Sarah M Stephen started writing at an early age, first scribbling pages of notes while pretending to be a journalist before she could actually print. After mastering the alphabet, she moved into poetry and short stories. Following a few successes in grade school (a regional poetry prize) and university (a short story published in an anthology), she traded creative tales for corporate ones. A few years ago she rediscovered her love of words and resumed creative writing. She is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio creative writing program at Simon Fraser University.
Sarah tries to balance working, parenting, and writing, while leaving a bit of time for baking and running.
Genre: Historical mystery
Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
The Hanging in the Hollow Tree (releasing August 16, 2022) is the second in the Journal Through Time Mysteries. The series features a detective in late nineteenth century pairing up with an archivist from the twenty-first century working together to solve crimes, communicating through the detective’s journal after the archivist discovers it. Vancouver, where I live and where the series is set, has a long history of financial fraud, some of which inspired this book.
Q2: What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing?
I honestly enjoy all of it. Coming up with an idea, then creating a story around it, revising it, and receiving feedback from readers once it’s out there. If I had to choose something I love the most, it’s the moments when I’m writing the first draft and I get so caught up in the story that it wakes me in the middle of the night.
Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?
There are so many. I love Agatha Christie, Anne Perry, Louise Penny, and Anthony Horowitz.
Q4: What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book?
Because I work full time, I don’t always get as much opportunity as I’d like during the week to write. So, I try to use those pockets of time when I’m standing in line at the grocery store or waiting for the kettle to boil to draft. I drafted a large portion of my first book on my (pre-pandemic) commute to work. Those little bursts of time really add up. I find I need longer blocks of time for editing, so on the weekend, I am usually fortunate enough to get a couple of hours of solid writing/editing time in.
Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
Just keep writing. Even 250 words a day will give you a solid first draft in less than a year.
Q6: What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you?
I try to have a couple of things on the go so that if I’m not feeling one story, I can work on another, which usually is enough to inspire me to get back to the first one.
Q7: What part of the book was the most fun to write?
Because the Journal Through Time Mysteries is set in two times, I find myself looking at archive photos for hours to understand what Vancouver was like, then walking around the city looking for hints of its past. I also enjoy putting myself in the mindset of a nineteenth century detective experiencing the city in its early days.
Q8: How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
I think anyone who enjoys historical mysteries and dual timeline mysteries will enjoy this series.
Q9: What are you working on now?
I’m revising the first draft of the third book in the series, as well as playing around with a few stories for younger readers.
Q10: What are you currently reading?
I have a few books on the go right now. I try to learn something from everything I read, and I try to read widely. I also co-host a podcast about the mystery genre, so I’m almost always reading something as part of podcast research. I just finished reading A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons by Kate Khavari.
To find out more about Sarah M Stephen follow the social media links below. Keep scrolling to find out more about The Hanging at the Hollow Tree.
The Hanging at the Hollow Tree is available in paperback and ebook.
He chases crooks. She researches the past. When a financier is found hanged, can they solve his death?
Vancouver, 1897. Detective Jack Winston investigates a body at a popular landmark and realizes the man’s business is as hollow as the tree near where he was found.
Vancouver, 2017. Archivist Riley Finch throws herself into a new project at the museum while preparing for her sister’s wedding and steering their mother from a suspicious investment deal.
With more suspects than answers, Jack again turns to Riley for help through the journal that connects the time-crossed duo.
Can the pair unravel another mystery?
The Hanging at the Hollow Tree is the second book in the Journal Through Time historical mystery series. If you like time-bending mysteries, you’ll love this twisting tale.Like this interview? Please consider Buying Me a Coffee to keep them coming :)
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