Sandra Orchard was the 2009 Daphne DuMaurier Award of Excellence winner in the unpublished category and sold to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense the following year. She lives in rural Ontario, Canada where inspiration abounds for her novels set in the fictional Niagara town she’s created as their backdrop. Married with three grown children, when not writing, she enjoys hanging out with family, brainstorming new stories with fellow writers, and hiking or kayaking in God’s beautiful creation. Visit her at her website.
How did you come up with this story? Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment?
The idea for the series came from wondering how believers who are undercover cops reconcile the bad things they’re obligated to do in the execution of their assignments with their faith. For the first book, I explore the question what if an undercover cop finds the perfect woman, but can’t tell her who he really is or what he does for a living? Worse than that, what if his mission threatens her safety and he can’t tell her?
Did anything strange or funny happen while researching or writing your book?
Yes, actually. Even though I had an agent who was prepared to submit the story to LIS for me, on a whim I entered the first fifty pages in the 2010 Golden Heart. I’d never entered that contest before and wasn’t sure what to expect. What I didn’t expect was to have the entry
disqualified by one of the judges for being in the wrong category! Needless to say, it was very satisfying to see the judge proven wrong.
Every novelist has a journey. How long was your road to publication? How did you find out and what went through your mind?
I’d been writing fiction for almost six years, when I got “the call”. It was actually an email. My emails are preprogrammed to go to different folders. So when I saw that I had a new email in my Agent folder the day after Labor Day—the day my agent sa
id the editor would give us her response to my manuscript—my heart sank. I figured that if I’d gotten the contract my agent would call. So…I read all my other email before I even opened the folder!
Do you ever bang your head against the wall from writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Oh yes. I check email, surf the net, eat, match socks, complain, lament, complain. Oh wait…you mean how do I break out of it? Well, that’s a topic for a whole other blog. (Sept 19th at Seekerville to be exact.) But I’ll tell you that one of my most consistently reliable methods is to jump ahead to a scene that I can visualize and start writing from there. Oftentimes, things will present themselves that allow me to work backward.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
No, I’m the kind of reader who skips over all those details about what kind of clothes characters are wearing etc. I wouldn’t know a Prada from a you name it. That said, I do search out photos that depict my hero and heroine and then keep running notes as to hair and eye color etc. so that my green-eyed blond heroine isn’t brown-haired and brown eyed by the end of the book…unless of course she’s going undercover!
Novelists sometimes dig themselves into a hole over implausible plots, flat characters or a host of other problems. What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?
Pacing. Once I know the suspense plot, I want to rush through and make it happen, but in the process I tend to neglect the romantic thread.
How do you overcome it?
I write in layers. I get the suspense plot down. Then I go back and look at how it can be stretched out in order to layer in more romantic tension and character development.
Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a
cozy attic nook?
I have a small office with a u-shaped desk and along one wall there’s a nine-foot long counter with cupboards beneath and a bulletin board above for storyboarding.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I take my dog for a walk with my neighbor, have breakfast, and do devotions, then my days are pretty much dedicated to the various aspects of writing, whether that be writing a new chapter, revising a finished one, writing a blog or writing marketing copy. I break for lunch, and sometimes my afternoons are spent doing chores or enjoying my grandbaby or visiting shut-ins or getting together with writing buddies to brainstorm ideas. If not, I keep going the same as the morning. After supper and spending time with family, I often read—fiction, or nonfiction on writing craft or marketing. My most productive writing time for “new material” is usually between 10 pm and midnight after my internal editor has gone to bed.
Some authors report writing 5-10 thousand words a day. Do scenes flow freely from your veins or do you have to tweeze each word out?
Except for those magical midnight hours I mentioned in the last question, I have to tweeze out each and every word. Although… if I move out of the office and write with pen and paper, the words often flow better, probably because my brain doesn’t slip into edit mode. But… it takes me so long afterward to type up what I’ve written, because I edit as I go so that the net result for the time is about the same.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?
Write what you love to read, where your heart is, not to the ever-shifting market.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Remember what Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” And enjoy the journey!
Deep Cover is the first book in my Love Inspired Suspense series, Undercover Cops: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line.
Maintaining his cover cost undercover cop Rick Gray the woman he loved. Sweet Ginny Bryson never really knew Rick. He never gave her the chance. Not then, and not now, when he’s back with a new alias to gather evidence against Ginny’s uncle. The man’s crimes led to Rick’s partner’s death, and Rick wants justice to be served. But his investigation is stirring up trouble, and Ginny is smack-dab in the middle. Someone wants Ginny to pay the price for what her uncle has done. But how can Rick protect her without blowing his cover, jeopardizing his assignment…and risking both their lives?