Author Spotlight: Sandy Curtis
Describe yourself in one word:
What is your background with regard to writing?
I always loved writing, dabbled in my youth but marriage and kids intervened, then 20 years ago I started to follow my dream again and entered and won short story competitions, wrote feature articles for magazines, a newspaper column, short stories for women’s magazines, then jumped into the full-length novel pool and swam like crazy. My second attempt came second out of 80 entries in the Emma Darcy Award for unpublished romance manuscripts from Australia and New Zealand. New Concepts Publishing published this, along with my next two books, then Pan Macmillan Australia picked up my first romantic suspense novel and published this and the next four in the loosely-linked series. The GCF hit publishers hard and it was a few years before book six was published, this time with Melbourne-based Clan Destine Press.
When did you first begin writing with a view of embarking on a career as a published author?
After my short stories won awards and proved to me that I wasn’t deluding myself with my writing dreams , I hungered to share longer stories with readers. I feel that the true reward for the hard work (and joy) that I put into my writing is the pleasure and entertainment that it gives readers.
Tell us a little more about Grievous Harm:
When Kate Maclaren flies from Los Angeles to Sydney, to search for her niece, Cindy, she finds herself thrust into a world of corruption and cruelty she could never imagine. She has to use all her determination and skills to infiltrate The Loving Hand church to track where Cindy has been taken, and also deal with issues from her past that impinge on her search. John Corey works for a covert agency, and is on an undercover assignment that leads to a situation that shocks him to the core. Torn by long-buried guilt and harbouring secrets he must not reveal, he joins forces with Kate to expose the sinister cult before more children disappear. John has always kept himself at an emotional distance in his relationships, but he will risk everything, even defying orders, to help Kate uncover the truth and keep her safe. Their journey takes them into Australia’s Outback and leads to a devastating act that could destroy their tentative relationship.
Grievous Harm touches on some highly emotional topics, most notably The Loving Hand Church’s belief that children can be commodities. What sparked this concept for you?
It’s a horrible way to get an idea for a story, but I received a viral email from someone I didn’t know and it was a photo that my mind couldn’t figure out at first because it was so horrific. I’d never seen child pornography and I think my brain was refusing to recognise what it was because I didn’t want to believe it. I have three children and I would give my life to save them or their children from harm. I called the police and got the contact details of Taskforce Argos, the special unit in Brisbane that deals with this sort of thing, and forwarded the email to them so they could track down the culprit. An IT friend of mine said I was probably one of thousands of people who had unwittingly received the email as it had been picked up by a virus and sent through many avenues to unsuspecting recipients. I don’t know if the police found out where it originated, but for a few years I couldn’t get the horror and disgust I felt out of my mind. I then started to think about how it would feel for someone to discover that a child they loved had been placed into the hands of paedophiles and what they would do to rescue them. I also read articles about how the police who tackle this terrible crime are affected and knew that I had to give them a voice. My heroine and hero, Kate and John, have to contend with things most people would never even dream about, as do so many police and others fighting for the safety of children. Although the subject matter in Grievous Harm is very dark, I don’t go into graphic descriptions about what happens to the children as I don’t think that is necessary.
With corruption, cruelty, and a psychopath set against starkly varied backdrops such as Los Angeles to outback Australia, Grievous Harm has the true makings of a romantic suspense thriller. Are you a plotter or pantser and how do you navigate the writing of such intense themes?
I’m a plotter, but I allow my characters to take the story on different tangents if they have better ideas than I do. When writing intense scenes (and there are quite a few of them in the book), I work on the ‘less is more’ theory. Readers have imaginations and they don’t need things spelled out for them. But I work hard to ensure that every word I write creates emotion in the reader.
What one character trait will most endear both John and Kate to your readers?
They care. Deeply. Kate loves her niece and is willing to do anything to save her. She doesn’t realise what this will ask of her. John cares about rescuing all the children, even though this could mean losing the one woman he has come to love.
One thing you’d like readers to know about the romance genre…
I think a lot of readers don’t realise that the romance genre has so many sub-genres, and even though a book might be classified differently, e.g., thriller, adventure, women’s fiction, it can still have a strong romance threaded through the story. Few people go through life without being affected by love in some way, and it enriches the characters in our stories if they have to deal with all the emotions that love brings. In a romantic suspense particularly, having the two main characters fall in love ups the stakes when danger threatens.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing?
Organising WriteFest, the Bundaberg writers festival, which I’ve done since its inception 10 years ago, and volunteering with other organisations. And perhaps my garden might get more of my attention J
What’s next for you?
Writing the next book in which a minor character from Grievous Harm becomes the main character. There’s also a rural romance with a difference that I’ve started and really want to finish. And I’ll keep trying to find a home for Murder, Mayhem and Menopause 🙂
Favourite snack whilst writing?
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Believe in yourself and don’t let life get in the way of your dreams.
What do you find easiest to write? And, the hardest?
This varies because sometimes scenes flow even though they are technically difficult, and at others it’s hard slog to get words on the screen. Action scenes are usually the easiest and the intense emotional scenes often the hardest because I want to get the depth and importance of the relationship through to the reader and every word must make that happen.
Favourite travel experience?
Touring Bruny Island in Tasmania and going on a high-speed boat that zipped around the seal colonies.
Number one thing to do on your bucket list:
Travel to the Kimberley region in Western Australia and Uluru in the Northern Territory.
Milk, dark or white chocolate?
Depends on what I’ve eaten beforehand. I always crave chocolate of any kind after I’ve eaten fish. Weird, isn’t it.
Red, white, bubbly? Before my body decided alcohol wasn’t for me, it would have been a Rosé
Salty or sweet? Salty (love salted cashews)
Beach or mountains? Beach, even on a stormy day.
Give or receive? Give, especially to family and friends.
About the Author:
Sandy Curtis 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. Actually, 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, fast-paced action and edge-of-your-seat suspense is a breeze for Sandy.
In Sydney, Australia, The Loving Hand church understands how children can be a commodity more precious than gold.
When Kate Maclaren flies in from Los Angeles, desperate to find her missing niece, she opens a door into this world, and uncovers a network of corruption and cruelty that stretches across the country.
Agent John Corey, torn by long-buried guilt, and harbouring secrets he must not reveal, joins forces with Kate to expose the sinister cult before more children disappear. He will risk everything, even defying orders, to help Kate uncover the truth and keep her safe.
But when their journey into Australia’s Outback reveals the psychopath at the centre of the network, it is Kate who discovers she will do anything for the people she loves.