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Interview with Sandra Orchard

What is the most challenging part of writing mystery and suspense? What is your favorite part?
My favorite part is usually brainstorming the plot, especially twists and red herrings, but for my Serena Jones Mysteries, it was actually coming up with amusing one-liners for her and the men in her life.
Threading character development through the plot is the most challenging part for me in a series like this in which I have the same protagonist for several books.

Where do your story ideas originate?
I have a secret compartment hidden in our century-old home that’s brimming with novel ideas. Just kidding. That answer just zipped into my head when I read your question, which…is how I come by a lot of my story ideas—at least the initial spark of an idea. The ideas are expanded and refined through research, in the case of Over Maya Dead Body, that included interviewing FBI agents, touring Martha’s Vineyard, taking a course on antiquity smuggling, and reading countless articles and books on art crime.

Where do you do most of your writing? Do you listen to music or prefer quiet?
I recline in a gravity chair with my laptop on my lap to write. I usually prefer quiet, although since Over Maya Dead Body was set on Martha’s Vineyard, I often listened to seaside sounds, which included waves and foghorns, while writing it.

Can you tell us anything about your latest work-in-progress?
I am working on a cozy mystery for a multi-author continuing series. I’m also contemplating potential plots for a spin-off series of Serena Jones Mysteries, since numerous fans are urging me to write more Serena books.

What lessons do you hope your readers will take away from Over Maya Dead Body?
I’m often surprised by the diverse takeaways readers share with me. For example, a reader recently wrote to tell me that Serena’s description of Jack’s gray-haired fiancé as someone who is comfortable in her own skin, resonated with her so much she’s decided to stop coloring her hair.

The takeaway that has most stuck with me, and that I hope speaks to readers, comes from a metaphor I used to compare our lives to sea glass. At one time or another, most of us have felt broken, ugly or unwanted, just as sea glass once was. But over time, the action of the waves and rocks and sand transformed it into a sought-after thing of beauty.

In the same way, the Lord uses difficult circumstances to hone strengths and positive qualities in us…if we’re willing. We are all a treasure in the making.

What do you want your readers to remember about your writing?
That it was entertaining—made them laugh and kept them guessing, and gave them a little food for thought.

If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go? Do you think it would impact your writing?
Well, if time and money were no object than I’d tour Australia, the British Isles and all the states and provinces of North America. It would definitely inspire more stories, since I would learn about so many new-to-me places and meet interesting people and hear their stories.

Besides writing, do you have any other hobbies?
I used to have so many hobbies before I took up fiction writing. For ten years, I stopped them almost completely. But last year, I finally picked up my crochet needles and my cross-stitch needle again. And my children gave me a new sewing machine for Christmas, although I admittedly haven’t done much with it yet. And my sisters have requested I paint them more ocean scenes on coasters and a wolf on a rock, so I’m looking forward to breaking out my paints again as soon as I finish my current WIP.

Any parting words?
I would like to thank the readers and writers who have been so supportive over the years, especially last year in their prayer cover and thoughtful cards and gifts with the challenges our family faced after my young grandson’s accident. I’m happy to say he’s doing very well and continues to be a bright light in our lives. Readers who’d like to hear about new releases and receive free subscriber-exclusive stories are invited to subscribe to my quarterly newsletter at:


CJ Myerly is a graduate from Clearwater Christian College. She resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband and two children. She’s always loved reading and writing and is currently working on a contemporary romance series. She hates clutter, loves organization, and has a love/hate relationship with all electronics. CJ blogs about books, writing, motherhood, and homeschooling at

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