Friday, August 25, 2017

A Bushel and a Peck from Sandra Orchard—By Linda Kozar


Sandra Orchard—winner of the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, the National Readers’ Choice Award, and the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence, among others—leaps off the garden trails of her herbal-researcher-turned-amateur-sleuth (Port Aster Secrets) series, to the museum corridors of her plucky FBI art crime agent Serena Jones, in A Fool and His Monet, Another Day Another Dali and Over Maya Dead Body. When not plotting crimes, Sandra plays make-believe with her young grandchildren or hikes with her hubby and husky near their home in Ontario, Canada.
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FBI Special Agent Serena Jones arrives on Martha’s Vineyard with her family, ready for a little bit of R&R and a whole lot of reminiscing as they celebrate the engagement of an old family friend. But crime doesn’t take a vacation, and she’s soon entangled in an investigation of a suspicious death tied to an antiquities smuggling ring. When her investigation propels her into danger, Serena must stay the course and solve this case before anyone else dies. But just how is she supposed to do that when the two men in her life arrive on the scene, bringing with them plenty of romantic complications–and even a secret or two?

When a valuable Salvador Dali painting belonging to her grandmother’s friend is mysteriously replaced by a forgery, FBI Special Agent Serena Jones is called in to investigate. Serena hopes finding the thief will also mean finally measuring up to Nana’s expectations. But when the evidence points to members of the owner’s own household, it becomes increasingly clear that Serena won’t be winning any popularity contests. The Dali isn’t the only painting that’s fallen prey to the forgery-replacing thief, raising the specter of a sophisticated theft ring–one with links to dirty cops, an aspiring young artist, and the unsolved murder of Serena’s grandfather.

Serena Jones has a passion for uncovering lost and stolen art—one that’s only surpassed by her zeal to uncover the truth about the art thief who murdered her grandfather. She’s joined the FBI Art Crime Team with the secret hope that one of her cases will lead to his killer. Now, despite her mother’s pleas to do something safer—like get married and give her grandkids—Serena’s learning how to go undercover to catch thieves and black market traders. When a local museum discovers an irreplaceable Monet missing, Jones goes into action. The clues point in different directions and her boss orders her to cease investigating her most promising suspect. But determined to solve the case, and perhaps discover another clue in her grandfather’s case, she pushes ahead, regardless of the danger.

What drew you to write mystery and suspense?
I enjoy reading fast-paced mysteries, with a dash of romance, that keep me guessing whodunit. And I love plotting twists and turns that do the same to my readers.

Did you start with that genre or in another?

When I first started writing fiction, I thought I was writing romance with a goal to publish with Love Inspired, but when they opened their Love Inspired Suspense line, I realized my novels were really romantic suspense. Writing for LIS naturally evolved into writing mysteries for Revell, when I wanted to write a series with the same heroine sleuth.

Do you come up with all your own titles? They are so darn cute!

I came up with the idea of using the artists’ names in a play on words, but my publisher’s team came up with the winning titles for A Fool and His Monet and Another Day Another Dali. Over Maya Dead Body, in which Maya refers to the antiquities being smuggled is my original title for the final book.

How did you get published and how has being published changed your life?

I persevered—writing and rewriting the next novel and the next, taking lots of courses and workshops along the way, as well as paying for critiques and courses, attending conferences and entering contests. Winning the Daphne DuMaurier Award was probably the key turning point. An earlier version of the winning story had already been rejected by a Love Inspired Suspense editor, but I met with the new head editor soon after the win and asked her if she’d consider the new version. She said yes and read the entire manuscript and liked my writing, but told me exactly why that particularly plot didn’t work for the line. I immediately applied what I learned to another of my ready-to-submit novels and sent it in and she contracted it—Deep Cover.

Who is your favorite or most memorable character in one of your books? If you could, would you want to meet that character in real life?

Ooh, I’d love to meet every hero I write. J In my current series, Serena’s adventurous Great Aunt Martha is probably the most memorable. More than one reader has told me they want to be just like her when they grown up.

What is your current work in progress? How many words do you typically write per day?

I am currently working on a cozy mystery for an ongoing multi-author series. I’ve come to the conclusion that two writing days are rarely alike. With my last two books, which were fully plotted before I started—a task that took me 6+ weeks—I was able to write fast drafts for the first time ever and wrote 3000 words a day. But in both cases my overall word count fell short more than 10,000 words, and from that point, eking out an additional 1000 words/day was challenging. Prior to those two books, 1000 edited words/day was an average day.

Do you incorporate settings in your books from your real-life travels?

Oh yes, I did a lot of exploring for the Serena Jones Mysteries. I visited all kinds of places and neighborhoods in St. Louis, including the FBI headquarters where Serena works. I also visited the Gardner Museum in Boston, the location of the most famous unsolved art robbery. And I made two trip to Martha’s Vineyard to nail down all the details for the setting of Over Maya Dead Body.

What advice would you give to a beginning author?

Don’t be in a rush to get published (or to self-publish). Take time to develop your craft, enjoy the journey and persevere.

Name one of your all-time favorite mystery books or authors.

I don’t like to play favorites. But I will admit that Trixie Beldon and Encyclopedia Brown were the first sleuths to hook me on the genre.

