AN UNEXPECTED WOMAN and giveaway with Sandi Layne

Thanks for taking the time to visit with Manic Readers, Sandi.  

Thank you for having me! 

I read that you started writing when God kept you mostly awake for 30 days but compensated by sending you enough story ideas to fill a notebook.  With writing came not only sleep but the end of something that had bothered you since childhood.  Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Ah. Well, when I was eight years old I began having night terrors and severe nightmares. I was a girl who read The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, and Alice in Wonderland, as a rule, and watched Little House on the Prairie and The Walton’s on television, so having violent dreams involving horrific mayhem and, frankly, a lot of death was unexpected. I began having difficulties sleeping and the problem continued until I began writing, in my thirties.  I still suffer from insomnia, but I figure my body never really got used to sleeping.

When I began writing, I found I ceased having the kinds of dreams that woke me up terrified. We all have nightmares in our dream cycles, so I am thinking mine are more “normal” now than they were, then. These days, when my dreams do become frightening, it’s usually because I haven’t been writing enough.  Oddly, this does happen on occasion.

I still have the notebooks with the “story starts” I jotted down all those years ago.  I’ve even turned some of those notes into actual books.

That’s really interesting that you have bad dreams again when you aren’t writing enough.  I know a couple of lil fellas who have night terrors, poor things. 

Had you ever considered writing before being so divinely inspired?

Not novels, certainly. I had considered writing curriculum series for Sunday School, perhaps, but not stories. But when a certain thing keeps being brought to the forefront of my mind, I figure I should at least explore it.  And I found that writing stories came easily to me. Not that those first several novels were any good, mind.  But they developed well and I learned a great deal from them.

You write mostly contemporary inspirational romance but you’ve also written the first in an historical series.  Can you tell us a bit about the series and your stand alones?

The series is about the early Viking incursions into Ireland, focusing on the build up to the usurpation of the high kingship by a Norwegian leader named Tuirgeis (or Thorgest, as he is sometimes alternately called).  There is also a dash of the supernatural involved in a character named Charis. She isn’t precisely human, is largely believed to be one of the bhaen sidhe (banshee), and she doesn’t age once she reaches maturity.  The title of the series is the Éire’s Viking Trilogy. Éire is the old name of Ireland, of course, and the Viking in it actually refers to Agnarr, who is the man who captures Charis in book one. He returns in book two and is also a key player in book three, being the only character to have a significant narrative voice in all three novels.

At this time, I don’t have a stand-alone historical novel, but I’m researching for one. For my contemporary works, they’re pretty much all stand-alones.  I self-published a few novels over the pasts decade or so.  I’ve been told my heroines are unconventional but strong, who do their best without “needing a man” to complete their lives. 

Sounds like my kinda heroines!  You don’t meet a lot of banshee’s so that should be interesting. 

Please tell us about your current release, AN UNEXPECTED WOMAN.

This was a great deal of fun to write.  The heroine, Shelley, has a job that is conventionally done by a man. It is, in fact, a job my husband used to have, once upon a time.  He was very much involved with how I created Shelley and how her days would go and how she approached her life and work. The hero is a fellow I created as a supporting character for a book that came out in 2003. I felt guilty for making him fall in love and then taking the woman away, so I waited until I “found” someone who would suit him.  

The setting for this book is North Fort Myers, in Southwest Florida. I lived there for several years and experienced my share of hurricanes.  I figured I had to put those experiences to good use. So I tried! 

I know the area; visited my brother when he taught EOD at the Air Force base there 

Who’s in charge, you or the characters?

I am in charge. When I first began writing—that inaugural, insane year—I let my characters rule the stories. That was, for me, disastrous. *laughing*  

Do you have a favorite character, either one you wrote or someone else’s?

Wow! Great question. I’ve read so many fascinating characters, I don’t know that I have a “favorite” but I can say I greatly admire Michael Hosea, the hero in Francine Rivers’s book, Redeeming Love. I also admire Stu Redman in Stephen King’s The Stand. One of my favorite fictional females is possibly Sister Fidelma, from Peter Tremayne’s series of mysteries that focus on her.

I have Redeeming Love on my TBR mountain. Adore Sister Fidelma but Stephen King lost me with Pet Cemetery.

What do you personally enjoy reading?

I enjoy an intricate, involved story.  Tom Clancy does this well and I like many of his Jack Ryan books. History (as noted below) that covers early America Colonial America and ancient civilizations all over the world is also a favorite. I like romances that startle me while still providing a satisfying conclusion, historical fiction that includes real historical characters, and speculative fiction. 

I read that you enjoy non-fiction history.  Do you have any favorite authors?

Thomas Cahill comes immediately to mind, as does David McCullough. These two write wonderful, readable history in such a way that makes me want to know more about what they’re sharing. They encourage my imagination and send me to research. It’s a fully comprehensive experience.

I haven’t read either but I do have a couple of McCullough’s on my mountain. Alison Weir and Carolly Erickson are two I’ve read the most.

Is there a genre you’d like to write other than romance?

I’ve written a short story which someone called “cyberpunk” several years ago and that was kind of a ride. I’d really like to be able to write a mystery that made sense, but the intricacies involved with plotting one and leaving just enough for the reader to follow and not feel foolish at the denouement is beyond me. I’ve tried, believe me.  

Do you have a favorite historical period?

