Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Interview with Sandra Parshall

By Pamela James

MM2: Sandra, give us the backstory on how and why you became an author?

I’ve always written stories, from the time I was able to form words in pencil on lined pulp paper. I became a newspaper reporter as an adult, but I continued writing fiction with no success in getting published. It wasn’t until I switched from mainstream fiction to mystery/suspense that I started publishing. It’s my favorite genre and I have no desire to write anything else.

MM2: Where is your favorite place to write? 

I prefer to write at my desk on my desktop computer, with as few distractions as possible (except for our cats Emma and Gabriel, who are built-in distractions).

MM2: Take us thru a typical writing day?

I like to write in the morning, then for a bit after lunch. I’m mentally tired by afternoon and can’t get much done after that.

MM2: How many books and genres have you written?

I’ve published six mystery/suspense novels (the Rachel Goddard series), but I wrote a number of mainstream novels that have never been published.

MM2: Let's talk about your latest book, your current work-in-progress?

I’m writing about a new character, a wildlife photographer named Wren Morrow, who gets caught up in suspicious activities in her own neighborhood while also going through a frightening personal crisis. I don’t want to say too much, but I love Wren and hope to see her in print. 

MM2: Do you re-read some of your favorite books?
I re-read passages for inspiration — and to remind me what great writing is!

MM2: What writing advice do you have for series authors?

It’s smart to make a few decisions when you’re writing the first book. Be sure your protagonist has the depth and personality and beliefs to carry a series. Be careful about the background and family you give him/her. Don’t do anything in the first book that will tie your hands later on. Make sure the protagonist develops in some way as the series goes on and she/he doesn’t remain static.

MM2: What comes first the plot, the setting or the characters?

I can’t separate plot and character. I don’t dream up a great character, then devise a plot for her. The two inspire each other. Setting is a lesser concern, and never comes first for me. I choose the setting that will best let me tell the story.

MM2: What is your version of the perfect weather?

About 80 degrees, low humidity, and sunny!

MM2: Dead or alive what three authors would you like to sit down and have meal with? What would you ask the three and talk with them about? Would you invite any of them to your family reunion?

Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, and Carson McCullers. I would be far too intimidated, I suspect, to ask them anything. I’d sit and listen in awe. I don’t think any of them would enjoy a gathering with my family.

MM2: Do you belong to a writer's group?

Not at the moment, although I’ve been in several critique groups in the past. Right now I rely on my husband, Jerry, and my very good friend Carol Baier for feedback. When I finish my work in progress, I’ll ask Barb Goffman, a terrific independent mystery editor, to help me edit it.

MM2: Is there an author/s that you credit for making you into a reader?

As with writing, I think I was born a reader. I grew up in a family of non-readers, and we couldn’t afford to buy books anyway, but I haunted the library from a very young age. I discovered books on my own and read a wide variety. I was reading adult novels, especially by the classic Russian authors and southern American writers, when I was quite young.

MM2: Growing up did you have favorite teacher?

I remember one teacher who made English class fun. Unfortunately, I had too many teachers who made classic novels and plays utterly dreary with inept teaching methods. (Only much later, for example, did I discover that Edith Wharton was actually a brilliant author.) One high school teacher had everybody in the class memorize the “Friends, Romans, and countryman” speech and stand up and recite it in class. To what end, I still don’t know. Wouldn’t it have been more enlightening to explore what the words meant? I don’t mean to disparage teachers, who have a hard job to do, but I’m afraid I didn’t have many that inspired me.

MM2: Tell us about where you live? Be our tour guide?

I live in Northern Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington, DC. I love this area and don’t want to live anywhere else. It’s breathtakingly beautiful in spring and autumn, it has world-class museums and art galleries, a wealth of natural wildlife refuges — and the National Zoo has pandas! 

MM2: Now for some fun question. What is your favorite meal, desert, movies, television series, a couple of your favorite people or friends? If they were going to turn your books into a movies or television series. Who can you see playing your characters?

Meal: ordinary cheese pizza
Dessert: The warm apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream at the Hard Rock Café
Movies: The Usual Suspects, The Miracle Worker, To Kill a Mockingbird
Television: Always changing, but lately I’ve been addicted to House of Cards and Bloodline on Netflix
Favorite people: Writers and animal lovers, especially panda fans
Playing my characters: I can see Rachel McAdams playing Rachel Goddard, although a lot of people say they see Rachel as Clare Danes. I’ve never come across an actor I thought would be good as Tom Bridger.

MM2: Finally, tell us about winning the Daphne Award

I was surprised by the nomination and delighted by the win. I’m grateful to the judges and the RWA Kiss of Chapter for honoring my work. I treasure the award.

MM2: In your career what comes next for you?

I hope to finish my work in progress soon and get it published. That’s about as far ahead as most writers can think, unless they’re in the elite brigade for whom six-book contracts are common.

MM2: Lastly, what do your characters want us to know about you? Leave us with a quote from one of your characters?

I’m not at all sure what my characters would say about me, after everything I’ve put them through. I hope they would be forgiving. Tom and Rachel, despite their different backgrounds, have the same view: Live your life to the fullest, be happy with the good things you have, and do your best to be a decent person who contributes to the world. But stay on guard against suspicious characters!


  1. Sandra, I am with you on the weather! Perfect IMHO

  2. Nice answers and growing up I haunted the public library. They are needed across the world.

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Sandy. Nice interview.

  4. Thanks for inviting me to the blog, Pamela and Terri! It's a pleasure to be your guest.


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