Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Between the pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

A Conversation with Sandra Tooley

I first encountered S. D. (Sandra) Tooley about twelve years ago at a writer’s conference in Chicago. Over the years our paths have crossed many times at conferences around the Midwest. Her work has always intrigued me because it’s not the stuff that traditional crime novels are made of. She writes two different series under two different names. Under the name S.D. Tooley she writes the Sam Casey series about an ex homicide cop with the ability to speak to the dead. Her other series, written under the pseudonym Lee Driver features a detective named Chase Dagger and his highly talented assistant Sara who has the power to transform herself into a hawk or a wolf. It makes for some very interesting reading

Dennis: You write under two different names. Can you explain that for us?

S.D. When I was writing the first book in the Chase Dagger series, fans thought it was the second book in my Sam Casey series. So to distinguish the two, I decided to use a pseudonym.


Dennis: When did you first realize you were destined to be a mystery/suspense

S.D. Wish I could say early on. I always had a plot in my head but never thought of putting anything down on paper. I actually started out writing scripts. I wrote two screenplays for Moonlighting which never saw the light of day. Writing was always considered my "hobby" since I was still working full time and fit in writing at my leisure. I also wrote for myself, what I liked to read, and it took some time until I had the nerve to send it out to agents.

Dennis: Of the characters you’ve created, does one hold a special place in your heart? Why?

S.D. Yes, Sara, my shapeshifter in the Chase Dagger series. She is an enigma. She is prone to panic attacks, afraid of crowds, not familiar with the "outside" world yet she has these amazing abilities. Sara possesses an unbelievable strength and is fiercely loyal to the one person she trusts: Chase Dagger.


Dennis: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself from

S.D. That all my weirdness had a purpose. As a kid I loved scary movies rather than cartoons. As a young adult I was fascinated with ghosts, phenomenon, UFOs and aliens, still am. I kept hidden my experience from age 4 of seeing strange "little people" on my walls. When attending a recent horror panel I discovered these were known as hobgoblins. It seems my tastes and my experiences formed the type of characters and plots I like to write.


Dennis: Tell us the defining moment when you felt as if you’d finally made it as an author.

S.D. The first time I read a review of my book in Booklist and Library Journal.
With all the books published every year, to see one of mine mentioned in these publications made the five years it took to write the first one all worthwhile.


Dennis: What do you enjoy most about writing a series? What part do you dislike?

S.D. When writing a series the characters seem to take over. They evolve, change, sometimes for the better or worse. I get to know them so well that I can tell when dialogue just doesn't fit them. On the other hand, I get so involved with finishing the book that I forget to add details to the bio I keep for each character. I end up having to read through a previous book to remember what new detail I added or town history which might be included in future books. I need to be better organized when filing these facts for future use.


Dennis: Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

S.D. I have a Robert Thoreau quote posted on my wall: "Don't get it right, get it written."

I used to agonize over a chapter or a part of the plot that just wasn't going right. I was trying to make it "perfect" before I moved on. That only served to slow the whole writing process down. I start with a very rough outline but now I write whatever comes to mind because inevitably things change, new ideas formulate as I'm going through the first draft, characters take charge and steer me in different directions.


Dennis: What are you currently working on?

S.D. I'm finishing up the sixth in the Chase Dagger series. THE VAPORIZER will be out in early 2013 in ebook first, then print. I again include some sci-fi and hi-tech in this installment. Bodies are cropping up in the morgue with one vital organ missing: their brains. But Dagger has another problem on his hands. BettaTec, the shadow corporation he used to work for, has finally caught up with him. They need him for a job and they won't take no for an answer.

2013 Past Columns