Welcome to Flash Bang Mysteries, Sandra! What can you tell us about MURDER AT MORNINGSIDE?
I’m happy to be here, B.J.! Thanks for the invite. Murder at Morningside takes place on the Great River Road in Louisiana. That area has a dozen or so antebellum mansions that somehow survived the Civil War. (Some in better shape than others.)
My main character opens a hat studio there to dress the brides who get married in the renovated mansions. But when a client disappears, she’s thrown headfirst into a murder investigation.
Being from southeast Louisiana, I couldn’t help but find this intriguing.
What inspired you to start writing fiction, and how long have you been at it?
I’ve always loved writing, and I moved across the country to attend journalism school at the University of Missouri when I was 19. But, I quickly found out I’d rather write stories than deliver the news. I did both for a decade, and then I focused on fiction when I entered my thirties. (Notice how nonchalantly I sidestepped the age question?)
I see that you’ve freelanced for the Los Angeles Times in the past and currently freelance for the Houston Chronicle. Do you find it difficult to switch from writing nonfiction to writing fiction on a day-to-day basis?
It’s easier than you’d think, mainly because I write feature stories for the Chronicle. I find writing fiction actually helps my nonfiction, because I’m more conscious of things like color and sentence flow. And writing for a newspaper has made me more disciplined. (Hemingway is my role model for that.)
What genre do you prefer reading, and who is/are your favorite author(s) in that genre?
I read a little bit of everything. In mainstream, I’ll read anything by Ann Patchett. In cozy mysteries, I like Margaret Maron and Alexander McCall Smith (if you consider The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series a cozy, which I do.)
Along that same line of questioning, have you ever read an author who has had a lasting and positive impact on your life?
I’d have to say Jack London, because he taught me about how to write vividly. And Hemingway, of course, because no one writes a cleaner sentence.
I loved Jack London’s book as a kid! I still have the hardcover copy of WHITE FANG and the trade paperback combo of THE CALL OF THE WILD/THE CRUISE OF THE ‘DAZZLER’, which I bought back in the late ’70s/early ’80s–long before you were born. (Notice how I paid attention to your age side-step?:-)
How many hours per day do you devote to writing fiction?
I write five to six days a week, usually for four hours in the morning. That’s about all the creative writing my tiny brain can handle. Then I’ll turn to nonfiction or editing in the afternoons.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Sandra Bretting?
Spoiler alert: my characters have a lot more fun than I do. I’ll lock myself in the “writing cave” all morning, and then I’ll work out. (I want to live to see my books in print.) After that, I’ll focus on some nonfiction or book promotion, and then I’ll have dinner with my family. Eat, sleep, repeat. Hey…I warned you it was boring.
Ha! I was jogging with my wife the other day (I hate jogging, but I enjoy spending the time with her), and this old man who was walking his dog said to us, “Y’all are going to die real healthy.”
What has been the highlight of your novel-writing career thus far?
Seeing my books on the shelf of our local bookstore. Corny, but true.
If you could write from anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
By a beach—any beach—because the waves calm me.
What are some of your interests or hobbies outside of writing?
I love to travel. Despite my earlier spoiler alert, I took a break this summer and spent seven weeks with my family in Europe. Fortunately, we’re all still on speaking terms. I also do yoga, but I cheat and plot out scenes when I’m supposed to be meditating.
I read on your website that MURDER AT MORNINGSIDE is the first in a new series. Are you hard at work on the sequel, or taking a break to work on something else?
I’m way ahead of you. I’ve already sent book two to my publishers, and I’m working on book three.
Good job on that and best of luck to you!
MURDER AT MORNINGSIDE blurb: When a bride is found dead in a mansion on Louisiana’s Great River Road, milliner Missy Dubois finds herself entangled in one unfashionable murder.
Sandra Bretting works as a freelance feature writer under contract to the Houston Chronicle. She received a journalism degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and wrote for other publications (including the Los Angeles Times and Orange Coast Magazine) before moving to Texas.
Her Missy DuBois Mysteries series debuts from Kensington/Lyrical Underground in May 2016. Bretting’s previous mysteries include Unholy Lies (2012) and Bless the Dying (2014), both from Five Star Publishing. Readers can reach her online at www.sandrabretting.com and through Facebook at www.facebook.com/sandra.bretting.
For more about the author, visit: www.sandrabretting.com