A Dream Leads Author to Published Career
Sandra Parshall talks about her books, writing process at Oakton Library
As a child, Sandra Parshall spent many hours gathering stacks and stacks of books to borrow from the library, fueling her love for writing.
"I thought libraries were these magical places," Parshall said during her lecture at Oakton Library on Feb. 3. "If you take a look at all these books, it's just a world of different places and people. Libraries fed my desire to be a writer."
Parshall, of McLean, always had her head in the clouds, living more in her imagination than in the real world. She'd fill notebooks with fictional stories, always hoping she'd one day become a published writer.
Now with three published novels and a fourth due out in September, Parshall is living her dream, though in a genre she never expected: mystery.
"I wrote several novels, sort of mainstream literary stuff without a lot of plot but with a lot of interior character stuff," Parshall said. "I couldn't get them published."
Then she had a dream: Two little girls, stuck in a thunderstorm, were calling for their mother. When she woke up, she couldn't take her mind off the two girls. Why were they all alone? Where's their mother?
"And that was the genesis of 'The Heat Of The Moon,'" she said of her first novel, which kicked off the Rachel Goddard series. "I didn't know where I'd end up, but it turned out to be a psychological suspense novel. A mystery with no murder."
"The Heat Of The Moon" earned Parshall the Agatha Award for Best First Novel.
Parshall told her audience about her journey to being published, warning any unpublished hopefuls it's as much talent as it is luck. She recounted near misses and long shots with publishing companies. Finally, 16 months after sending out her novel, she received a call from Poisoned Pen Press.
Attendees continued to ask Parshall questions about her writing style and process at the talk sponsored by the Friends of Oakton Library as part of its speaker series.
Some members of the audience learned of Parshall's work for the first time, and others attended to support their writing colleague.
"I came because I devour mysteries," said Sandra Canery, of Mount Vernon, who has a goal of reading any mystery novel by a female author with a female protagonist. "Now that I've discovered Sandra, I have to start all over again. Plus, she's a writer I don't know and she's local, so I want to support her."
Alan Orloff, author of The Last Laff series and "Diamonds for the Dead," has met Parshall on several occasions and wanted to support her.
"As a writer, I always like to see or hear about others' writing process," the Herndon resident said. "There's a very supportive community among writers, especially mystery writers."
He highlighted two in particular, Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, in which both he and Parshall are involved.
Parshall also mentioned the two organizations, saying contacts she's made through them have given her invaluable feedback.
"Mystery writers are a very close-knit community and they're very generous toward one another, very supportive. I think they're just the greatest people in the world. I don't know if there's any other writing community that's quite as close as mystery writers."
The Friends of Oakton Library next host an author April 26 when Tom Jones stops by to talk about his latest book on space exploration.
Sandra Parshall will appear at the Malice Domestic Convention scheduled for April 29 through May 1 in Bethesda, Md.