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Interview with Sandra Ardoin


Sandra Ardoin is one of those multi-talented writers who are published in a spectrum of disciplines from greeting cards and light verse, to devotionals and fiction for all ages. When she’s not writing, she enjoys country music, gardening, NASCAR, and time spent with her family.

A Reluctant Melody is your longest story to date. Your male lead, Kit, is from your first novella, The Yuletide Angel.

Did you decide to give Kit his own story before you wrote The Yuletide Angel, or was it a result of how he turned out?

As a reader, I find secondary characters intriguing. That carries into the writing of my own projects. Kit’s role in The Yuletide Angel came about because I needed a way for Hugh, the hero of the novella, to grow, so I created a rift with an alcoholic brother over a woman. From the moment Kit walked on stage, that charming scoundrel fascinated me, and I knew the only woman for him would be Joanna.

What is it about Joanna's persona that makes her the best female character to counter Kit?

When they were younger, Joanna and Kit were much the same in character—beautiful and handsome, somewhat arrogant, rebellious. For years, they’ve been haunted by their common and separate pasts.

For Kit, it led to spiritual and physical redemption. Joanna, however, let her mistakes, her father’s influence, and a disastrous marriage mold her into a reclusive woman who doesn’t believe she’s worthy of God’s grace and mercy. Kit did her wrong and he’s the only one who can set her on the right path. Meeting Joanna again forces Kit to come to terms with his role in her decline.

What is the setting for this historical? Because of the subject matter, it sounds like it could be any contemporary town in America.

You’re right. Addiction (in this case alcoholism) does span ages and territories.

I set the book in a fictional, growing town in 1892 North Carolina. The lake/park/trolley idea came from the 1890s community outside of Charlotte called Dilworth. The developer was very innovative in his creation of a neighborhood that contained various levels of residential housing as well as industrial areas and a park with a small lake for boating and other types of recreational activities. I combined those aspects with the essence of the town I live in about 40 miles away—the types of businesses like distilleries and a broom factory, agriculture, law enforcement, etc.

How did you come up with the title, A Reluctant Melody?

Joanna is an accomplished pianist. Music has always been an escape from the turmoil in her life. Here are the first two paragraphs of the book:

Joanna Stewart’s fingers waltzed across the silk covering her lap. Had the stripes of the dress fabric been piano keys, the cab of her brougham would be filled with the melody of Sullivan’s “Let Me Dream Again.”

She halted the romping digits and gripped the material of her skirt in a tight fist. Dreams. She awoke to the pain they caused years ago…after the lie of romantic love dealt its deadly blow.

That pretty much sums up her feelings about meeting Kit again. She’s definitely reluctant to have that melody of love playing in her heart a second time.

You have a 5 star rating on Amazon and many reviewers have mentioned it’s because of the theme of forgiveness and redemption. How does that fit with other stories you’ve written?

In The Yuletide Angel, Hugh dealt with his need to forgive Kit. In A Reluctant Melody, both Kit and Joanna must forgive each other and themselves for the mistakes in their shared and individual pasts.

Maybe that’s just a universal theme of Christian fiction, but I’ve noticed the majority of my stories deal with some need for forgiveness on the part of at least one main character. I’m not sure what that says about me! In most of my stories, the main characters have already been redeemed through Christ. In this one, Joanna must decide whether or not that’s possible for her.

You are known for creating complex characters. Do you have a trick to keeping them in their own zone?

I like to read light-hearted stories, but the books that stick with me have characters and plots with a great deal of depth. They’re the kind of books I aspire to write.

One of the things Susan May Warren teaches is the need to ask “Why?” when creating characters. Why do they act/believe the way they do? Why do they want what they want? It’s a question to ask a character over and over and over until you reach the core of who that character is as a person, not just the face he or she shows to the other characters and the reader. If you think about it, people aren’t as simple as they appear on the surface. Our characters shouldn’t be either.

You mentioned on a blog that you are a slow writer. What do you mean?

I stand in awe of writers who can work for an hour or two and type out 2,000 words that form the draft of a logical and entertaining story. When I sit down to work, my goal is 1,000 words over 4-5 hours. I’m thrilled on those occasions when I accomplish more.

If I stop typing, I must go back and read the previous paragraphs or I’m lost. That, of course, leads to editing, which leads to changes, which leads, more often than not, to a net addition for the day of 500-750 words. One thing that helps me is the timer trick, but before I start, I need a clear picture of where I’m going for those 20 minutes or so.

What part of the story is the hardest/easiest to write?

The easiest part for me is always the first three chapters. They flow without much effort. That isn’t to say I never change the beginning, but the scenes come fairly quickly. When I begin a story, I usually know the main plot points and a few other scenes I want to include. Much of the rest is seat-of-the-pants writing, so the hardest for me are those in-between or bridge scenes.

Do you have a regular writing routine?

Absolutely! I begin about 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. The first couple of hours or so are spent on the business end of writing—marketing, social media, blogs, etc. I try to begin story-writing late morning.

Honestly, my brain kicks in about 10 a.m. There are those days when time flies and it’s afternoon before I write a word on my project. I quit between 4:30 and 5:30. The only day I won’t write is Sunday.

Since your stories contain history, romance, and suspense, do you look for the same type of books for your own reading pleasure?

My favorite elements to read have always been romance and mystery/suspense, so yes, I crave books that have both love and danger. It doesn’t matter if the setting is contemporary or historic. When it comes to historical time periods, I prefer reading and writing books set in the time between the Civil War and 1900. But I’ve read wonderful stories set before and after those years.

Do you attend writing conferences, and if so, why?

I’ve been to several over the years. My last conference was the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference—a tremendous experience. I have yet to attend an ACFW conference, but it is on my bucket list.

I do believe they’re important. For new writers, meeting professionals (editors, agents, etc.) is a great reminder that writing for publication is a business. For those who have been around a while, it provides a connection with other writers—people they’ve dealt with online but never met in person. And everyone can benefit by the courses taught.

Any parting words?

Thank you for asking such thought-provoking questions. I’m honored to have been given the opportunity to talk about my work, especially A Reluctant Melody.


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and their youngest of 4 kids. She writes historical romance set in Canada and the United States.

Romantic Refinements, Novella 2 in the Austen in Austin Volume 1 collection by WhiteFire Publishing released in January 2016. This 4-novella collection of stories set in historic Austin, Texas is based on the novels of Jane Austen.

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