Although Sandy Sheehy was born in New York, after graduating from Vassar, she moved to Austin and lived there, then in Houston, Galveston and Albuquerque. She now divides her time between Texas and New Mexico. Sheehy and her husband, historian and University of New Mexico professor emeritus Charles McClelland, spend several months a year traveling internationally.
Sheehy has written frequently on human relationships and the natural environment. Her work has appeared in Town & Country, Forbes, House Beautiful, Self, Working Woman, and Money, among other national magazines. She is the author of Texas Big Rich (1990, William Morrow), a group portrait of the state’s financially fortunate, and Connecting: The Enduring Power of Female Friendship (2000, HarperCollins).
Sandy’s first novel, Deserts of the Heart, is a multicultural historical romance set in 1798 near Santa Fe (June 2021, White Bird Publications).
I have another book out this year: Imperiled Reef: The Fascinating, Fragile Life of a Caribbean Wonder, October 5 from the University of Florida Press, grew out of her love of scuba diving. “Drifting weightless above a coral head is the closest those of us alive today will ever come to visiting another planet,” she explains. This nonfiction book describes the natural history and ecology of the world’s second-longest barrier reef.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. My previously published books have been nonfiction.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in the room my husband calls the “study.” It sounds small, but it’s the largest room in our 1940-vintage house, and it has a view of the Sandia Mountains.
Tell us about your writing process: I find I work best if I keep regular hours, getting up around 7:00 a.m., dressing, having breakfast, dealing with my email, and then writing for a couple of hours. I use the Authors Guild discussion posts as a warmup. Six days a week, I head for the pool at my health club and swim between three-quarters of a mile and a mile. On the seventh day, I meet with the other three members of my writers’ group. A couple of days ahead of time, we circulate whatever we’ve written that week so that we can discuss each other’s work at the meeting.
What are you currently working on? I’m writing a sequel to Deserts of the Heart. Set two years later (1800) in the same location, this one is a romantic murder mystery
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? You’re helping me right now, George. Fellow member Rosina Lippi (aka Sara Donati) has also been helpful. But everyone who’s actively involved in those AG discussions has taught me something.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took me a year to research and another six months or so to write. Part of that process involved writing a proposal since it was nonfiction and my agent was shopping it.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I’m killing one right now. As a fan of murder mysteries, I prefer the ones where the reader has a chance to get to know and like the victim before he or she is killed. Doing so makes solving the mystery more than just an intellectual exercise.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Whether I’m writing nonfiction or fiction, I always outline. I need to know where I’m going. Sometimes characters do step forward and take over the road along the way.
What kind of research do you do? For Deserts of the Heart, I visited the 18th century living history museum Rancho de las Golondrinas, “New Mexico’s Williamsburg,” the Pueblo Cultural Center, and several museums in the region. I also relied heavily on Internet sources, especially for details like clothing. For anyone who writes historical fiction, portraits posted online can be amazingly helpful.
Readers are welcome to check out my website, www.sandysheehy.com. I’d like to encourage anyone who wants to purchase my books to visit their local independent bookstore. Ordering online from Amazon or Barnes & Noble is convenient, of course, but those local shops need our support.
Sabrina Flynn is the author of Ravenwood Mysteries, set in Victorian San Francisco.
When she’s not exploring the seedy alleyways of the Barbary Coast, she dabbles in fantasy and steampunk. She has a habit of throwing herself into wild oceans and gator-infested lakes.
Her new historical mystery, Beyond the Pale, is the eighth book in the Ravenwood Mystery series. An innocent accused. An infamous hotel. And a murder everyone wants to hide.
While recovering from a brutal beating, Atticus Riot is arrested for the murder of his ex-agent—the same agent who left Riot for dead. His wife and partner, Isobel Amsel, watches helplessly as he’s taken to San Francisco’s notorious ‘sweat box’ for interrogation by an inspector with a grudge.
Desperate to save her husband, Isobel seeks out the one ally they have—only he’s in the infamous Hotel Nymphia, neck-deep in a murder investigation with a ghastly corpse and over three hundred suspects. In exchange for the inspector’s aid, Isobel agrees to work as a consulting detective on his case.
