I love finding new to me authors and so it is with great pleasure that I’m interviewing Sandra Nikolai on Linda’s Book Bag today and finding out all about the latest book in her Megan Scott/Michael Elliott series, Icy Silence. Icy Silence is available for purchase along with Sandra’s other books on Amazon UK and Amazon US.
An Interview with Sandra Nikolai
Hi Sandra. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book ‘Icy Silence’.
Hello, Linda. Thank you for inviting me to your blog today. I’m thrilled to be here.
Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?
I’m Canadian, born and educated in Montreal. I graduated from McGill University and followed a winding career path in sales, finance and high tech. With my husband’s encouragement, I took an early retirement and finally sat down to do what I’d wanted to do for so long—write mysteries.
When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?
As a child, I fell in love with the magical world of stories. My interest in books spanned various genres over time, though mysteries remained my favourite—triggered in part by the Nancy Drew Mystery series. I secretly aspired to be a writer ever since I can recall, but logic dictated that I had to pursue more practical means of earning wages to help pay the bills. With the arrival of the Internet and expansion of social media, I grabbed the opportunity to fulfil my dream. I began to write short stories and submitted them to publications. I was successful in getting a string of short stories published and earned several awards, which motivated me to write novels.
If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?
I love the written word, so maybe I would have taught literature or worked as an editor.
How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?
I research the material for my settings to make sure they’re as realistic as possible, though in many instances, I’ll blend different settings and use fictitious names. Since I write mysteries, I ensure that ordinary characters experience extraordinary events in my stories. As in real life, nothing is more shocking than finding out that something horrendous has happened to someone you know or to a neighbour who lives on your street.
I know you also write short stories. How does that differ from writing novels and which do you prefer?
The plot in a novel offers more leeway when it comes to building a world where characters can develop and interact. Readers tell me they enjoy getting to know the characters and love to follow them through a series. I value my readership. Their feedback is priceless! Although it takes more time and research, I have to admit I prefer working on a novel.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I’ll start with the most difficult aspect first: the plot outline. I’ve tried writing without one, but I didn’t have much success. I need to visualize the storyline from start to finish, and I can accomplish that task best if I set up an outline first. It’s hard work but worth it in the end. The easiest aspect of writing is dropping my characters into threatening situations. It’s the most fun too! (Cue evil laugh here.)
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I write at my computer in a home office and usually work several hours each morning and afternoon. Bookshelves line two walls of the room and are filled with books from my favourite authors. A large window affords a view of a quiet street lined with maple trees, evergreens and colourful flowerbeds—except in the winter, of course, when a snowy landscape turns everything white. It’s quite pretty too!
(That sounds wonderful – I’m surprised you’re not too distracted to write!)
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
Mysteries, of course! To be honest, I’ll read any book that tells a good story.
To what extent do you think reading Nancy Drew mysteries as a child has influenced your genre as a writer now?
Immensely. Had my parents not gifted me with Nancy Drew mystery novels throughout my younger years, I probably wouldn’t have been as interested in the genre as I am now. These novels—though tattered and faded—still sit on the bookshelves in my office.
Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?
Watching the news will sometimes spark an idea for a “what if?” storyline. It’s amazing how much evil lurks in the real world. Sometimes I’ll use a familiar element to enhance the plot in my story, but I’ll put my own spin on it.
‘Icy Silence’ has a very striking cover. I think the branches look like skeletal hands reaching for help. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
Readers of Icy Silence have expressed different interpretations of the cover image. I suppose it depends on how and why certain scenes in the story touched them. I think the illustration represents a variety of perspectives drawn from the contents and encourages discussion—which is always good.
Why did you decide to make Megan a ghostwriter?
I wanted to give Megan a level playing field with Michael, who is an investigative reporter. As a ghostwriter, Megan writes material for clients from diverse professional backgrounds. She is considered a generalist whose knowledge in various fields can come in handy when helping Michael solve a crime.
Icy Silence is the third of your Megan Scott/Michael Elliott series. How much have these characters developed since you began writing about them?
Megan and Michael have a special relationship—one built on trust from their life-threatening experiences in False Impressions, the first book in the series.
In his quest for justice, Michael takes risks and thinks nothing of dealing with shady informants to get to the truth. His determination to weed out criminals will only get stronger—as will the risks he takes. Although Megan prefers anonymity and works behind the scenes at her desk, she is showing an increased interest in Michael’s investigative work. She assists him more often in digging up information and following up on leads. It’s a given that their different personalities and viewpoints do create conflict, but they’ve often helped each other out of dangerous situations, thereby reinforcing their mutual trust. As far as romance goes…? Michael has hinted at a more ‘permanent’ relationship between them, but Megan isn’t ready to give up her independence just yet.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that ‘Icy Silence’ should be their next read, what would you say?
Icy Silence will forever change the way you look at boarding schools.
Thank you so much, Sandra, for your time in answering my questions and providing such interesting answers.
Linda, thank you for asking such thought-provoking questions.