Saturday, 2 March 2013

Guest Post by Sandra Nikolai

The Overnight Bestseller is very pleased to welcome crime fiction author Sandra Nikolai. Born in Montreal, Quebec, Sandra has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University. She's published a number of short stories and is the author of False Impressions, the first Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery.

Welcome, Sandra! The floor is yours.
Mike, it’s a privilege to be a guest on your blog. Thanks for inviting me here.

Several years ago, I was perusing books in the mystery aisle of a bookstore when another customer stopped to chat with me. He told me he was following his dream and had just published his first book. At the time, all I had on paper was the title and a rough draft of a mystery novel. We exchanged words of encouragement, but I still remember the one piece of advice he shared with me before we parted: mystery fans love to read books in a series.

That bit of information played in my mind while I was writing False Impressions, my first mystery novel featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. I knew that whatever happened in the story, I had to give these two main characters continuity so that their sleuthing adventures could extend into future books. In other words, I had to keep them alive, regardless of the perilous situations they’d encounter while following leads through the streets of Montreal, the setting for False Impressions.

Character development is a story element close to my heart because I love creating different personality types. Although their ethics are similar, Megan and Michael have distinctive traits so that any conflict between them creates dialogue and action that propels the plot forward. In comparison with Megan’s organized lifestyle and behind-the-scenes work as a ghostwriter, Michael’s investigative work involves an impromptu itinerary and meetings with shady informants at all hours of the night. Without revealing too much of the story, their worlds overlap when Megan’s husband is murdered and Michael offers his support. When startling evidence suggests they’re the prime suspects, they set out to clear their names and find the real killer. You can imagine the chaos it creates in Megan’s world—not to mention the intrusion into Michael’s!

I’m now writing Fatal Whispers, the second book in the series. I’m building on the original character profiles I created for Megan and Michael, adding layers of backstory so that readers can get to know them better. The story takes place in Portland, Maine, where my characters’ physical worlds expand as they investigate the mysterious deaths of a millionaire’s beautiful wife, a homeless woman, and a priest.

I decided on a new setting for each book in the series because different backdrops help to reveal and develop my characters’ personalities. It’s interesting how a new place—or even a change in the weather—can affect one’s moods, words, or actions. Finding the perfect choice in location or ambiance can present a challenge and might entail rewrites of a particular scene before I’m satisfied with the result, but eventually it all falls into place. (Excuse the pun!)

To throw internal conflict into the mix, Megan and Michael will be lugging unresolved personal issues with them from the first book. Will Megan overcome guilty feelings about her husband’s murder? Will Michael succeed in winning Megan’s complete trust? As in real life, some problems will haunt them for a while before they’re able to resolve them. But that’s okay. Giving my characters personal problems makes the interactions between them realistic so that readers can identify with the issues and connect with the story. Problems also create conflict, and conflict is what keeps readers turning the pages to see what happens next.

I already have a premise for the third book in the series and can’t wait to get to it. I love to write and hope to keep entertaining readers with thrilling mysteries they’ll want to solve over the life of the series.

Buy False Impressions:

Also available at Kobo, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Sony Reader stores.

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