Now Isobel needs to prove Riot’s innocence while tracking down a killer no one wants to be caught. The diverging trails lead to an old friend, a tangled web of secret lives, and one all-consuming question: where’s the line between justice and murder?
Do you write in more than one genre? I feel comfortable writing in all genres. I’m currently published in historical mystery, epic fantasy, Gaslamp fantasy, and have a WW1 thriller I’m editing along with a planned contemporary mystery series. It’s always hard for me to pin a genre on the novels I write. Ravenwood Mysteries is a mix of mystery, history, romance, action and adventure, wild west, Victorian, and noir.
Tell us about your writing process: I just tell myself a story. I’ll start at a point or with a vague idea, and that’s pretty much it. My writing process is a lot like hiking to a distant mountain. I know the starting point; I know where I want to end up, but I have no clue what lies between those two points. And sometimes, the twists and turns and obstacles along the way take me to an entirely different mountain. But that’s all right. It’s the journey that’s exciting.
*Note from George: I love Sabrina’s example of hiking from a point to a distant mountain and all the obstacles one faces.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I’m an organic writer. So my characters definitely run the show. I don’t know what they’re going to say until I type it, then end up laughing at whatever joke they cracked. There have been numerous times when I want them to do one thing, and they just won’t do it. For example, in the first book, Atticus Riot showed up with a gentleman’s walking stick. I didn’t know why he had a walking stick. I tried to make him limp, but he wouldn’t limp. So I tried to take it away from him, and that didn’t work either. I said, ‘Fine, keep the stick!’ And it wasn’t until halfway through the book that I was like… ‘Oooh, that’s why you have the stick.’ Then in book three, I discovered the stick had sentimental value, so I’ve learned to just go along with the unexpected.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I grew up with four brothers, so I actually find writing feminine women difficult. It’s hard for me to connect and understand women (or men) who are stylishly dressed, are worried about breaking a nail, or getting sweaty because it will mess up their hair. I’m not big on talking about feelings in my prose either. I’d rather show it than tell it. So I think that’s something my readers notice pretty quickly with my writing. Several readers have compared Ravenwood Mysteries to some classic noir authors like Raymond Chandler.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Death is the end of a story. It’s a common everyday occurrence where life goes on for the living. So it’s not something that’s thrilling to me or even shocking in a book. It’s just… death. It’s much more interesting to me as a reader (and writer) to read about people who survive against all odds. Writing characters who live and thrive despite difficult circumstances is the hard part. Death is easy to write.
In my epic fantasy series, I came to a place where the hero could have died this epic death that would’ve been perfect for him, but I found keeping him alive left more of an impact.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Oooh, do I ever. I come from an epic fantasy background, so I naturally write overarching storylines into my mystery series. I plant seeds throughout my books for future books in the series. For example, the first sentence in the first chapter of the first book (From the Ashes) isn’t explained until book four of Ravenwood Mysteries. I did the same with another subplot that’s been woven throughout the series, and that will finally be addressed in book nine. I usually have multiple storylines and mysteries going at once, which keeps things interesting.
What kind of research do you do? Lots of reading. And not just from one source. Newspaper archives are great, but they can be slanted one way or the other, so I look for other sources as close to 1900 as I can find. It’s a great way to pick up the actual language of the time and not fictionalized vocabulary and slang.
I’m also very hands on whenever possible. When I lived across from San Francisco, I tried to visit whatever place I was writing about. But so much of San Francisco was destroyed in the 1906 fire that most places have changed locations or were destroyed. Isobel, one of my protagonists, is big on sailing, so I took a sailing class in the bay to get a better feel of it. And when my protagonist was learning lock-picking, I bought a set of lock picks to practice with.
But I think my most drastic bit of research was when I tossed a protagonist overboard into San Francisco Bay, and a beta-reader claimed she would’ve drowned, been eaten by a shark, or died of hypothermia. So I jumped off a ferry at Alcatraz and swam to Aquatic Park in San Francisco sans wetsuit. She didn’t argue with me anymore.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, lots of ocean swimming, trail running, and writing!
Where can we find you and your latest work, Beyond The Pale: http://www.sabrinaflynn.com
My books are on all the major online retailers. Here are some links.
Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sabrina-flynn
Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/author/sabrina-flynn/id747418916