What an exciting day for me! The super-talented author of children’s books and adult novels,
Sandi Underwood, is my guest.
NKA: Welcome, Sandi. You have exciting news—a new book. Congratulations! Tell us about it.
SU: Thank you, Nancy. It’s good to be a published writer again – especially after the past two years we’ve had! The writing industry, like everything else, was hit hard during the Pandemic, but my new book fits right in there as ‘stranger than strange.’
I received an email from a publisher on New Year’s Day 2020 offering a contract. Now here’s where the strange part comes in: I had only submitted a cover letter and the first three chapters of ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN, a coming-of-age story with sinister undertones. The editor provided a phone number and asked me to call at my convenience. Lucky me, it was convenient that very next day, and when I asked if she was sure she wanted my book (I don’t recommend that question to a would-be publisher under normal circumstances!), she gave an emphatic, “yes!”
Never one to be outdone, I argued that I had only submitted the first three chapters. She informed me it was exactly what she was looking for. To sum up, I wound up sending the remainder of the story, along with a signed contract. I doubt that will ever happen again; but if it were to, I will never argue with a Publisher over whether they made a mistake in offering a contract—especially in this topsy-turvy world of publishing that we have come to know.
NKA: This book is a story that touches our emotions on a deep level and is a story that needs to be told, and what a cover. It's beautiful. What gave you the idea for the characters and plot?
SU: I would be less than truthful if I said I had a clear-cut answer to that question. I started out writing a story based on an actual situation, but the final product took wings and veered slightly off-course. ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN is about the painful period of time known as adolescence—a time when insecurities and peer pressure rule the day. Drawing on my own experience as a ‘PK’ (Preacher’s Kid), I identified with my main character in thinking others were born with that proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in their mouths, while I had less…friends, opportunities…stuff. Of course, looking back I realize what a perfect childhood I had and, to be honest, I never missed out on much. In the book’s dedication, I acknowledge my loving home and parents for raising me in a safe environment. Not all children have that. Certainly not one character in my book!
NKA: You have other books, too. What are their titles and for what age groups are they written?
SU: I love all genres. I love to read them, and I love to write them. My first book was a children’s book, a Sci-fi Mystery of sorts about ‘shapeshifters’, of all things. THE SECRET AT ONE BELMONT LANE, was written for my second grandson. He was of the age that enjoyed all things weird and bizarre, and I wanted to write a book he would read.
Next book to be published was the first in The Baker Manor Series, BLOOD MONEY. It’s a paranormal romance-mystery that tells the story of a kindergarten teacher that led a happy life until she became an heiress of a vast fortune. After that, unexplained accidents and broken trusts turned her happy life upside down until that fatal night when she stared evil in the face. The Baker Series continues with books #2 and #3, unpublished as of yet.
My third book MOUNTAIN LAUREL, is the story of my parents’ first date, and the setting is pure Appalachia. I drew on family tales that were passed down from both Mom and Dad with the hopes of preserving them for my grandchildren. I enjoy reading this book over and over as it conjures up memories of hearing them for the first time.
NKA: You’ve been a busy gal. Any new books on the horizon?
SU: Book #2 of The Baker Manor Series is finished, and I’m smack-dab in the middle of the final one. I say that, but I’ve grown so familiar with the Baker family, I can’t bear to say goodbye to them. Who knows where that story will really end??? I also have a book, ON THE BANKS OF THE NOLICHUCKY, a fictional story about the young Davy Crockett that is under contract, but no publication date has been announced. And finally, I am playing with the idea of combining two unfinished manuscripts into one. That remains to be seen or, in this case, written.
NKA: I love your books. You use a wide variety of writing techniques in creating interesting characters and plots that amp up the tension in your stories and snag readers’ attention. Would you share a couple of writing tips with us?
SU: In a nutshell, when a new storyline pops into my head, I begin with my main character (MC) by asking myself: Who, What, Where, When & Why?
My MC needs someone to feed off. A love interest? A BFF? A stalker? Honestly, my mind goes immediately to the stalker because I like edge-of-seat mysteries. Once decided, I have two individuals that allow me to begin character sketches—one or two descriptive words to get started, but by the time I’m well into the story and added several more characters, these can turn into lengthy bios.
At this point, I carve out a rustic outline–sometimes just a beginning, a middle (a thought or two that will move the story forward), and an ending (not everything all tied up with a bow at this point, just whether the MC lives happily ever after…or not.
All this before I write the first paragraph, which is without a doubt the most re-written paragraph in the entire story. But that’s a whole separate blog post!
I truly think the reason I love writing adult fiction is due to something you once said: Chase your main characters up a tree and throw rocks at them. (I believe you were quoting someone else, so I acknowledge the fact you and I both are plagiarizing!) I get the most joy writing what I enjoy reading and when life becomes predictable and humdrum for my characters, it’s time to shake it up a bit. Plotting is a fun pasttime for me. I tend to create two or three different paths for each character and hang onto the one that interests me most. At that point, I become the reader. If I listed one bit of advice to a new writer it would be: Write what you enjoy reading.
NKA: Great advice. Keeping readers on the edge of their seats is what holds their attention from the first page through the last. I’m sure people would like to know where can we find your books?
SU: My latest book, ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN, is available on Amazon at:
On A Scale Of One To Ten or as with any of my books, to get a signed copy, email me at www.sandiu.comcast.net or check out my website at www.sandiunderwood.net
NKA: Thanks, Sandi, for telling us about your books and giving us valuable writing tips by sharing your writing process. ON A SCALE OF ONE TO TEN is one of the best middle-grade books I’ve read, so I highly recommend it. I hope you visit again.
Nancy Kelly Allen has written 50 children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY. Check out her website at www.nancykellyallen.com