My guest today is author Wendi Sotis, who has just published Safekeeping, a contemporary mystery thriller with a nod to Jane Austen.
I “met” Wendi Sotis about seven years ago on a JAFF forum, and we began to beta for each other. Since that time, Wendi has published seven books, while I have published six. We have worked together on all sixteen of them. She is presently working on a new Austenesque story, A Lesson Hard Learned, as well as a non-Austen Regency romance, The Pact. (The Pact is shaping up to be my favorite of all of her books!) She’s a very dear friend of mine who not only betas for me, but also formats my e-books and critiques my covers.
Wendi is an indie author from New York. She has triplets who are rapidly turning into young adults, and her husband Matt does the art work for her covers. She’s one of the administrators of Beyond Austen.com, along with me, Gayle Mills, and Annette Wristen. All of her books are clean, flinch-free, and very entertaining. Wendi has a degree in psychology, and I love the way her mind works.
Her author page on Amazon gives more detailed information about Wendi, as well as links to her other books.
What was your inspiration for writing Safekeeping?
I dreamt about it! Since literally dreaming up story ideas is common for me, I often incorporate dreams into my books, though usually not as heavily as Safekeeping does. Sometimes I dream the beginning or middle of a story. Usually, it’s one scene or even a snippet of a scene. This time, I dreamt the solution to the mystery/suspense part of the story. Once I wrote that down, it was just a matter of working backward from there… asking myself, “How can I make this happen?” I love amnesia stories, and it was easy to incorporate that into this one. As a matter of fact, I had originally began a different story as an amnesia story, and had to rewrite it once I decided to go in that direction for Safekeeping.
Tell us about your characters in Safekeeping.
Elizabeth and Darcy in this book are not from Pride and Prejudice, as they are in my other books. Their names are a wink at Jane Austen’s classic, and Pride and Prejudice is part of the story, but Safekeeping cannot truly be considered JAFF. I’m not sure I should give away more than that!
How much research did you do?
I LOVE to research, so I always do a great deal of research for all my stories. For Safekeeping, knowing all I could find about amnesia was a biggie. A few friends, including you, Robin, helped me with some details about Florida (as well as “traveling” along the route Elizabeth would take in Florida using Google Earth.) I picked the brains of a physical therapist, who is the son of a friend, about certain injuries that Elizabeth had in the story. I talked to other friends who had similar injuries or had to wear casts/boots in the past, including your blog-mate, Gayle. I put a great deal of time into naming my fictitious towns. For example, much of the story takes place in Mt. Wonnig, in upstate New York. Wonnig is one possible word for “delightful/blissful” in German (or at least that’s what Google Translate tells me.) My husband helped me watch quite a few car chases on YouTube. And I’m still receiving spam from private investigating equipment companies 😉
What was the hardest part of writing this story?
Making the two time-lines fit together so the climax of both happened at the same time. Safekeeping is actually two stories in one—Elizabeth’s prior life and her life after the amnesia— fused together in her discovery of who she is… was… is. I actually wrote the two story-lines separately, then had to find places in the “amnesia” parts for her to remember. How to transition between the two time-lines smoothly without a big jolts to the reader was also challenging. Formatting that aspect for print/eBook without it becoming annoying or confusing was a difficult decision to make. I don’t think this book can be made into an audiobook without hiring two narrators.
Deciding details about Elizabeth’s injuries and giving her time to heal enough to remove the cast without the story becoming boring was also tough. At almost last minute, I decided to have her break a non-weight-bearing bone in her leg and sprain her wrist instead of breaking it.
And for some reason, I had a difficult time deciding how and when in the story to take her cast off. I was completely stuck on that for months! Once I got past that, everything flowed easily. I wrote the remainder of the story—about 100 pages in the printed book—in a little more than a week.
Are there messages or themes you hope your readers will get out of this book?
Unlike a lot of writers, I don’t start out with a message or theme I’m trying to convey—just what I hope will be a fun and interesting story—but I think I do it unconsciously. Usually, readers will tell me they saw a message in my books that I didn’t realize I put there! It’s a pleasant surprise when I have an “Ah ha!” moment like that.
What would be the perfectly specific genre title for Safekeeping?
Oh, gosh, that’s a really good and difficult question! How about: Romantic Suspense/Mystery/Clean Read/Nod to Jane Austen.
Thank you for stopping by, Wendi! I’m going to beta your next chapter of A Lesson Hard Learned today, and I hope to get a new chapter of The Pact soon. (I’m a hard taskmaster and a greedy reader.)