Sandra Gardner, Author of Mother, Murder and Me, Talks Writing

My guest today is Sandra Gardner. Sandra is a former contributing writer and columnist for The New York Times and the author of four non-fiction books: Six Who Dared (Simon & Schuster); Street Gangs (Franklin Watts); Teenage Suicide; (Simon & Schuster) and Street Gangs in America (Franklin Watts). Street Gangs in America received an award from the National Federation of Press Women. A chapbook of her poetry collection, Mythmaking, was published by Word Journal Press.

Anne – Welcome to the Muriel Reeves Mysteries, Sandra. It’s always a treat to talk writing with another author! When did you first realize you were destined to be a mystery/suspense writer?

Sandra - That would be when I started writing what I thought was a novel about the complicated (to say the least!) relationship between a recently deceased 70-year-old woman and her adult daughter. About 20 pages in, I realized that this wouldn’t work for a whole novel…so, I added a body, a number of suspects and red herrings, another body, etc., and there was my mystery novel. (I’ve been a devoted mystery reader for years, starting with the Beverly Gray Mystery Series, about a girl reporter who solves mysteries.)

Anne - Tell us about your book.

Sandra - My new mystery, Mother, Murder and Me, won Swyers Publishing’s First New Author (fiction) Contest 2011 and was recently published by Swyers.

When Marabella Vinegar finds her psychotherapist’s bloody corpse, she becomes the NYPD’s perp of choice. Her recently deceased mother – the bane of her existence in life – comes back to help get her out of trouble and find the real killer. Things get even worse when, thanks to Marabella and her mother’s sleuthing, someone tries to kill her. Then another body is found and Marabella is thrown in jail, awaiting trial for two murders. Can she and her mother-the-ghost-detective find the killer before Marabella becomes corpse number three?

Anne - Is it part of a series?

Sandra - Yes. Mother, Murder and Me is the first in a series featuring Marabella and her mother as amateur sleuths. I’m currently at work on the second book, MOTHER AND MURDER – AGAIN. And I have ideas for more books in the series.

Anne - What do you enjoy most about writing a series? What part do you dislike?

Sandra - I love the idea of keeping characters around (in my head) whose company I enjoy. I find that getting into the rhythms of their actions and dialogue becomes very natural, after hanging around with them for awhile. As for disliking, one thing that comes to mind is the fact that I need to keep checking the first book to make sure I’m not getting ages, places, etc., incorrect. Also, keeping dialogue, actions and relationships consistent with a character’s established nature is something I need to keep on top of.

Anne – I’ve heard many authors keep a series ‘bible’ for that very purpose. I haven’t done it myself, but I’m thinking about it! Of the characters you’ve created, does one hold a special place in your heart? Why?

Sandra – That would be Marabella Vinegar, my main character. She’s funny, smart, quirky, a klutz, dislikes parts of her figure (what woman doesn’t?), worries about her relationships with men (what woman doesn’t?), still has problems with her mother at the age of (horrors!) almost 40, even though her mother is deceased. What’s not to love?

Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers? 

Sandra - Yes. Years ago, at a writers’ conference, a writer friend talking about – what else?—doubts, fears of failure, fears of the blank page, etc., etc.  Her solution: DO IT ANYWAY! These are three of the most valuable words of advice you can give to a writer, especially one who’s just starting out.

Anne – I love it. Do it anyway. It’s so simple, yet carries so much weight! Would you share an excerpt of Mother, Murder and Me with us? 

Sandra – This is from Chapter One:

My mother had only been dead a week when she appeared on my sofa. She shoved me off onto the floor, as a matter of fact. I had just settled down for a quick nap between my crazy-making job and a late-evening rendezvous with my shrink.

“A lady doesn’t sit on the floor, Marabella,” my mother scolded. She pursed lips that still had traces of her favorite Revlon shade, Rose-of-Sharon. She peered at me from under her shaggy mud-brown hair. Her hair really needed cutting, shaping too, come to think of it.

“What are you doing here?” I tried to muster as much dignity as someone in my position could manage, plopped on the floor as I was. And being berated by a . . . my mother, who was dead! Wasn’t she? “Aren’t you . . .” my tongue tripped on the words, “didn’t you . . .?”

“Yes, and no.” She leaned back against the sofa pillows, smoothing down the bottom of her dress, the white satin-and-lace number she’d been buried in. “You think it’s that easy? Has anything in my life . . .”

Oh, no, I thought, I have to keep listening to this stuff even after she’s . . .

She clapped a hand over her mouth. “No, nope, I’m not going to do it, I promised.” She glared at the ceiling. “And I couldn’t help it about the sofa, either. I haven’t sat down in a week.”

“Why are you here?” I got up off the floor, dusting off my behind.

“Why am I here? Very shortly, you’re going to need me, sweetheart,” she said, with a self-satisfied smile.

This was more than I could take, her thinking that I should need her help from beyond the grave. “They sent you back here? Like, on an assignment?”

She nodded. “I put in a special request. Because where else should a mother be when her daughter’s going to be in trouble?”

“What kind of trouble?” This was making me nervous.

“You’ll see,” she said.

Anne – Such a fun scene! Thank you. Where can readers find you online?

Sandra – They can find me on Facebook or contact me via email at: or

Anne – Thanks so much for dropping by to chat today, Sandra. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your mysteries.

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4 comments: said...

Hi Anne,
Just got to see this! Thanks so much for a great interview/article!
sandy gardner

sandy gardner said...

HI Anne,
Just got to see this-- thanks so much for a great interview/article!
Sandy Gardner

marja said...

This sounds like my kind of series! Loved the excerpt, and I can promise you this is going on my list, to be purchased soon. Thanks for a fun interview.

sandy gardner said...

Hi Marja,
thanks so much!
sandy gardner