Meet Debut Novelist Sandra Orchard

Sandra Orchard writes inspirational romantic suspense set along the northern shores of Lake Erie in the heart of the Niagara region, Canada. In 2009, she won the Daphne DuMaurier Award of Excellence, which led to signing with her ACFW-nominated agent-of-the-year, Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The following year, Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense bought her debut novel and has since contracted two more books for her Undercover Cops series. Deep Cover is available now at eHarlequin and will hit bookstore shelves in September.

Sandra lives in rural Ontario with her husband of 24+ years, two college-aged children, and a husky pup with a fetish for rubber boots and remote controls. A former home educator, she received word of her first contract on her youngest daughter’s first day of college—a blessed launch to this new stage of her life. Sandra earned an Honours Arts & Science degree with a major in math, and taught high school math before starting her family. Since graduating from her home-teaching duties, she continues to keep the books for her husband’s business and writes full-time.

Sandra loves trying new things. She’s dabbled in a variety of arts and crafts over the years. She’s taken on just about every renovation project you can think of from building a run-in for her daughter’s horse, to re-siding their first house, to renovating bathrooms, to installing trim and flooring. Since a clean kitchen was only ever one meal away from being a mess again, she always preferred doing something more substantial. A back injury sidelined those hobbies, prompting her to single-mindedly pursue her writing. When not writing, she enjoys hanging out with family, especially her new grandbaby, brainstorming new stories with fellow writers, and hiking or kayaking in God’s beautiful creation.

Sandra’s Journey

When did you fall in love with romance novels and decide to write your own?

I discovered romance novels when my children were little and I’d just lost my mom. Seeing characters cope with many of the emotions I was experiencing helped me immensely. I began to devour the books and after awhile my husband suggested I write my own. The idea had already been growing in my mind and his nudge was all the encouragement I needed.

What sparked the idea for Deep Cover? A breaking news story? An overheard conversation between police officers at a coffee shop? A scene you witnessed on a ride along?

It’s so long ago, and the story has evolved so much that I can’t pinpoint something specific that sparked the idea for Deep Cover. However, breaking news of the officers shot in a donut shop and of another officer shot while working in his garage, vindicated my hero’s greatest fear, and I mentioned the news stories in my proposal.

Your stories earned you placements in several contests for unpublished writers. What role did these successes play in getting you where you are today? And did you laugh, cry, or sigh when you received the good news from the contest coordinators?

When I finaled in the Genesis in 2008, I was so excited I emailed all my online writing buddies to squeal. That commendation definitely earned me a few requests at that year’s ACFW conference. However, none of the contests I actually placed in garnered a request by the judging editors.

Then there’s the Daphne. The Inspy coordinator called me from the awards ceremony to tell me I’d won. I screamed and thanked her, but the connection wasn’t good and there was lots going on at her end, so she said she’d call back in a bit. Well, after jumping all over the house celebrating with my family, I dashed to my computer to tell all my writing buddies. I couldn’t have been more floored when Sandra Robbins emailed me to say, I didn’t just win my category. I won the whole shebang!

More squealing and dancing followed that news. And when the coordinator called me back I think I caused her to go deaf.

In my intro, I mentioned that winning the Daphne got me an agent. It also paved the way to interest Love Inspired editor, Tina James, in reading the full of the winning entry, even though her predecessor had already rejected a proposal for it. Although, as written, it didn’t suit their suspense line, Tina explained exactly why. I made the necessary changes to another manuscript I had ready to submit, and voilà, it sold.

Sandra’s Support System

Who are the charter members of the Sandra Orchard Fan Club?

My husband and three children. For years I swore them to secrecy, because from all that I’d read, I knew it took a long time to break into publishing, and that people who aren’t writers don’t understand that. They might think it’s an interesting hobby, or be impatient to know when your book is coming out. And okay, if I failed to ever sell anything, I suppose I didn’t want people to know.

You’ve been blessed with awesome mentors. How did you link up with them, and what have been some of the most valuable lessons they’ve taught you?

My very first mentor was actually Janice Dick. She critiqued one of my proposals at the first writing conference I ever attended. She liked the story so much that she offered to read the whole manuscript. Her enthusiasm for it was encouraging to me, and was one of the reasons I revised that particular story (the one that eventually won the Daphne) so many times. I connected with Margaret Daley in a similar way at a different conference a few years later (different manuscript).

Linking up with Susan May Warren is a whole other story. Two days before I was supposed to fly out to Texas for my first-ever ACFW conference, I woke up unable to move without excruciating pain. I ended up in the hospital (blown disk). It was too late to get a refund on my registration, but the board very kindly sent me the CDs of the workshops to listen to as I recovered. Susan taught one of those classes. Soon after I paid for some of her “book therapy” and learned so much and made a wonderful friend and discovered another author whose books I love to read!

You’re represented by a respected literary agent. How did your offer of representation come about. How did you react when you got The Agent Call?

