Sandra Chandler had always hoped that one day one of her stories would be published, and now her debut novel, “Outcast of the Dream World,” has turned that vision into a reality.
Chandler, 57, grew up in Hustonville as the youngest of nine children, helping at Jim Wilcher's Market, the family business owned by her parents, Dorothy and Jim Wilcher. A small-town girl, she said she never expected a company to call and tell her it was interested in her books.
Chandler said her first published novel deals with the "dreamworld."
That may not be much of a surprise, given her creative writing efforts were initially focused on dreams when she was young. Chandler said some of her early writing involved the nightmares of her older sister.
“My sister and I on Saturday nights would go roller skating and then come home and watch late-night movies, which would normally be thriller movies,” Chandler said. “But we didn't have cable; we had a tower, and that cut off at midnight so we never got to see the end of the movies.”
The lack of closure that came with missing the end of the thriller movies always seemed to upset her older sibling, so one night, Chandler decided to make up an ending herself.
Giving the movies happy endings where good would win out over evil helped with her sister's nightmares. Her stories also planted the seeds that would grow into Chandler's dream of being a published author.
Chandler said she gets her inspiration from those old thriller movies that started it all. A gothic soap opera, “Dark Shadows,” especially influenced the style of her writing.
Vivian Sphar, one of Chandler's older sisters, remembers how her sister would always be envisioning a new story in her head.
“She was always in the gothic and the victorian,” Sphar said. “She has always written stories ever since I can remember.”
Early on though, Chandler's writings were more of a personal fantasy than something she wanted to share with others. The original stories she was writing were for her own enjoyment, and at first, she only shared them with a few of her classmates.
Her classmates enjoyed her horror-themed, adventurous short stories and encouraged her to keep writing. Even the local preacher's wife and daughter enjoyed the stories, although some of the horror didn't suit the taste of the older woman.
“She thought it was a bit much, but it's nothing compared to what people watch on the movies these days,” Chandler said. “Very mild.”
As she progressed through her teen years, Chandler created a vampire character named David and wrote a short story about him. After encouragement from friends, she wrote a sequel and then a third story.
Those short stories were not the end of it. Soon, Chandler's short stories had developed into chapters, and those chapters had become a book, and that book had become a series. Now, 40 years since the creation of David, that original short story has grown into seven books telling his story.
And WestBow Press is publishing all of them.
“I just wanted to write a good story," Chandler said. "A good adventure story.”
Along the way to professional authordom, Chandler fell in love and got married to her husband, Gary, a retired veteran who does civil service at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Chandler also works at Fort Bragg as a management assistant in the medical center, and holds a second job at Barnes and Noble on the weekend.
They live in Fayetteville, N.C., with their son, Brian. Brian's teachers say he has a strong writing gift, just like his mother.
Chandler's books haven't exploded onto the world scene like the “Twilight” series, but her family is very supportive of Chandler and the success she's had.
“We're very proud of her," Sphar said.
Chandler said fame and fortune don't matter much to her. Her passion has always been writing, and she wrote for 40 years without being published or recognized.
For other aspiring authors out there, Chandler said her advice is to stick with your dreams.
“Never give up,” Chandler said. “If you have a dream, just never give up. You've got to have faith.”
Chandler's book, "Outcast of the Dream World," is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle editions from Amazon.com.
More information is available at Chandler's blog, outcastofthedreamworld.tumblr.com.