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Interview with Sandra Orchard

Sandra is a former homeschooling mom from rural Ontario, Canada. She “graduated” to full time author on her youngest child's first day of college, which also happened to be the day she landed her first contract. Since then, she has depended upon God's inspiration and the support of her family as she has excelled to an award-winning author of gripping mysteries.

In your novel, Desperate Measures, you've created a very interesting main character who is on a mission to discover what happened to her family. How much of yourself did you write into Kate?
Hmm, probably more than I realize, but not consciously. Like Kate, I’ve lost my parents and a dear friend, so the grief and questions that drive her are a shared experience. I’d like to believe I am as loyal a friend as she is, too. Unlike her, I tend to accept the way things are without questioning it all that much. I’m far more cautious than her leap-before-you-look personality.

Who is your favorite character in the Port Aster Series? Why?
Detective Tom Parker. He admires so much about Kate and wants to help her, even as she drives him a tad batty with her wild and ever-changing suppositions. Their interactions were a lot of fun to write. I love how he keeps his cool, sometimes by a thread, and how he genuinely struggles with doing his job versus serving justice, which isn’t always the same thing.

Which was the hardest character to write? Why?
No question it was Kate. This was my first series with a continuing protagonist. In my other novels, the heroine typically experiences substantial character growth in a single book, as Kate did in Deadly Devotion, but a quarter of the way into writing Blind Trust, the second book in the series, I quickly realized that if I gave Kate a major character-flaw type issue in every book, she’d come off looking as if she was ready for the psych ward!

After a lot of hair pulling, I eventually found a balance I was happy with. Toying with killing her off helped me avoid the psych ward. ;)

What helps you the most when you're developing your characters?
Brainstorming with fellow writers. Collectively we can come up with much richer characters than I could ever dream up on my own.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
I started out writing romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense and naturally gravitated to adding a mystery element to all my books, since I like to keep the reader guessing where the danger truly lies. I love devising the twists and turns and the research is a blast.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Like a novel, there were three momentous turning points in my writing journey.
-My first rejection letter, which led to my discovery of writing conferences and paid critiques. What a blessing they have been.
-God’s redirection of my RWA magazine to another aspiring writer in my small rural community, which led to finding a fabulous critique group.
-Winning the Daphne DuMaurier contest, which was probably the final boost that helped my work get noticed.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Writing comes most easily to me in the evening, when all my chores for the day are done and all the things I have yet to do aren’t niggling at the back of my mind. However, the evening is when my family is home and wants to spend time with me, so I start writing first thing in the morning, determined to meet my goal before tackling my other chores. But inevitably it takes waaaay longer than it should and I doggedly stick to it even when I scarcely manage to claw out less than a page in an hour. More times than I like, the day is gone and I haven’t met my goal or gotten anything else done. I’m currently experimenting with changing up when I do things.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
Every aspect of my writing is drenched in prayer. I don’t go out of my way to overtly weave a spiritual message into the story, but my worldview, my study of scriptures informs everything I write and the characters’ responses to the obstacles in their lives and the things they learn. I’m often amazed when reading readers’ letters by what spoke to them in a story.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
At the moment, deadlines spur me to write. Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Something a friend says on the phone. Something I read in the newspaper or online. Something I see while out and about. A smell or taste or song that stirs a long-buried memory. They often come through the course of research and interviews or through brainstorming with friends.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I write fast-paced, keep-you-guessing stories, with dashes of humor and sweet romance.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as an author?
I guess it would be gaining the reputation for locking my roommate out of our room at an ACFW conference. Apparently, Brandilyn’s summons to me even made it onto the tapes. Of course, it was all part of my master plan to gain notoriety, er, publicity.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Whew, thank goodness I shifted the thirty-book-high stack to my dresser or we could be here all day! Left on my night table are: A Worthy Pursuit by Karen Witemeyer and Gone Without a Trace by Patricia Bradley, which actually doesn’t release for another week, but I had the privilege of receiving an advanced copy.

What literary character is most like you?
I asked my Facebook fans who they’d they say and the consensus was Sherlock Holmes since I like to solve mysteries and look for clues. One fan countered that I’m Watson since I write down the mysteries, while another didn’t think Sherlock fit, given his opiate binges and all. But…she doesn’t know about the stash of dark chocolate I keep in my drawer for when I’m feeling as desperate as Sherlock.

Any parting words?
Thank you for having me. I’d like to mention that the Port Aster Secrets should be read in order, because subsequent books have spoilers to the previous ones. And right now, the first book, Deadly Devotion, is available as a FREE download at all major online retailers. Don’t forget to check out the bonus features on my website, too.

Thanks for sharing with us, Sandra!

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