What My Readers Like

Thanks to social media venues and book-signing events, feedback from readers has given me insight into what they like about my mystery novels.

Readers tell me they like my main characters, ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. They enjoy the dialogue between them, their different approaches to investigating and solving a crime, and their deep respect for each other.

Readers understand that my protagonists are human and have faults, problems, and goals like everyone else. They appreciate Megan’s cautious curiosity and Michael’s risk-taking antics that get them into even more trouble as they track down criminals.

Readers also enjoy the different settings in my stories. False Impressions is set in cosmopolitan Montreal. Fatal Whispers takes my sleuths on a trip to the New England coastal town of Portland, Maine. Icy Silence restricts the setting to an elite boarding school with no access to outside help in the midst of an ice storm. The setting in my fourth novel, Dark Deeds, takes my sleuths to a bed-and-breakfast resort by the lake. To readers who haven't yet discovered my books, don’t let the location fool you. Each book offers nothing less than a heart-pounding whodunit!

When I started to write the first book in the series, False Impressions, I was already envisioning a series and made sure that each successive book could be read as a standalone. Readers don’t have to read my books in sequence either. I weave the basic history of my sleuths into every book so that each one is a complete story in itself.

My readers cross age groups and come from a variety of backgrounds. From young adults to seniors, they share a love of reading mysteries and the challenge of solving them. One reader described my books as “clean thrillers.” I tend to agree. My mysteries contain no explicit sex and no grisly gore since I find it difficult to write such scenes. The attraction between Megan and Michael is restricted to romantic moments, with sex happening behind closed doors.

Readers often post book reviews on websites such as Amazon, Goodreads, and Kobo. I’m always thrilled to see a new review pop up—even if it contains only a couple of sentences. Writers appreciate honest feedback and I’m no exception. It’s one of the ways I can learn what readers like and give them exactly what they want.

I’m currently plotting another daring adventure for Megan and Michael. Broken Trust, the fifth book in the series, is scheduled for publication this fall. Stay tuned!

www.sandranikolai.com/books

 

Film Noir and the Femme Fatale

Film noir was a style of black and white American mystery and crime drama films that evolved in the 40s and 50s. The mood or tone of the film often reflected fear, despair, ambiguity, entrapment, and paranoia—emotions produced by the insecurities of the Cold War period. You would hardly find happily-ever-after endings in a film noir. Some notable films of that era include Rebecca (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Laura (1944), and The Blue Dahlia (1946). More modern releases, also known as neo-noirs or post-noirs, are Fatal Attraction (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), and Mulholland Dr. (2001).

The film noir films feature an actress in the role of a femme fatale. One of the definitions of femme fatale in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a very attractive woman who causes trouble or unhappiness for the men who become involved with her.” Females in film noir films span the spectrum from honest and loving to dishonest and manipulative. Regardless, the end result is the same: The femme fatale implicates the male protagonist by involving him in intricate and dubious circumstances that plunges both of them into the depths of crime—usually murder—and inevitable disaster.

One reviewer referred to my mystery novel, False Impressions, as “a film noir style crime drama.” The theme of my story mirrors that trend to a degree, and I’ll sum it up here. My main protagonist Megan Scott meets investigative reporter Michael Elliott and, in film noir fashion, their working relationship places him in a desperate position after they become primary suspects in a murder investigation. Their lives spiral out of control as incriminating evidence builds and threatens to obliterate their weak alibis. Rising mistrust between them follows on the heels of despair and sets up a dark mood that, though not supported by smoke-filled rooms or abandoned warehouses often depicted in a film noir, is tangible nonetheless.

As for the femme fatale in my story, Megan Scott certainly fits the description: young, attractive, and vulnerable. But she’s also observant, smart, and independent.

I’d like to hear what readers have to say. Would you consider Megan Scott a femme fatale? Or does that label more aptly apply to another female character in my story?

If you haven’t yet read my first book in the series, grab a copy of False Impressions and let me know what you think.

http://www.sandranikolai.com/books

 

Main Character: Michael Elliott

Character Interview_Michael.jpg

Michael Elliott is a crime reporter and the second main character in my Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series. His criminal investigations thrust him into unpredictable situations where danger often lurks—a sharp contrast to the organized, behind-the-scenes lifestyle of my other main character, ghostwriter Megan Scott.

I had the opportunity to interview Michael several years ago (in my pretend world, of course). For readers who might not yet be acquainted with him, here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

Michael, tell us how you and Megan Scott became involved in the double murder investigation portrayed in False Impressions, the first book in the series.

Megan and I knew each other professionally. After her husband was killed, the police began to suspect that she and I had had an affair. It blew my mind. Truth is, I don’t date married women. Before we knew it, the police labeled us as prime suspects.

What specific incidents would you like to forget regarding the murder investigation, and do they still affect you now?

There’s no way I can ever forget what happened. The police search of my place, their frequent interrogations, the killer’s threats, more dead bodies…. My life turned into a living hell, but I think the ordeal was worse for Megan. She didn’t deserve any of it. Time is a great healer, though. It helped put our lives back on track.

You occasionally assist the police by supplying them with information obtained through your work. As an investigative reporter, you’ve probably met your share of shady characters. Has the inherent danger of the job ever discouraged you?

It’s a two-way street. My informants give me inside info. In return, I protect their identity. In my line of work, I go with my gut feelings but keep my guard up. You never know what might come at you in a dark alley. To keep fit, I pump iron and jog every day.

You’ve gradually involved Megan in your investigative work. Why?

Sometimes it’s less conspicuous to work as a team than to work solo. Most of all, I value Megan’s input because she has a different way of looking at things—not to mention her talent for noticing details. She seems truly interested in my work, but I suspect she just wants to tag along to keep me out of danger. She thinks I take too many risks.

Let’s talk about a topic close to your heart. Do you see a future with Megan?

We’ll definitely be investigating more cases together. Oh…you’re referring to our personal relationship, right? Sorry, you’ll have to follow the series to find out how it’s all going to turn out.

Thank you, Michael.

*

Readers, please note that each novel in my series is a standalone and doesn’t have to be read in sequence. Visit the Books page on this website to learn more about my books and find the link to your preferred retailer.

Main Character: Megan Scott

For the benefit of readers who haven’t been formerly introduced to her, Megan Scott is the main character in my Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series. She works as a ghostwriter and loves the anonymity of her job within the safe, organized, and predictable environment of her home office.

To stir things up, I intertwined the orderly lifestyle of this thirty-something young woman with the risky and spontaneous adventures of handsome Michael Elliott, an investigative reporter. Then I sat back and waited.

How would Megan react when I dropped her into unnerving, life-threatening circumstances? Would she run away and hide? Or would she confront the danger and get hurt in the process? Yes, I was concerned. After all, she was my creation, my manuscript baby.

I can assure you that she hasn’t let me down. With each successive book I’ve written, Megan reveals increasing courage and determination. Although she remains somewhat cautious, her growing interest in joining Michael on crime-solving adventures has expanded her world and strengthened the bond between them. The pair began their journey as friends, but mutual loyalty and commitment has deepened that friendship. And then there’s the chemistry between them. Only time will tell if their relationship develops into something more serious.

Like most people, Megan is a multilayered character, complete with hopes and doubts about the choices she makes. Here are certain facts you might or might not already know about her:

- Megan is of Irish-Italian origin. She is an only child and lives in a condo in cosmopolitan Montreal. Her mother resides in the same city.

- While Megan was married to Tom, they tried to have children but were unsuccessful.

- Guilt about Tom’s unexpected death occasionally troubles Megan. She feels she could have prevented it somehow.

- Megan is curious about Michael’s work and joins him on investigative ventures, if only to pull him back from the brink of danger.

- She speaks French as well as English and translates for Michael during his interviews with French-speaking informants.

- Megan admires Michael and wishes she could be more like him. Consequently, she’s learning to trust her instincts more often.

- Though she’s hesitant about getting married again, she doesn’t deny she has deep feelings for Michael.

- Megan has a great eye for detail and is instrumental in deciphering clues.

- She has an excellent memory but jots notes on canary yellow lined paper—just in case.

- Her favorite snack is chocolate almonds. Need I say more?

If you haven’t already done so, tag along with Megan and Michael on their crime-solving ventures and enjoy the thrills! Each novel in the series is a standalone and doesn’t have to be read in sequence. Visit the Books page on this website to learn more about my books and find the link to your preferred retailer.

Happy reading!

In Appreciation

As another year comes to an end, I want to extend my gratitude to readers who have connected with me and with my books. I had the pleasure of meeting some of you at local book-signing events and on social media where you shared your reading interests and preferences with me—feedback that I’m always eager to receive!

In the spirit of giving, I’m holding a paperback giveaway on Goodreads for each of my mystery novels this month: False Impressions, Fatal Whispers, Icy Silence, and Dark Deeds. This is a one-time simultaneous offer starting December 15 before I revert to my usual one-book-a-month giveaway schedule in January. If you’re not already a member of Goodreads, you can visit the site to join. It’s free! While you’re there, visit my author page and add your name to any—or all—of my paperback giveaways for a chance to win.

I have more news. Kobo is having a Boxing Week Promotion from December 20 to January 5. My latest mystery novel, Dark Deeds, will be among the featured eBooks. It’s a perfect gift for someone on your list who enjoys reading eBooks!

Thank you again for your support and encouragement. It means so much to me and inspires me to keep on writing. Come January, I’ll be working on Book #5 in the mystery series and plotting more thrilling adventures for Megan and Michael.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sandra