Sandy, please tell us a little about yourself.
I moved to the Phoenix area 20 years ago from the Midwest. I have a Journalism degree and have held various corporate and freelance writing jobs. In college, I wrote a lot of poetry and short fiction, but I didn’t attempt a novel until a few years ago. Now I have so many ideas, so many characters chattering in my head, the plot ideas are endless. The good news is, as of last year, I can now write full-time. That's fabulous!
I write suspense, and Song of the Ancients is paranormal suspense.
They say write what you know. The idea for Song of the Ancients came from my personal evolution. The spiritual paths in this part of the country are so diverse. I had always been interested in Nature-based religions, so widening that study to encompass the Native spirituality of the area seemed a natural progression. Then I blended Wicca and witchcraft into my studies, and I am currently a 3rd degree High Priestess for a group in Phoenix.
My main character, Samantha, introduces the concept of witchcraft, seen through the eyes of an ordinary, non-magical woman. She moves to Sedona, Arizona to start anew after her divorce. Instead, she becomes the prey in an ancient power struggle to control the magic hidden in those red rocks. To survive, she has to learn the rules of her new world, and readers get to learn earth magic and witchcraft along with her.
Is your book a stand-alone or do you have a series planned?
Sedona is but one earth “power point” in the world. I will continue Samantha’s quest to other sacred sites. The second book in the series will involve the Goddess Pele's volcano on Hawaii. Future possibilities include the Mayan pyramids in Mexico; Machu Picchu; Japan’s Shinto shrine; Rousanou Monastery in Greece; the round towers of Ireland, placed precisely on the earth’s ley lines. Each place of power is surrounded by its own history and myths, energies and sacred practices, but do we really know why these places are so venerated? There’s a wealth of material here for a series.
Other than your own, who are your favorite (heroes/heroines/writers) in your genre?
Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. He haunted me in Book 6. Good and evil, yin and yang. Then Rowling killed him off. I thought he’d been a fascinating, complex character, and…poof! Done in by a snake without even a decent fight. So I started fiddling around with that type of personality for my main male character, Nicholas Orenda, a man who is infinitely talented, but flawed. A character who will consider bending the moral codes to accomplish his goal. Is he a villain? No. Can you depend on him unconditionally? Well, you tell me: Have you ever loved a bad boy and been disappointed? Nicholas is Samantha’s nemesis, a thorn in the protagonist’s side. In her eyes–and maybe readers’ eyes also—he appears to be the bad guy. He acts like the antagonist, ferreting out Samantha’s inner weaknesses. But later, when he’s satisfied that she is worth saving, he will switch sides and root for her. Because, really, is love ever easy?
If it isn’t too nosy. How about the first time you kissed your true love?
My husband, Paul, was a blind date. A friend who played soccer with us both (on different teams) set us up. Six months later, we were married. And I was pregnant. At 40. My first marriage and first child. It happened really fast, but what a blessing! That didn't directly answer your question, but I'm pretty sure there was a kiss in there somewhere.
What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
I love to hike with our dog Teak, a Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix we rescued three years ago. Love to read, of course. I also play the piano, quilt, make twig words out of found wood and other natural materials, design Tarot bags and give readings. I'm one of those people who always has a half-dozen projects going at one time. When my husband and I travel, I pack my writing, plus several other current projects to work on in the car.
How do you motivate yourself when inspiration takes a vacation?
Write anyway, whether is an outline, a scene, a blog post. As working professionals, most of us don't have the luxury of choosing whether or not to do our jobs each day. If writing is a job, as opposed to a hobby, guess what a writer should do consistently? Don't whine about writer's block, or an absent muse. If you're not feeling one scene, work on a different one. Or research. Or edit. Just keep moving forward on your project every single day.
Any advice for new writers just starting out?
People often ask writers, "How do you write a whole novel?" How do you put it all together? Write straight through? Prepare an outline first? Revise as you go? I was a journalist before writing novels. I've also been an English teacher. As a journalist, you research, then put your facts in order, then you write your lead. To write an essay, you follow the same process: Research your information, put it in logical essay order. Then begin writing.
So that makes me what fiction writers call a "plotter," as opposed to a "pantster," who sits down at the desk and starts streaming thoughts together as they occur. A lot of new writers who sign up for the annual National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) are pantsters, and they run out of steam right around 6,000-10,000 words. So, my advice to a new writer would be to come up with a plot idea you are passionate about, or a character who haunts your dreams. Research that plot, or that personality. Make it come alive, and give it/them a reason to exist. Then throw some increasingly difficult obstacles in the path of achieving that existence, and have fun observing how they react to and overcome the stress those obstacles cause.
Good advice. I am a pantser and I've done NaNoWriMo six times. Four times it got me first drafts that I wanted to follow through. One time I failed at the 12,000 word mark.
I tend to do my in-depth research as I go. As a journalist, research and fact-checking is drilled into my brain. Often that research changes the direction of the story, or the emotional motivation of a character. So I go back and tweak my plot outline, or my character's reactions, to make them more authentic. I love research!
Are you following the same rules for your current WIP?
Even more so. I’m veering from sacred sites and magic for my next book, tentatively titled Full Moon Crossing. It’s a suspense involving a philandering husband who plots to murder his wife and use the Arizona human smuggling border conflict as a cover-up. The topic is hot right now, I want to get this story out while the headlines support it.
I have to have a precise premise, major event, logical evidence gathering and believable ending in this one. My plot idea started with the crime, and the murderer's method for killing his wife. I then put all the other characters in place to thwart the achievement of his goal. His wife is murdered, and he is a prime suspect. But was he set up? Usually I hate revisions. But this time I'll get to add lots of clues and red herrings in the second draft, as well as fleshing out the character psychosis. Yummy!
Anything unusual you had to do for research on this book?
I get to work with a SWAT team trainer of my local police force. Also lots of research on human smuggling, as well as the ATF’s botched Fast n Furious weapons sting operation. The murder weapon is actually one of the guns from Fast n Furious that got away from the Feds. Wow!
And finally, where can we find you?
Facebook: Sandy Wright
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