Tell Me Why

My guest today is author Sandi Wallace whose novel, Tell Me Why, makes its debut at the Book Expo Australia in Sydney on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st August courtesy of Clan Destine Press and Sisters in Crime Australia.

Sandi, congratulations on your first book being published. Is this the first one you have written and how did you get picked up by Clan Destine Press?

Thanks, Sandy! It is a real thrill. And yes, this is the first book I’ve written, although it doesn’t much resemble its early drafts. I worked on the same book for a number of years, developing my style, honing my skills, while practicing with shorter works and building confidence. I don’t undervalue or begrudge this time at all. It was my writer’s apprenticeship and particularly important as Tell Me Why is the first book in a series, so my style and characters needed to be well developed before the first book went to press. When it came time to send my manuscript out into the marketplace, I approached Clan Destine Press, a small genre publisher who I was aware of through my membership with Sisters in Crime Australia. It took me a couple of revised submissions but to my great delight, Clan Destine Press offered me a publishing deal last November and the first book in my Rural Crime Files series Tell Me Why has now been released!

What made you decide to write this book?

I knew I wanted to write a crime series and Daylesford seemed the perfect setting. It’s one of my favourite places, perhaps second only to the Dandenong Ranges where I live with my hubby. Daylesford’s a pretty country town, popular with tourists, arty types and same-sex couples. I liked the way that romantic perception juxtaposed with a moody crime story. The inbuilt conflict of a town balancing permanent residents with regular influxes of tourists also appealed. Then I decided I wanted it to be contemporary, reflecting our times, our world, even though it’s fiction.

So I had setting worked out. Then Georgie Harvey, the independent Melbourne writer and her search for missing farmer, Susan Pentecoste, came to me as the main character and story line for Tell Me Why. In my second draft, John Franklin emerged. He is a slightly old-school cop stationed at Daylesford and also a single dad. It fascinated me to position city-girl Georgie in his territory (which is way outside her comfort zone), but with her in the driver’s seat in the search for Susan. Meanwhile, Franklin is working another case – poison-pen letters targeting single mothers – which is a step-up from Daylesford’s usual soft crime.

I angled the book as mainly a Why-Dunnit because many crime readers – including me – are enthralled by why crimes happen, the repercussions and outcomes. Through this book, I had fun exploring human relationships, how far we’d go, and what we’d risk, to find the truth.

Have you always wanted to write crime?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been addicted to crime fiction in film and print. And it seems that, for equally as long, I’ve wanted to be a crime writer. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of a row of books with my name on the spine – a crime fiction series written by me, with some standalone books, too. I hope this is the start of that dream coming true!

Do you see your writing branching out into different genres or sub-genres?

Tell Me Why combines thriller, suspense, police procedural, adventure, mystery and a touch of romance, so I have already branched into different sub-genres. My vision for the series is a revolving cast of characters and locations, although Daylesford and the characters from there will continue to be integral. This rotating platform allows each book to be unique, giving me artistic licence with sub-genres. I wouldn’t rule out writing a standalone book in a different genre but think my roots will always be entrenched in crime.

Who is your favourite author, and why?

Tricky question! I can’t limit it to one because there are so many wonderful authors whose works or work ethics have resonated with me for different reasons and at different times. These are across a variety of genres, literary fiction, classics, contemporary and historical stories. But nowadays, I tend to devour contemporary crime – albeit across its many sub-genres. Some of the recent reads I’ve thoroughly enjoyed include books by Michael Robotham, Jaye Ford, Katherine Howell, Honey Brown, Ian Rankin, Camilla Läckberg, Alex Hammond, Karen M Davis, B Michael Radburn, Bronwyn Parry…the list goes on! And I can’t wait to read your new release, Grievous Harm, Sandy, when it comes out in October.

Any advice for aspiring authors that might help them on the road to publication?

One of my characters in Tell Me Why says: ‘If it means that much to you, do it.’ And that’s what it all boils down to. Write because you want to write; you can’t imagine your life without creating. Know that the process will sometimes be slow and torturous, there will be speed humps (which may seem like mountains) and you will doubt yourself – numerous times. Successes in short story contests, other writing wins or exposure may boost the chances for your novel, so give them a go. Practice, persevere, seek constructive feedback and work with other writers or a mentor. Enjoy every step of the journey, every small win and keep believing. Good luck!

Thanks, Sandi, and best wishes for Tell Me Why.

