'd like to share?
My website blog includes posts on tips for writers, such as this one: Creating credible characters which you can find at Click on the category “tips” in the panel on the left to read other similar posts.

Thanks for your tips and sharing your writing experience. If you would like to know more about
Sanda's books and her writing, here's some great options...
Amazon Author page:

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