Teresa Burrel, a country girl from a small farm town in north western Minnesota.
I came to sunny California when I was very young, but not too early to have forgotten the cold winter months we left behind. I taught school for 12 years, practiced law for 12 years, owned and operated a business for 12 years, and am on my 12th year as an author. I think this is my final career and my longest since I still have a lot of books in my head.
My first book, The Advocate, a legal suspense mystery novel, was published in 2009. I have since written 11 more books in that series and three whodunnit mysteries in a spin-off series. The Advocate’s Labyrinth (#12 in The Advocate Series) was released in December. My most recent work is the third book in The Super Mystery Series, Recovering Rita. It launched a few days ago on May 11.
Recovering Rita – When a young girl goes missing from a Hutterite colony, the case is personal for Tuper. So his tech-loving sidekick, Lana, goes undercover. She quickly learns that Rita has a love interest on the outside, but as they start to think she eloped, another Hutterite girl disappears.
As Tuper seeks help from old friends, Lana hacks into their suspects’ backgrounds, but their leads hit a dead-end. Instead, she discovers a disturbing conversation about sex trafficking on the dark web.
Out of leads, Lana makes the ultimate sacrifice and sets herself up as bait. But their plan goes sideways, and Lana’s life is soon on the line.
Do you write in more than one genre? The majority of my books are mysteries. The Tuper Series is made up of whodunnits. The Advocate Series are legal suspense novels. But I have also written a marketing book for authors and three children’s books. They were fun to write, but my heart is primarily in the mystery genre.
What brought you to writing? When I was young, we only had two books in our house, the Bible and a book my Godparents gave me about a little girl who had a doll named Teresa. I was in awe that the book had my name in it. My older sister would bring books home from the library, and she taught me to read. I loved books and soon learned to lose myself in them. I would take the most wonderful adventures through books. I could go anywhere and be anything as long as I could read. I would sit and dream that someday I would write my own book and have my name on the outside. Back then, it was just a dream. I eventually made it a reality and discovered “To Write is to be anything you want.”
Tell us about your writing process: I use the Raymond Chandler method. He was known to have said, “I only write when I’m motivated, and I’m motivated every morning at 9:00.”
Writing is a business, and I happen to like my business. I start a little earlier than Raymond Chandler. I get up in the morning around six and walk into my office and start to write. I do that every day when I’m not on the road. I travel a lot doing book events, so I don’t write every day. I write until eleven, and then I stop. My goal (on writing days) is to complete 2000 words per day. I make it most days. During Covid, I’ve been able to write far more days because I wasn’t traveling. Pre-Covid, the length of time it took me to write a book ranged from four to eleven months. My last book was done in seven weeks—the only good thing for me that came out of this pandemic.
What are you currently working on? I’ve written twelve books in my Advocate Series, and they are written in alphabetical order. My next project will be the “M” word, The Advocate’s M______. I don’t know what the title is yet. I also have three books in a spin-off series, A Tuper Mystery Series. My latest book was from that series, Recovering Rita. It released May 11, 2021. But right now, I’m co-writing a book with a colleague. She’s an excellent writer and a lot of fun to write with. However, our writing process is very different. She’s a plotter, and I’m a pantser, so it has been a bit of a challenge for both of us. I’m really enjoying the process, though. It’s a nice break from working alone.
How do you come up with character names? I use a lot of character names of family and friends. I also enlist my street team to help me pick names for characters. They come up with some great ones. One of my characters is named Tuper. He’s an older man who lives in Montana and likes guns, gambling, and women. He’s loosely based on my brother. I used the name Tuper for him because that’s what I called him when I was young. (That’s a photo of him on the cover.)
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? When I started writing, I did it just to see if I could. I wasn’t writing to get published but to fulfill a childhood dream. I enjoyed the process so much I decided to go for it. I named my first book The Advocate, and my second The Advocate’s Betrayal. When I wrote the third book, my publisher told me I had to pick a word that started with C and that started the alphabetical order. It wasn’t intentional until the third book. I have twelve books in the series now, which means I have fourteen more to go—I hope I can last that long. I don’t see myself retiring any time soon, so I will keep at that goal as long as I can.
I’m looking forward to getting back to in-person events. I miss being on the road and meeting my readers. That’s one of the highlights of this profession for me.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Just do it! If you want to write, then write. Don’t let anything hold you back. And don’t say you don’t have time. I wrote my first book while I was practicing law in juvenile court. I was working 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week. When I decided I wanted to write it, I set my alarm an hour and a half early each morning, and I would write until it was time to get ready for work. Six months later, I had my first novel. Twelve edits later, I had my first marketable book.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I just want to thank all my wonderful readers for their loyalty and support and for making my dream come true.
How do our readers contact you?
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