A favorite? I think I am most familiar with the older Celtic cultures as well as Ancient Roman, and I’ve studied Regency England a good deal as well. But as to a favorite, no, I don’t think so. I find all of types of people and places to be intriguing. Discovering the hows and whys of different societies before they disappeared or developed into our modern world is fascinating. 

I love history as well but the closer you get to present day the less interested I am.

Do you currently have a WIP?  If so, is there anything about it you can share with us?

My current WIP is the final book of the Éire’s Viking Trilogy. Its working title is Éire’s Devil King and it lets my readers get to know Tuirgeis, who will later be considered one of the bloodiest tyrants of Ireland.  The histories tell one tale of him; I am telling another.

I am also doing research on a novel set in America before the French and Indian War.  

 Éire’s Devil King sounds good.

Are you currently reading anything?

I am currently reading Riverbend by Andrea Goodson, Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy. 

What’s your secret for delicious roasted turkey?

Basting! I use a selection of fresh herbs in the cavity of the bird and engage in frequent basting during the roasting process. Kosher sea salt and freshly minced garlic are rubbed within and without, as well. I do enjoy the process.

It’s been a pleasure to meet you Sandi.  Thanks again for stopping by.

Thank you for having me!  The pleasure is mine.



“Put a bow around the woman you want for me, so I’ll know.”

A paradise for some, Florida is a lonely place for Associate Pastor Dr. Mark Countryman. Hurt by relationships in the past, Mark wonders if there is someone out there for him. He asks God to make his will clear.

When he stumbles over local girl Shelley Roberts while out to lunch one afternoon, he feels both an attraction to her and the need to guard his heart. Her chipper and sunny demeanor add brightness to each day he spends with her, but his track record with relationships keeps him from fully opening his heart. Their burgeoning relationship is put to the test when a brewing storm off the Florida Peninsula threatens their city. Shelley prays for God’s help as she prepares for all contingencies, while Mark stands firm in his faith in God’s protection.

 Courtesy of The Writer’s Coffeshop and Sandi Manic Readers has a digital copy of an UNEXPECTED WOMAN to give away to one lucky commenter.  Do you think sharing a belief system is important in a relationship?  Giveaway ends @12 am est 7-11-13 with the winner announced shortly thereafter.  Good luck!


Manic Readers Review

Dr.Mark Countryman has been the Ass. Pastor of Education at a large church in Fort Meyers,Fla.for three years now.  He’s been unfortunate in love and is beginning to believe it may be God’s intention for him to remain alone.  When he runs into Shelley Roberts, literally, at China Town, his favorite Chinese restaurant, the brief encounter leaves a lasting impression on both of them.  Maybe being a singleton isn’t what God has in store for Mark after all.

Mark is coming up on his fortieth birthday and is still alone.  In order to be sure of the woman God intends for him, if one is even in his plans for him, he asks she be wrapped in ribbons and bows. Mark believes this will prevent confusion or disappointment on his part.

God appears to have been listening when Shelley, in her capacity as a furniture tech for a high end furniture company, is specifically requested to make repairs on delivery damages to multiple pieces at a church.  She couldn’t be more surprised when TDH (Tall, Dark, and Handsome) aka Mark is the occupant of one of the offices with damaged furniture.

Shelley lost her mother when she was 11 to breast cancer.  This tragedy shaped Shelley’s strong faith in God.  Her mother left Shelley and her brother a priceless gift in the form of letters, one a year on their birthdays. Shelley’s last letter was received on her 21st birthday.  The letters were comprised of her mother’s knowledge and insights into life, love, men, and marriage.  They are a guide and source of comfort to Shelley.    Quotes from these letters make wonderfully descriptive chapter headings managing to define each succinctly.

Mark and Shelley complement each other well.  She loosens him up a bit and he tempers her.  In the beginning Shelley keeps a professional distance since Mark is considered a client.  Mark has some reservations regarding their age difference and because of Shelley’s delight in and insistence on their friendship.  The progression of their relationship is sweet and believably Christian based.  However, there were instances it felt shoehorned in, just a bit much.  The only other thing that bothered me was Mark’s aversion to hurricane preparedness. Surely as a pastor he had helped raise funds for hurricane victims.  He had to be aware of the devastation the storms can cause.  Despite the fact Mark’s position illustrates having faith in God to protect us vs man’s attempt at preparation to the nth degree it still came across as plain bullheadedness for me.

All things considered Mark and Shelley’s story is an enjoyable faith based love story alternative to the more explicit contemporary love story that abounds today.

3.25 stars

The Writer’s Coffeeshop

Amazon , B&N, Itunes, and Kobo

Visit Sandi

Sandi on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads


Be Sociable, Share!

4 comments to AN UNEXPECTED WOMAN and giveaway with Sandi Layne

  • Lindsey V.

    I definitely think sharing a belief system is important. It is such a huge part of a person that I don’t know how a relationship could work if two people have two completely differing ideas.

    Thank you so much for the post and giveaway! An Unexpected Woman is a book I definitely want to read, so fingers crossed. 🙂

    Best Wishes,
    Lindsey V.

  • bn100

    it’s somewhat important

  • Andrea

    I think having a similar faith base assists in the relationship. My husband and I grew up in very different protestant households. We hold the same base faith in the same God but our interpretations are different in some cases. This has allowed us to have some very in depth conversations that I never had in previous relationships and honestly it was part of what drew me to him.

  • Mary Preston

    I think that sharing beliefs would create great harmony.