Tell Me Why will be available for sale and signing at the Clan Destine Press/Sisters in Crime stand at Book Expo Australia. Sandi will also be sitting on two crime panels over the weekend: the Thriller vs Crime Smackdown on Saturday at 11.30am and Crime Panel Did the Butler Really Do It? on Sunday at 3.45pm. 

Quirky humour

It happened a while ago, but I thought I’d share with you. When I told my daughter that my sixth book was titled Fatal Flaw, she quickly came back with, “And I guess the sequel will be called Treacherous Tiles, or Lethal Linoleum, or …” You can probably gather from that that her mind works in a rather quirky way.

It set me thinking about book titles and how they can be interpreted by readers and whether they play a part in why a reader selects a book to peruse and perhaps to purchase. After my first book, Dance with the Devil, was published, I was shopping in Target and, naturally, checked out the book department. To my surprise, Dance with the Devil had been placed in the Horror/Supernatural section. Another surprise was that my friend Louise Cusack’s first book, Destiny of the Light, a fantasy, had been placed in the New Age section.

What had made the Target employee decide where to place the books? The title? The cover? As the cover of Dance with the Devil gave no indication that it had any horror or supernatural elements in it, I could only assume it was the title. And I’d thought Louise’s book looked like a fantasy.

So what makes you, as a reader, pick up a book? And does the title influence what you think the book might be about?

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop


The past few years have been full of high profile reads — 50 Shades of Gray, Twilight, and more. Love them or hate them, you have to admit you have at least heard of them.

As independent authors, authors with small press publishers, or mid-list authors we all dare to dream we will be next, and well let’s face it, you never know …

With that thought I jumped on this Hop. What is a blog hop? Basically, it’s an authors’ game of tag.

One author posts, and then tags up to five other authors, who each link back to them. It has the potential to reach different audiences, and you, dear reader, have hopefully just increased your “to read” list, finding new and exciting authors you may never have found otherwise. Some of us are published, some still writing, others are just being released.

Either way, for you fiction lovers a treasure trove awaits and I’d like to thank fellow author Carol Marvell for tagging me to participate.

Click the links to find out about Carol Marvell’s books.



Buy Slave Trader:

In this particular hop, I, and my fellow authors in their respective blogs, have answered 10 questions where you get to learn about our current WIP (Works in Progress) as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it.

If this or any other item piques your interest, please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions.


1: What is the working title of your book?

Grievous Harm, book seven, will be published in 2013, but book eight, the one I’m working on now, is still trying to let me know its title.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

Some years ago I received an email in my in-box that horrified me. It was a graphic photo of child sexual abuse that had gone viral and ended up in the in-boxes of thousands of innocent people. I called Taskforce Argos at Police Headquarters in Brisbane and forwarded it to them so they could track down the perpetrator/s.

John Corey is the main character in Grievous Harm, and I wanted a story that would show the depth of his character that readers didn’t get to see in Fatal Flaw. As an undercover operative he is used to seeing the seamy side of life, but when he stumbles on a paedophilia ring it brings back long-buried guilt and memories he is forced to deal with.

3: What genre does your book come under?

Thriller with a love story. Or crime with romance. Or romantic suspense. Depending on how the reader interprets it.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Sorry, I can’t make up my mind. So many … so many ….

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An undercover operative defies orders and helps a woman searching for her niece, only to uncover a paedophilia ring and a criminal whose actions threaten the safety of a nation.

6: Will your book be self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Fatal Flaw is out now with independent publisher Clan Destine Press and Grievous Harm will be released in 2013.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Nine months, but I’m one of those writers who edits as she goes, so the final draft wasn’t far from the first draft.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Linda Howard writes the kind of romantic suspense thrillers that my books have been compared with.

9: Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The characters. You know that song that says I can’t get you out of my head? Well, that’s what my characters do to me – dictate what they expect me to write for them.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Now, there’s a good question. Perhaps it’s best answered by Kelly McLean in her review on Aussie Book Reviews: “All I can say is I loved this! Sandy has taken the Genre of Aussie Romantic Suspense and made it her own. Very well written, fast paced with some very interesting sex scenes . I thoroughly enjoyed it!”


Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog, next Wednesday (21st). Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates on WIPs and new releases! Happy writing and reading!

Ian Walkley



Buy No Remorse:

Kathy Stewart

Web site:


My book can be bought by emailing or via Amazon


Gold Coast Writers Festival

The Gold Coast Writers Festival is on 26-28 October, and I’m heading off on the 25th on the long drive down. There’s a fabulous line-up of authors, publishers, and industry professionals all sharing their expertise with aspiring writers as well as giving readers insights into the industry.