Joyce judged my winning entry in the Daphne DuMaurier contest and afterward offered to represent me. I was thrilled by her enthusiasm for my work, but I was also hesitant. This wasn’t my first time around the block. Every agent is different. Some pass your work through untouched whether it’s ready or not. Others give your work a thorough vetting, offering numerous suggested changes before agreeing to send it to editors. Others are somewhere in between. I had to really soul-search to decide what kind of agent I wanted. I contacted several of the authors Joyce represents and they were candid about her strengths and weaknesses, as Joyce, herself had been with me. In the end, I gave Joyce an enthusiastic yes, and I’ve never regretted it.

Sandra’s First Sale

On September 7, 2010 you received The Call. OK, these days it might have been The Email. Whichever it was, you must have been thrilled. Tell us about the experience, what thoughts ran through your mind, and if you screamed so loudly the neighbors wondered if they should come to your rescue.

Getting the call wasn’t at all like what I‘d always imagined. My emails are preprogrammed to go to different folders. So when I saw that I had a new email in my Agent folder the day after Labor Day— the day my agent said the editor would give us her response to my manuscript—my heart sank. I figured that if I got the contract my agent would call. Wouldn’t you?

So … I read all my other email before I even opened the folder. My heart jumped into my throat when I saw the subject line: Good News!

I quickly read the email and then called my agent. She was super-excited for me and I felt like my insides were bubbling over as I started to absorb that this was real.

I got the news on my youngest daughter’s first day of college. I homeschooled all my children so what a way to celebrate my graduation! When my youngest daughter got home, she was, of course, bubbling over with news about her day. I kept smiling and spreading my arms in a gesture of―well, are you going to ask me about my day?

Finally, I said, “Guess what?” And her response was priceless. She screamed, “You sold your book!” and then jumped up and down and hugged me wildly. As an aspiring novelist herself (already published in non-fiction and short story, I might add as a proud homeschooling mom) she knew exactly how huge this was. And it was sweet to have her share my joy!

Sandra’s Debut Novel

Please tell us about Deep Cover.

Maintaining his cover cost undercover cop Rick Gray the woman he loved. Ginny Bryson never really knew Rick. He never gave her the chance. Not then, and not now, when he’s back with a new alias to gather evidence against Ginny’s uncle. The man’s crimes led to Rick’s partner’s death, and Rick wants justice to be served. But his investigation is stirring up trouble, and Ginny is smack dab in the middle. Someone wants Ginny to pay the price for what her uncle has done. But how can Rick protect her without blowing his cover, jeopardizing his assignment…and risking both their lives?

Sandra’s Journey Continues

You’ve sold a second book, Shades of Truth. What can you tell us about it?

It features the heroine’s friend from Deep Cover.

A compassionate youth worker fighting to preserve her dying father’s legacy battles the justice-driven detective who threatens her mission and her heart.     

What story are you working on now?

The third book in the series, which just sold on proposal! Dose of Deception is Zach’s story (he’s the mentor to Deep Cover’s hero). He’s posing as an IT consultant in a hospital on the hunt for a killer. The heroine is a nurse that the killer fears can identify him.

Let’s Learn a Little More About Sandra

Cookies, cake, pie, or. . .?

Cookies, home-baked chocolate chip, warm from the oven. Or frozen from the freezer with vanilla ice cream in between. Yum.

High heels, tennis shoes, flip flops, or. . .?

I’m Canadian, eh? So our terminology is a bit different. My editor is always changing this in my manuscripts. To me a tennis shoe or sneaker is the flat canvas laced shoes we used to wear in oh, the 70s. I wear “runners” or “running shoes” the kind runners wear, also advertised as cross trainers. Would you call that a tennis shoe?

Soft rock, country, jazz, or. . .?

Soft rock, but I’m starting to get into some of the new country. Some of them have great lyrics. There’s a new over-the-air TV station that shows Country music videos 24 hours a day, and sometimes when I’m in need of inspiration for my story, I’ll take a break and watch a few.

Mountains, beaches, deserts, or. . .?

I love rugged shorelines, being on the water (lakes or rivers) or hiking in the woods.

Cats, dogs, fish, or. . .?

Despite the…hmm…vices of the newest addition to our family, I am definitely partial to dogs. They teach us so much, such as: Don’t bite when a simple growl will do. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk. Eat with gusto. And my favorite, when you’re happy, jump around and wag your whole body.

Sandra’s Question for You

I’m always on the lookout for interesting eccentricities to give my characters, so I’m curious… What’s the quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?

Sandra’s Drawing

Sandra has generously offered to give away a signed copy of her debut novel Deep Cover.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Sandra by midnight September 5th and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process.

On September 6th, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address.

Congratulations to Kav, winner of the drawing!

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

Learn More About Sandra

Visit her website ~

Visit her personal blog ~ Conversations About Characters

Friend her on Facebook ~ Sandra Orchard (page)

Join her at Goodreads ~ Sandra Orchard


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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28 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Sandra Orchard

  1. Stacy Henrie says:

    Love this interview, you two! I had the chance to “meet” Sandra when I entered a contest this Spring. She is very gracious and kind. Congrats on your book. And I totally agree with you about the whole kitchen/cooking thing. 🙂

  2. Shirley Maynard says:

    Loved catching up on this interview! Sandra sounds like an easy person anyone would like to get to know, and I already love her writing! Keli, you are great at hostessing! This being May of 2012, I don’t have too long to wait for your debut novel coming out in July.

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