Do you hate any of your characters? I ask that because Agatha Christie hated Poirot.

Gasp! That’s like asking me if I hate one of my children. Of course…Kate, the heroine of my Port Aster Secrets series, started driving me so crazy when she took over writing the books for me that I did feel the need to kill her off. And it was very cathartic. You’ll have to read the book to find out if my editor let her stay dead.

Tell us about the featured ebook, the one you’ll be giving away to one lucky reader!

Over Maya Dead Body is third and final book in my Serena Jones Mysteries series from Revell Publishing, featuring a plucky FBI agent who specializes in art crime. In this novel, she’s supposed to be on vacation in the beautiful Martha’s Vineyard, but instead stumbles onto an antiquities case, connected to the death of a close friend of the family. Each book in the series is a standalone mystery, with a fun, eclectic group of secondary characters who continue to reappear.  But in the first book, A Fool and His Monet, I invited readers to vote for the man in Serena’s life with whom they’d like to see her eventually start a relationship. And Over Maya Dead Body fulfills my readers’ wishes…or at least the majority of them. For the rest, I’ve started a private FB group where they can commiserate over her choice without fear of spoilers.

And even though this novel takes place far from Serena’s St. Louis home, most of my readers’ favorite supporting cast members fly in to help her, and maybe win her heart, making for a potentially fun romp in the sun and sand…if they survive. <wink>

How can readers find you on social media?

They can also follow me on Bookbub:

WANT A CHANCE TO WIN OVER MAYA DEAD BODY? (eBook) Leave a comment AND your email address please. Got to get that winning book to you!


  1. Wonderful interview! I've been wanting to read this series!

    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

    1. Well, if you win, we'll have to send you with A Fool and His Monet so you start from the beginning. :)

  2. Well, I'm hoping there will be more Serena Jones mysteries! She is a fantastic heroine.

  3. I loved A Fool and His Monet, especially her Great Aunt Martha! Can't wait to read the others. Thanks. steveandellengray(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. It's so funny. Everyone loves Great Aunt Martha, except my aunt. I told her she wasn't the model. :D

  4. I've been meaning to read this series just need a round tuit! LOL! I lived in St. Louis for twenty years so I really need to read these! Thanks. paulams49ATsbcglobalDOTnet

  5. Entering names in the hat! We have until the end of the day, that is, assuming I still have power. We have a hurricane barreling down on Texas. Sandra may have to decide the winner if I'm unable to access my electronics later on. Linda

    1. Is that all? Since I didn't see a deadline on the post, I assumed we'd have through the weekend. We need to get at least 10 people and it's been a slow day so far. ;)

    2. Sandra--Let's extend the contest to tomorrow. Since the hurricane is bearing down, I wanted to be able to finish the contest, but you can choose the winner on Saturday if that's okay. I'm sure it'll be okay with our readers!

  6. I would love to read these books.

    1. KAREN! You are OUR winner! CONGRATULATIONS! Sandra will get in touch with you. I have your email. Thanks for entering!

  7. Loved the first 2 ...can't wait to read the 3rd!
    Jody Link,

  8. Over Maya Dead Body was great, but I haven't read the first two, so I would need book one as well.

  9. Thanks for a fun interview and for offering your book to a lucky winner.

  10. Great interview! Love your books! Thanks for extending the giveaway since I was busy yesterday getting my classroom ready to start school on Monday! 😬


    1. Happy to...I was late showing up too. Putting up beans for winter. :)

  11. This is a great interview! I loved Trixie Beldon growing up. I loved A Fool and His Monet and Another Day Another Dali! I'm looking forward to seeing who wins Maya's heart. Thanks for a chance to win Over Maya Dead Body.

    debbiewilder (at) comcast (dot) net

    1. So pleased to hear you are enjoying the series, Debbie!

  12. Names in the Hat:
    Caryl Kane
    Patricia Bradley
    Ellen Gray
    Paula ?
    Karen ?
    Jody Link
    Sara Davidson
    Connie ?
    Melissa Oldaker
    Debbie Wilder
    Joe Kozar
    Donna Haynes Robertson
    Lena Nelson Dooley
    Tina A. Koskie-Price
    Anna McFarland
    Anthea Kotlan

  13. Love your play on words for your book titles! I knew a preacher that used song titles from the sixties for his sermon titles. These ideas are so fun! And I so enjoy mystery and suspense.

    1. It was a lot of fun batting title ideas around. My newsletter subscribers also contributed a couple of great ones I never got to use

  14. just now reading the post... if i haven't missed it already i'd love to in the hat for a copy of Over Maya Dead Body

  15. This sounds like an amazing series. Love the Martha Vineyards setying and want to read more about Serena Jones.

    1. Martha's Vineyard was a lot of fun to research. :)

  16. This sounds like an amazing series. Love the Martha Vineyards setying and want to read more about Serena Jones.

  17. I have read so many great reviews about this series but have yet to read for myself (gasp, I know right?). Hoping to remedy that, and of course, I'd have to start with the beginning one ;-)

    Thanks for the fun interview. I also listened to part of the audio, it's great to put a voice to an author!

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

  18. Great interview. Thanks for sharing and for the chance to win. 😀 This series sounds really good. 😍
    iamabho AT gmail DOT com

    1. Tweeted blog post to share 😀.