On Saturday I’ll be joining Rowena Cory Daniells and Tony Cavanagh on the The Thrill of the Chase panel, with the CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre, Meg Vann, as chair. Meg also runs the Brisbane arm of Sisters-in-Crime and I’m sure she will have some interesting questions for the panel. The audience might go away with more than they bargained for :-)

The panels at the festival are free, with seminars and workshops costing a minimal fee. It’s going to be a great event and I hope both writers and readers take advantage of the hard work the Gold Coast Writers Association has put in to bring this fantastic opportunity to the Gold Coast.

Grievous Harm

Book covers – ever wonder what goes into them? Ever thought about the the time spent searching for an appropriate background, about whether to have figures or symbols? About what can go on the cover that will give the reader an idea of the story inside?

Graphic designers get a brief from the publisher about the book contents and what they think will work and try to come up with something they hope the publisher likes. But it’s not easy. Sometimes a cover hits the right note, is eye-catching, draws the reader in, gives a good indication of what type of story is between the covers. I’ve had a couple of those in the past. But I’ve also had some that fell flatter than my first attempts at making gluten free scones (even the dog wouldn’t eat them – the scones, that is, not the covers).

With my current publisher, Clan Destine Press, I’m lucky to have a fair bit of say in the cover content. This is wonderful, but it can also be frustrating in that I get to experience the limitations that can sometimes happen for the graphic designer when trying to mould several disparate pieces into a cohesive whole.

Lots of head scratching has been happening with the Grievous Harm cover. Several potentials have been slaved over only to be discarded because they just didn’t “work”. And now we’re down to a great background, with good colouring and scene composition, but needing that particular element that makes the reader want to pick up the book.

So I’m asking all those readers of romantic suspense, or crime and romance, or thriller with a love story, what do you think that element is? What is it about a cover that makes you pick up the book?

Want to know about romantic suspense?

Join me at the Romance Writers of Australia national conference at the Gold Coast in August where Bronwyn Parry, Karlene Blakemore-Mowle, Shannon Curtis (no relation but a great gal) and I will be on a panel called Love in the Face of Danger: Romantic Suspense, with Helene Young moderating.

The blurb for the workshop is: Find out how far these writers have gone in pursuit of their stories, their tips on finding unusual sources and methods of research, and what publishing avenues exist in Australia for Romantic Suspense stories. Learn what makes Romantic Suspense different to Crime novels with love stories, and how to balance romance with suspense. Uncover which careers work best for the heroes and heroines and if there’s room for ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

If you’ve read our books, you’ll know that although we all write varieties of romantic suspense, there are definitely differences in the way we approach this sub-genre. From kick-arse to heart-rending, you’ll find it all. I have to confess that I feel my books are very gritty in not only subject matter, but in the style of writing, which probably explains why I have a strong male as well as female readership. Perhaps the men want to be like my heroes and the women fall in love with them like the heroines do :-) I also love writing complex plots covering a variety of crimes.

When my next book, Grievous Harm, is published, it’s going to be interesting to see what reactions I get from readers. My hero and heroine go through an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but that’s the way the story wrote itself. Sometimes I have no idea where my stories come from and why they twist and turn they way they do but still come out so cohesively in the end. No wonder my very good friend Sara Bennett said she didn’t know I was so devious 😉 Thank heavens she was only referring to my writer’s mind and not my personality lol

After two weeks with the flu I’m very happy to finally be back blogging and organising WriteFest – and soon doing some writing :-)


Author Chat

The Bundaberg Regional Library started a new initiative on Monday – morning tea with an author – and I was the guinea pig :-)

At first I thought I was going to be chatting with an audience of two, but people soon trickled in, and when I started talking about the journey of a book, from manuscript to bookshelf, library patrons who’d come in just to borrow a book wandered over and sat down and joined in. It was a great morning, and lovely to meet such interesting readers and writers. One lady bought Fatal Flaw for her daughter and when she said to write “To Gaynor” on it, I had to tell her that there is a character in the book called Gaynor and she’s not the kind of woman you’d want your son to bring home for dinner. She laughed and said it will create some discussion on Christmas morning.

Which makes me curious – have you ever read a character that had the same name as you and you didn’t like him/her? How did you feel about it?

