My guest is Sandra Nikolai, award-winning author of the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott mystery series. Today she answers a question that interests many of us. It address the deep-down question of why some authors are compelled to write mysteries, and it hints at the mesmerizing nature of mystery stories. I for one, can attest to the spellbinding nature of Sandra’s books—I just can’t put them down. Here’s Sandra.
As any TV soap opera enthusiast would attest, a continuing series about people who deal with all sorts of issues in their everyday lives attracts a loyal audience. The more we get to know our favorite soap characters, the more we understand their feelings, their needs, and their hopes, and the more we empathize with them when they encounter problems. In the same way, we cheer on our favorite dancer, singer, chef, or team in a reality competition series and cringe when they experience a setback. We’re mere spectators in these events, but because we feel a kindred connection to these people, we’re curious about them and get emotionally involved with their lives. In other words, we want to see “what happens next” to them.
Similarly, a mystery draws us into the story by introducing us to protagonists whose personalities we can connect with. As we get to know these sleuths, we learn about their concerns—personal and otherwise—and form an emotional bond with them. We share their determination in solving the whodunit and tracking down the killer. We keep our eyes open for clues and hope our sleuths do too. We walk with them down dark alleys and hold our collective breaths, aware that danger lurks in the shadows. We feel immediate gratification when the perpetrator is caught and justice is served, due in part to the fact that we’ve bonded with our heroes.
That bond is strengthened when the storyline includes personal growth of the main characters. Here’s an example.
In my first mystery novel, False Impressions, I used a realistic world in which my two sleuths could live, work, play, and pursue the bad guys. Megan Scott leads an organized lifestyle and works behind the scenes as a ghostwriter. Michael Elliott is an investigative reporter. His work involves an irregular work schedule, impromptu meetings with shady informants at all hours of the night, and nerves of steel. Megan and Michael perceive and handle issues differently, which can cause potential conflict between them. But that’s okay. As in real life, conflict changes how the characters think and act, and readers expect change. It’s what connects them emotionally with the characters and maintains their curiosity about what will happen next.
Will the sleuths’ investigative work interfere with their relationships with family and friends? Will romance play a role in their lives? Will increased danger intensify the risks when they investigate the next murder?
These questions prompted me to write my second mystery novel in the series, Fatal Whispers, thereby ensuring the continuity of my two main characters. But even I don’t know what will happen next until my sleuths choose to tell me.
About the Author:
SANDRA NIKOLAI graduated from McGill University in Montreal and worked in sales, finance, and high tech before devoting her days to writing. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and has published a dozen short stories online and in print, garnering honorable mentions along the way.
False Impressions and Fatal Whispers are the first two novels in a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. When not plotting mysteries, Sandra shares her thoughts and experiences about the writing world on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other websites. She lives near Ottawa with her husband and is currently at work on her next mystery novel in the series.
How to contact Sandra: