Today I am delighted to introduce you to the lovely Sandy Curtis, who lives on Queensland’s Central Coast, not far from the beach where she loves to walk and mull over the intricate plots in her novels. Her husband says he doesn’t know how she keeps it all in her head, and her friends think she must be far more devious than she appears. After having dealt with the chaos involved in rearing three children, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and a kookaburra (teaching it to fly was murder), creating complex characters, heart-wrenching stories and edge-of-your-seat suspense is a breeze for Sandy.
Interviewers often ask Sandy to describe her normal writing day. “Normal is when the chaos in my life subsides to frantic rather than frenzied. I once told a friend that I must have a chaos attractor glued on my forehead and she said that creativity hovers on the edge of chaos, to which I replied that I’d long ago fallen off the edge into the middle.”
Her various occupations, from private secretary to assistant to a Bore Licensing Inspector, as well as hitch-hiking around New Zealand and learning to parachute, have given Sandy lots of people and research skills. It’s the paperwork going feral in her office she has trouble with.
Thank you so much for being on the blog today, Sandy. Please, tell us about your story behind the story!
Alli, thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. It’s wonderful to be here.
Although my previous books were romantic suspense and short contemporary romances, my women’s fiction, Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause, has a lot of humour and focuses on the lives of the three main female characters (although there’s a gorgeous cop with a more-than-professional interest in Ellie and a novel use for avocado oil).
What inspired you to write Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause?
I’m not sure where the idea for this book came from. I started writing it over ten years ago, but after the first few pages I couldn’t keep going. I had envisaged the story of three friends whose lives suddenly implode and they are forced to confront the loss of everything they value. It was going to be full of angst and drama, and, frankly, it depressed me to think about it.
Fast forward ten years and my long-rejected characters, Ellie, Cass and Kandy, raised their voices in protest. They told me that I had had enough time to realise that women have the kind of enduring strength that enables them to cope with what life can throw at them. Yes, they might go down for a while, but they grit their teeth and get back up and take control of their lives.
But what they really emphasised is that women support each other. Women look out for their friends. And women often see the humour in life, especially when it comes to men and relationships.
So I started writing the story again, but this time with a different flavour. Yes, there are losses, and sorrow, but there’s also happiness and laughter, and the kind of friendships that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have in my life.
Why did you decide to set the story in Brisbane?
I grew up in Brisbane and although I haven’t lived there for quite a few years I still love the city, and I particularly love the suburb of New Farm. It’s such a diverse area and offers so many iconic settings such as the Powerhouse.
New Farm was also where I met the first person who considered themselves a “writer”. I left school at fifteen because Mum couldn’t afford for me to continue, but I’d always wanted to write. I tried to become a cadet journalist, but at 152cm and 43kg I looked more like a jockey than a tough “journo”, so started working for accountants. My boss, on discovering I wanted to be an author, introduced me to a bookkeeper he knew who wrote short stories and she invited me to lunch at her unit (called a ‘flat’ in those days). Greying hair, less-than-average height, plump, living alone, she was soft and gentle and kind, but to my sixteen-year-old sheltered self she was someone who was living only half a life. No excitement, no adventure – none of the things I wanted in my future.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how we remember certain things. She cooked us lamb chops, mashed potatoes and peas, followed by lemon pudding and custard.
Although life, in the form of love, marriage and children, intervened in my writing journey, I never forgot the three-storey red-brick building she lived in, or the marvellous view from her unit to the river in the distance. Or New Farm park with its massive trees and echoes of past lives.
Those memories live in Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause. As I wrote Ellie walking up the wide timber staircase to the top unit, I felt again the admiration I had for generations past who lived without the conveniences we take for granted. As I researched the furniture Ellie would need to give an authentic 1920s feel to the units, I marveled at the craftsmanship, the elegance, the intricate detail of the beautiful pieces. Like Ellie, I learned so much. And like Ellie, I felt the joy of having friends who were there for you no matter what happened in your life. So far from being the angst-ridden story I had initially envisaged, it became a joy to write, and Ellie, Cass and Kandy sprang from the pages and allowed me to share their lives.
Thanks so much, Sandy, what a fabulous story behind your story! Folks, you can find Sandy’s books here:
You can find out more about Sandy HERE.