Sandy with Jacqui Read, Linda Collins, Val Lewis and Alina Bonaventura at Library Author Chat
Sandy and Lyn Dwyer

Picking up a Swedish backpacker

Would you believe I picked up a Swedish backpacker the other day? Okay, all you romance and crime lovers, stop the drooling and getting suspicious. She (yes, she) was a lovely young woman who hadn’t seen anything of Bundaberg and was going to be working at least 6 days a week for the next four months so I gave her a tour of all the wonderful beaches here. From Mon Repos where the turtles come to lay their eggs (it’s the season now) to Bargara and Innes Park. Didn’t get as far as Elliott Heads but made it to our only hill, The Sloping Hummock, for an all-over view of the countryside. At 20 she has come alone to Oz on a working holiday. And if you’re thinking of her as a tall, striking blonde with blue eyes, reverse that. She was even as short as I am! And we took the same shoe size. I found that out when she asked me where she could buy some sneakers. People with tiny feet aren’t always catered for well in the footwear area.

It got me thinking about our preconceptions of what we expect people of other nationalities look like and how they behave. When I wrote Fatal Flaw, I created a character who is part Asian, part English, with diverse nationalities grandparents. I had never encountered anyone with that background so picked the brains of a friend who had lived in Malaysia for some years. What she told me offered a whole new twist to the plot that I hadn’t anticipated but worked exceptionally well. Readers have to believe that characters’ actions ring true, and getting that kind of insight from my friend allowed me to give him plausible motivations. I love creating complex characters, and Fatal Flaw has its fair share of them.

I often wonder how readers feel about characters in the books they read. Anyone willing to share their thoughts?

What a night!

What a lovely evening! I’ve had book launches for my previous five books but this was the first time I’d had a book signing in Dymocks at Bundaberg. It was great to have the support of friends that I haven’t seen in a while – our lives sometimes get too busy, don’t they, and we need a reminder that time slips by far too fast. Some family members couldn’t make it, but those that could enjoyed themselves immensely, especially my four-year-old grandson Alex, and definitely my daughter-in-law, Cheryse Durrant, who snapped away madly with her trusty camera – the results are on her website.

Dymocks Booksellers Bundaberg owner, Phil Freeman, said he enjoyed seeing so many people in his store who were book-lovers. I definitely agree with him – love those book-lovers :-)

I think I’m almost brain-dead after over two weeks travelling and constant sinus problems. Everything in Victoria was flowering – a pleasure to see but a disaster for my nose. Our grand-daughter turns one today so all the relatives are gathering to celebrate, so it looks like another busy weekend. Guess I won’t have any time soon to do a re-read of Grievous Harm, the next book after Fatal Flaw. I finished writing the story some time back but want to have a re-read. Don’t know if I’m a perfectionist or just plain picky 😉

I’d like to thank everyone who came to the signing. I very much appreciate your support and friendship.

Sandy with romance author Helen Lacey and fantasy author Louise Cusack
Sandy with Phil Freeman of Dymocks Bundaberg
Sandy with Phil Freeman of Dymocks Bundaberg
Sandy with Cheryse Durrant
Sandy with Cheryse Durrant
Laree Chapman, Di Esmond, Jan Sullivan, Jenny Duffy, Pascale Osanz

Wonderful news

I’ve nearly driven myself nuts trying to keep quiet about my new publishing deal until all the details are decided, but it’s wonderful to finally announce that Fatal Flaw, my sixth book, will be published in late September by Melbourne publisher, Clan Destine Press. And a bonus is they will be publishing my out-of-print back list as eBooks. After my recent years in the publishing wilderness it’s great to, as one writer friend put it, get back on the horse. Although I appreciate her sentiments, horse-riding and book-publishing seem to have little in common. But I guess if you fall off either one it can be very hard to get back on.

Working with Clan Destine Press has been fantastic in that they have allowed me a say in the cover design. As the publisher says, no-one knows the story as well as the author, so who better to make suggestions that the graphic artist can run with, and turn out a finished product that everyone will think is great. Well, that’s the aim, so I hope that what we put before you, the reader, will do just that and entice you to give my stories a second look.

I didn’t have time to celebrate when the deal was made, but am looking forward to the launch and to seeing Fatal Flaw on bookstore shelves. And I’m especially looking forward to attending the Sisters-in-Crime convention, SheKilda Again, in Melbourne from 7-9 October. I hope some of my readers will be able to come along and share their insights with me.