After my last blog post I was pleased to hear from multiple authors who want to be interviewed this year. I’ve got some great authors lined up, but there’s still room in the schedule if you or someone you know would like to be interviewed. This week you’ll get to know Sally Handley, author of multiple books including the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series. Enjoy the interview!

About the Author

Current secretary and past president of the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Sally Handley is author of the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series and the stand-alone suspense novel, Stop the Threat. Additionally, she writes a series on the new Kindle Vella platform entitled The Adventures of Trixie, written from her faithful companion’s point of view. Finally, Sally also writes an occasional blog entitled On Writing, Reading and Retirement at


Who or what inspires you to write?

A love of words, the books I read, the movies and television shows I watch, even a conversation on a provocative topic are all sources of inspiration for me. Any one of those can trigger the idea for a story I want to write. For example, I loved the PBS series, Rosemary and Thyme. That was the inspiration for my Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series. The trigger for Stop the Threat was a discussion about active shooters at a local Citizen’s Police Academy class I attended. When someone mentioned arming teachers, I asked myself what might actually happen if teachers were required to carry guns. Stop the Threat was the result.

It sounds like you find inspiration in many things and have no shortage of ideas. Asking that “what if” question can lead to some of the best stories. What is the best thing that has happened because of your writing?

I have to say becoming a member of a few writing groups has been the best thing that’s happened because of my writing. First, I discovered the International Women’s Writers Guild. As a result of attending their conference, I took a writing class where I learned about Malice Domestic, a yearly conference for traditional mystery writers and readers. Attending that conference, I learned about Sisters in Crime. It’s just wonderful to be part of these groups of like-minded individuals who share your dreams and goals. These writing communities have been invaluable sources of support, friendship, and inspiration as well.

I’ve heard repeatedly from other authors that writing groups are so important, and I whole-heartedly agree. Writing and publishing my book would have been incredibly difficult without my writing groups. What is the most difficult thing you have experienced about writing or publishing?

The most difficult thing is the self-doubt all writers feel at times—the sense that you have no talent whatsoever and you’re totally wasting your time. You really have to work to combat those discouraging feelings because they stop you dead in your tracks. That’s one of the reasons belonging to a writers’ group is so very important. Writing is a rather solitary endeavor, so having a supportive network is essential to keeping you motivated.

That self-doubt can be a real creativity crusher, and it’s very common. Was there anything you didn’t you do during your writing or publishing journey that you wish you had?

Though I started writing Second Bloom, my first Holly and Ivy book, while I was still working full-time, I didn’t have the time to really devote to it until I retired. But once I retired, I pretty much did exactly what I wanted and can’t think of anything I would have done differently.

I also wrote my first book while working full-time, and it was hard! It’s wonderful that you’re retired now and can do whatever you want. Do you have a publisher and/or agent, or are you an indie (self-published) or hybrid author?

I am an independently published author. When I finished my first book, I sent it to a few agents and publishers and got the standard rejection form letters. I had begun to write Frost On the Bloom, the second book in the series, and when I would get those rejections, I found them so discouraging that I didn’t want to sit down and get to work in the morning. That’s when I discovered Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) on Amazon and decided to go that route. I’ve never regretted it.

I know many independently published authors who are really happy with that choice, including some that were first traditionally published. Which genre(s) do you prefer for your writing, and why?

My Holly and Ivy series is pure cozy mystery. I have always loved to read cozies, so it’s a world I love to inhabit. A mystery is basically a formula and like most mystery fans, I love the challenge of trying to figure out whodunit. But the characters, of course, are the main draw. If I’m going to read a series, I want the characters to be people I like spending time with. Then I read right through the series. The fans of my books who write usually say they enjoy the two sisters, as well as the other recurring characters.

Your characters sound really fun and cozy mysteries are very popular. Do you outline your books before you write them?

I was an incurable outliner when I wrote papers in college or in my career as a business writer, but I have to confess, I do not outline my novels. I have the basic plot in my head when I start – the crime or mystery, whodunit and how, and a short list of suspects. I may even have envisioned some of the major scenes. But basically I start writing and what the characters say and do usually dictates what follows. At certain points, if I’m not exactly sure what needs to happen next, I sit down with a legal pad and do what I call plotting. I think about some possibilities and what might have to happen as a result of any of those options. Settling on one is what gets me writing again.

Being a pantser and sometimes plotter sounds like a successful method for you. How do you define success as a writer?

Since I’m self-published and not a young writer starting out, trying to make a living at writing, I’m free of the need to meet sales goals, the standard definition of success. On the other hand, while I’d like to think that the act of writing is its own reward, it really is important to know that people read and enjoy what I write. I feel successful every time I read a positive review of my books, or someone writes and tells me they enjoyed reading them. I feel especially successful when they ask when the next book is coming out.

Hearing from happy readers is the best reward for many authors. If you could have lunch with any author, who would it be?

Hands down, William Shakespeare. While my writing is about as far from the Bard’s as you can get, I love the works of Shakespeare best of all. I’d love to hear about his process and how he settles on the exquisite images that make me swoon!

Now that would be an interesting lunch! Tell us about a great adventure you’ve had.

Being risk averse, I’m not a very adventurous person. But my answer to the previous question made me think back to younger days. I suppose the most adventurous thing I ever did was apply to Wroxton College in Oxfordshire, England to attend their master’s degree program during summer sessions way back when I was a public school teacher of English. I still remember the excitement I felt the first time I saw a picture of Wroxton Abbey and a description of the program in the National Education Association (NEA) Magazine. It felt rather dream-like. I have to tell you this was one of the times in my life when the actual experience surpassed what I imagined it would be.

We actually lived and studied in an abbey built in the twelfth century. We studied and attended the plays being performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theater in Stratford with guest lecturers from all over the UK. On weekends we toured sites ranging from London to Tintern Abbey to the Lake District. I attended for three summers. One of my favorite memories was attending an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Broughton Castle. Puck made his entrance arriving by boat on the castle’s moat. It was magical. The Wroxton experience had to be the greatest adventure of my life.

That’s a great adventure and an amazing achievement. Sally, thank you so much for sharing your experience and adventures with us.

Readers, you can learn more about Sally at her website, Find out about her latest book, below.

The Blooming Treasure Murder (Book 5 in the Holly and Ivy Mystery series)

When look-alike sisters, Holly and Ivy Donnelly, receive an invitation to their Aunt Margaret Lowe’s memorial service and the reading of her will, they’re surprised to see their estranged sister Fern’s name on the invitation list. Excited to reunite with Fern, Ivy insists they attend. Holly has mixed feelings about the impending reunion. Complicating matters, a unique provision in their aunt’s will requires the inheritors to participate in a treasure hunt to receive their inheritance. Sounds like fun, until they discover a dead body in the library of the Lowe mansion. The Donnelly sisters’ sleuthing skills are put to the test when they must solve the treasure hunt riddles and catch a cold-blooded killer.

You can see all of Sally’s books and purchase them on her Amazon author page:

Readers, have you ever done a treasure hunt? Let us know in the comments!

10 thoughts on “Author Interview—Sally Handley

    1. Yes, Sally is very inspiring! I loved hearing how she finds inspiration. It’s a good reminder that writers can find inspiration just about anywhere if we give it some thought. Thanks for the comment, Alicia!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sally is an excellent writer. I really found her book, Stop the Threat, both thought provoking and exciting. I’ll have to check out her series. I enjoyed reading this interview. Good job.

    Liked by 1 person

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