Not only are faithful readers of the Wednesday Author Interviews in for a treat today as multi-published author Sandra Carey Cody joins us, but if you leave a comment, your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a free copy of
’s latest release, Left at Oz. Here’s the book teaser: Sandy
As crazy as Jennie Connors is about her handsome husband, she dreads his reaction when she tells him her car has been stolen. When she discovers a message on her answering machine hinting that the vehicle was left at Oz, she jumps at the chance to find the car before he returns from the West Coast. Following directions given in the message, Jennie finds the car and the body of Robin Langley, the babysitter for the Connors’ two young sons. What motive could anyone have for killing Robin? Why steal the Connors’ car to hide the body, then leave a message directing Jennie to it? Fearing that a direct threat to her family is behind the sinister events, Jennie determines to find the killer herself.
Inquiring minds want to know more! Lots more! And
has taken the time to answer a whole lot of questions about not only her series, but also her writing life. So let’s get on with the interview… Sandy
Sandy, I see you have an impressive track record with Avalon, with four mysteries to your credit since 2005. The latest is Left at Oz, which is part of the Jennie Connors/ Riverview Manor series. All feature amateur sleuth Jennie Connors. What can you tell us about your protagonist?
Jennie is pretty much an “every woman”. She’s the mother of two young sons and works as Activities Director at a retirement community where the residents are active, alert and just bored enough to stir up trouble. She is constantly being pulled in different directions by the needs of her family and residents who come to her with their problems. I don’t want to say too much about her marital situation because that is something that is evolving in the series. I’ll just say that Jennie was married at age 19 after a whirlwind 3-week courtship and now, at age 30, she’s finally beginning to establish herself as an independent human being. (I know … she’s a bit of a late bloomer. I guess I was too.) Left at Oz is a prequel to the previous books and answers some of the questions readers have asked about Jennie.
Why is she the person best suited to solve the mystery?
She is drawn into the process because she refuses to accept the easy, obvious answer and, at least in Left at Oz, there is a threat to her family. She knows something that she can’t share with the police without harming someone she loves. In each of the books, her involvement is because someone she cares about is affected in some way and everyone else is too involved in the big picture to look at the small details.
Is Jennie at all autobiographical? Or a fantasy alter ego?
She’s a bit of both. I have two sons with the same age difference as Jennie’s boys. I live in a neighborhood pretty much like Jennie’s. I’m usually on the side of the underdog (again, like Jennie). However, the similarities stop there. I’m much less brave than Jennie. If I stumbled over a body, you can be sure I’d call the police and stay as far away from the whole situation as possible.
Everyone (even fictional characters) have a secret…what is Jennie’s?
I’ve already mentioned that in Left at Oz Jennie discovers something that changes her life and that she can’t share with the police, but I can’t tell you what it is without spoiling the surprise.
What role does Riverview Manor play in the series?
It plays a huge part in all of the books. I love writing about the wisdom and experience of the seniors who live there and juxtapositioning the viewpoints of the three age groups involved (Jennie, age 30; her sons, ages 6 and 8; and the residents who range from about 55 up into their 90s). I’ve given the elderly residents different backgrounds that make them helpful to Jennie. This is less true of Left at Oz than of the other books, which though they were published first, come later in Jennie’s development.
Since you call
Doylestown, PA home, why did you choose as the setting? Memphis, TN
We lived in
when I was Jennie’s age. It just seemed natural. Memphis
What “research” did you have to do that enabled you to capture on paper the “essence” of The Bluff City?
Well, as I said, we lived there for six years. I grew up in
St. Louis, another Mississippi River town, so I understand the influence of the river on of the people who live there. In addition, we’ve visited the city a few times when I needed to experience first hand some of its unique features – such as the to-die-for barbeque.
I concur. We lived there for two years and every time my husband travels there on business I request he bring home a bottle of my favorite sauce! I could discuss the nuances of wet vs. dry all day, but let’s get back to the topic at hand…
The title, Left at Oz, is intriguing. So which came first, the title or the story?
Actually, I was midway through the book and was trying to describe a certain place when I thought it’s like Oz, a bright garden after dusty cornfields. So, then I thought of a note telling Jennie that something was left at Oz. She sees the garden and knows there’s a connection.
How long did it take you to write this book?
I don’t even know how to answer that. It was the first book I completed and was a start and stop process. It usually takes me about a year to complete a book – and it’s still a start and stop process.
Do you have a strict writing schedule?
No. I keep promising myself to be more disciplined, but so far, I haven’t managed to do that. Life keeps getting in the way.
Do you have a room in your house dedicated to writing, or do you prefer going out and using the backdrop of a noisy diner/coffee shop to stimulate your muses?
Our kids are grown now, so one of the bedrooms has been turned into an office. My husband is a consultant and we share the office, but both have our own little corner where we’re surrounded with things that make us happy. Mine is not very tidy, a mess I excuse with a pretty little sign that proclaims, “Creative clutter is better than idle neatness.” I never go to coffee shops, etc. to write. I’m too much of a people-watcher for that to work for me.
You have developed a great web presence and are very good about personal contact with your readers. How much time a day to you devote to this aspect of promoting yourself and your books?
Too much, I’m afraid. I go to one of the social media sites intending to leave a brief message and find myself caught up in everyone else’s life. I try to limit my time to an hour a day. It’s hard, though; people are endlessly fascinating.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I read. I quilt. I walk. I garden. I teach Sunday school and am involved in our local library. I have some very close friends that I love spending time with, but my favorite times are those spent with the family. With both the friends and the family, the activities are usually very ordinary dinners and outdoor activities. Simple things make me happy.
All writers are first (and foremost) readers. What are you currently reading?
I’m juggling several things right now. I’m currently judging a contest and am reading the 1st 25 pages of several works in progress. It’s fun to see how many ways there are to begin a story. I’m also reading Two Moon Princess, a YA fantasy by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. The two books are totally different and I’m enjoying both of them. Both are character-driven and extremely well-written. I love stories and never tire of the different ways writers find to tell a story.
What authors have inspired you to become a writer yourself?
Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain – all writers who created characters so real I felt that I knew them.
Do you have time to watch television? If so, are there any shows that you consider the time spent watching as “homework” for being a mystery writer?
I don’t watch a lot of television, but Castle is a “can’t miss” and I always check to see what’s on Masterpiece Theater. Those British dramas are lessons in how to develop characters, including the supporting cast and how characters’ relationships affect their actions. But that’s really just a bonus; I watch them because I enjoy them.
Getting back to your current release, Left at Oz, where did you get the kernel of the idea for it?
In the beginning of the book, Jennie’s car stolen and, when she finds it, there’s a body in it. I read a newspaper article about something like happening a long time ago and it stuck with me.
Is there another Jennie Connors/Riverview Manor Mystery in the pipeline?
What project(s) are you currently involved in?
The above-mentioned Jennie Connors mystery is about one third finished and I have another book which was intended to be a standalone, but which has developed into a planned trilogy. It is set in a small town in
, where I now live and begins with a baby found in a laundry basket during a folk festival. Pennsylvania
Sounds like you have a lot of writing to get done so we’ll let you get back to work. But, one more thing before I let you go: Having done your share of author interviews, is there one question you’ve always wished someone would ask you? If so, what is it? And what is your answer?
I’m drawing a blank. I think you’ve covered everything - and it’s been fun. Thanks for your interest and for making me think of the things I usually take for granted.
If readers want to know more about Sandra Carey Cody and your books, how can they find you?
PS…if you are having trouble posting a comment and would like to be eligible for the free book giveaway, send and email to JayneOrmerod@gmail.com