Inside the Snarky, Literary Mind of Sally Berneathy
March 2, 2017
Currently I have written four Death by Chocolate mysteries: Death by Chocolate; Murder, Lies and Chocolate; The Great Chocolate Scam; and Chocolate Mousse Attack as well as two Charley’s Ghost mysteries: The Ex Who Wouldn’t Die and The Ex Who Glowed in the Dark. More in each series will be released as soon as I can copy them from my brain to the computer!
I have sold fifteen romance novels ranging from comedy to dark suspense under the names Sally Carleen, Sally Steward and Sara Garrett. For these novels, I won several awards including National Readers’ Choice, Romantic Times Best Silhouette Romance and two Rita finalist slots. Most of the Silhouettes are available as e-books, and I have e-pubbed six of the out-of-print single titles.
Contact information is available on my website. I love to talk to readers! Okay, I just plain love to talk!
Question: Tell me about your newest book and what was the inspiration behind your writing it?
Sally: The latest book in my Death by Chocolate series is entitled Fatal Chocolate Obsession. I have to give my ex credit for inspiring this one. He stalked me for thirteen years after the divorce. I couldn’t do anything to him, but Lindsay could! He’s still alive and thriving, but the stalker in this book didn’t fare so well!
Question: Why and when did you decide to become a writer?
Sally: I didn’t always want to be a writer. That didn’t happen until I was in the third grade.
But I’ve always wanted to be a story teller.
I grew up pre-television. We lived in a small rural town where our favorite entertainment on summer evenings was to sit outside under the stars and tell stories. When I went to bed at night, instead of a lullaby, I got a story. That could be because everybody in my family sings like a bullfrog with laryngitis, but they sure could tell stories. I listened in awe as my mother, father, aunt and uncle told stories.
When I was in the third grade we had to do book reports, take a living, breathing book and tear it down to bare bones then analyze the skeleton. I hated that. So I decided to write my own story. My teacher gave me an A and read my work to the class. They listened in awe, and suddenly I had become the storyteller. I was in awe of their awe.
Question: What book has been the greatest influence on you and your writing and why?
Sally: That’s a tough one. There are so many.
Bambi was an early influence. Even before I could read, I wanted to retell that story and not kill off his mother!
Nancy Drew got me hooked on mysteries.
Edgar Allan Poe showed me how words can be beautiful and terrifying at the same time.
Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and all the other Sci Fi greats showed me that imagination has no limits.
Every book I read has an influence, even the bad ones. They show me what I don’t want to write!
Question: Where do you find ideas for your books?
Again I have to credit my ex with inspiring certain books. I had written Death by Chocolate with the idea of doing a series, but sales were slow at first. Maybe I needed to write a different series. I sat at my desk, thinking about what else to write. My phone rang. My ex. After ten years, he was still stalking me. I looked at my phone and thought, “He’s never going to leave me alone. And he’s never going to die. And even if he did die, his ghost would come back and haunt me.” My second series, The Ex Who Wouldn’t Die, features a motorcycle-riding heroine whose husband is killed in the middle of a prolonged divorce. His ghost returns and claims the divorce was never finalized so they’re still married.
I’ve always been fascinated with stories of reincarnation, but the premise is always the same. A character begins to recall events from her past life and often goes to a hypnotist to bring up more of those memories. In one of my early romance novels, I tossed my heroine down a flight of stairs, gave her a near-death experience, and when she awoke, she thought she was the woman in her past life. She had no memories of the present. She looked in a mirror and saw an unfamiliar face. Someone was trying to kill her, and she had to recover the memories of her present life to figure out who.
Another of my old romance novels began with my heroine whacking the hero over the head with an iron skillet. Again an inspiration from the ex, to whom I was still married at the time. I was sitting in my office, staring out the window, plotting my next book, and he came in to demand I start dinner since I wasn’t doing anything but sitting there, looking out the window. I stalked into the kitchen, took out my iron skillet, and stood for a long moment deciding if I should put it on the stove or whack him over the head with it.
Question: Where do you find ideas for your characters?
I often make up characters beginning with a single character trait but sometimes I take real people and tweak them. A good example of that is the character Fred in my Death by Chocolate books. One day I was thinking about Bud, a friend from high school. Even though we were close friends and I knew him well, I realized there were some areas of his life I knew nothing about. My imagination took off and created Fred.
And then there are my enemies. I rarely kill them off because that would be too easy for them.
A few years ago I was sitting at a traffic light in my two month old red Honda Civic Si with V-Tech. A jerk in a 1987 beat up junker bumped my car! I got out to check for damage. Fortunately there was none, but I wrote down his license plate. He got out of his car, ripped the paper from my hand, yelled at me, threatened me, and created such a scene, another motorist called the police. When they arrived, the jerk told them I reversed into his car! He was so crazy, they held him while I left.
Using his license number, I tracked him down. Got his name and all his information. I put him in a book then shot him in the knee, kicked him in that knee several times, and sent him to prison. A friend asked if I wasn’t worried he’d read my book and sue me for using his real name. I laughed. “Oh, you’re assuming he can read?”
Question: How would you describe your writing style?
Sally: I think my writing style is humorous with a snarky edge to it. I was surprised when reviewers referred Death by Chocolate as a cozy mystery. However, I don’t care what they call my books so long as they like them! But I usually refer to them as uncozy cozies.
Question: What do you consider the most difficult part of writing a book?
Sally: The ending—tying up all the threads and bringing everything to a logical conclusion.
No, wait. Maybe it’s the middle—taking the beginning and weaving it into a story that makes sense and progresses logically toward the ending.
No, wait. Maybe it’s the beginning—setting up the premise and bringing in the characters.
Oh, let’s face it! It’s all difficult!
I’ve had more careers than I’ve had husbands. I’ve been a legal secretary, a paralegal, a Realtor, a computer programmer, and a novelist. I prefer to think of myself a multi-talented instead of flaky. Writing books is the most fun career I’ve ever had, and it’s by far the hardest.
Question: What are your current projects?
Sally: I am currently working on the sixth book in the Death by Chocolate series, tentatively titled Deadly Chocolate Addiction.
A reader asked about Trent’s ex-wife. We know all about Lindsay’s ex-husband…probably more than we want to know! But the only mention of Trent’s ex is in the first book:
We got married, we lived together for three years, then we got a divorce and stopped living together. Well, actually it was the other way around. We stopped living together and then got a divorce.
No divorce is that simple! A story lurks behind Trent’s simple comments.
What if…she’s remarried.
What if…her husband is murdered.
What if…she needs Trent’s help.
What if…she’s beautiful.
What if…Lindsay feels threatened.
Please click HERE to read more about Sally Berneathy’s humorous mysteries.