#SpecialFeature – Tannie Maria & the Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew – Q&A

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Meet Tannie Maria – recipe writer turned crime fighter – and before she has time to take her Venus Chocolate Cake out of the oven, our glorious heroine finds herself embroiled in another mystery.

In this wonderful sequel to Recipes for Love and Murder, Slimkat the bushman finds his life under threat and Tannie Maria is determined to find out who wants to kill him.

But her boyfriend is keen to keep Tannie out of danger, and she’s pretty sure he’s hiding something so Tannie has mysteries of her own solve . . .

Blending a perfect whodunnit with lovable characters, Sally Andrew really does have the perfect recipe for a crime series.

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Don’t Forget Book 1!

A bright new talent makes her fiction debut with this first entry in a delicious crime set in rural South Africa—a flavorful blend of The #1 Ladies Detective Agency and Goldie Schulz series, full of humor, romance, and recipes and featuring a charming cast of characters.

Tannie Maria (Tannie meaning Auntie, the respectful Afrikaans address for a woman older than you) is a middle-aged widow who likes to cook—and eat. She shares her culinary love as a recipe columnist for the local paper—until The Gazette decides its readers are hungrier for advice on matters of the heart rather than ideas for lunch and dinner.

Tannie Maria doesn’t like the change, but soon discovers she has a knack—and a passion—for helping people. Of course she shares her recipes and culinary advice whenever she can! Assisting other people with their problems, Tannie Maria is eventually forced to face her own issues, especially when the troubles of those she helps touch on the pain of her past, like a woman desperate to escape her abusive husband.

When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously entwined in the investigation, despite the best efforts of one striking detective determined to keep her safe. Suddenly, this practical, down-to-earth woman is involved in something much more sinister than perfecting her chocolate cake recipe . . .

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Where are you from? Does the area you live in influence you writing?

I stay on a nature reserve in the Klein Karoo, South Africa. Not far from where my fictional character lives (the small town of Ladismith). I love this area, and my writing is steeped in it. It is where my real and fictional realities overlap: the big open skies, the old wrinkled trees, the jackal and the kudu.

Tell us your latest news!

The Tannie Maria series has been taken on by 21 publishers in 14 languages across the globe. Book #1 in the series, Recipes for Love and Murder, was given the Nielsen Booksellers Choice Award in SA, and was chosen as one of the year’s best books by Oprah Magazine, Kirkus Reviews and Wall Street Journal. It also got high praise from Alexander McCall Smith. Book #2, The Satanic Mechanic is to be released in the USA on 27 March, and was described as ‘sublime’ by Publisher’s Weekly.

When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?

I have been writing since I could read, but have been writing to publish for about 10 years. My very first book was driven by my need to emotionally grapple with my grief about the environmental crisis. My manuscripts have been rejected hundreds of times, but some of the rejecters were very encouraging, which kept me going until I got to my current books. The Tannie Maria series is an expression of my love of the rural Karoo, murder mysteries, and the pure pleasure of playing with words.

What book(s) / author(s) have influenced your life and writing?

Agatha Christie, Herman Charles Bosman, Janet Evanovitch, Erle Stanley Gardner, Barbara Kingsolver, James Lee Burke, Carl Hiaasen, and many more.

Tell us about your characters and how they came to be? Have they been in your head for a long time?

I invented my protagonist, Tannie Maria while sitting under a camel-thorn tree in a remote wilderness area (in Namibia). I was looking for someone down-to-earth, yet humorous, a little off-the-wall. As well as writing a murder mystery, I wanted to explore the theme of love. I decided to do this not only in Maria’s personal life, but by making her an agony aunt (to whom people write, requesting love advice). However, she only actually came into existence when I heard her speak her first words: “Isn’t life funny? You know, how one thing leads to another in a way you just don’t expect …”

In the Karoo, most people speak Afrikaans, so I made Maria half Afrikaans. I kept her other half English (like me) to allow for more diverse character traits. She works closely with Jessie, the feisty young ‘coloured’ investigative journalist with the gecko tattoo, and Hattie, the Mary Poppins-like editor of the Klein Karoo Gazette.

My stories are very character driven. I invent people that I enjoy hanging out with. With each of them, I sketch a notion, in terms of the role I need them to play in my plot, but they only become fully rounded when I watch them in action, and hear how they speak. This happens after I dive down into the writing, and let the current take me.

What motivates you to write?

The deliciousness of falling into that soft ‘other’ world. The pleasure of playing with words and the power of evoking emotions and thoughts in a reader.

I am also motivated by the desire to open my heart and the hearts of others. To help us become the best of ourselves. To heal on a personal and political level. This involves, in part, challenging the many ways in which we damage humans and the earth: xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, environmental destruction … However, I feel it’s important not to be prescriptive as a writer. As I mentioned above, the power is in ‘evoking’, not dictating.

What is the hardest part of writing?

Deadlines. And losing the plot.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned that I really love writing. Also that I can plan and shape the characters and plot, but much of the magic happens in the moment, on the page. I also learned about many topics I researched, e.g. with my latest book, The Satanic Mechanic: post traumatic stress disorder, police procedure, xenophobia, Somalian pirates, religion, how to bake the best cake on the planet, make orange liqueur etc…

Where do you get your ideas?

From the Spar grocery store. They have a half-price special on Tuesdays.


What is the best advice you would give to aspiring authors?

Put in the hours. Polish your work. Persist. Each time you are rejected, send two more submissions. Do what you love, but also learn about and respect the needs of publishers and agents. Find that place where what you love doing overlaps with the needs of others. (If you are just writing for a hobby or your own therapy, then you can ignore this advice.)

What book are you reading now?

The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Archibishop Desmond Tutu. It’s wonderful.


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Sally Andrew is the author of the new Tannie (‘Auntie’) Maria mystery series. Recipes for Love and Murder is followed by The Satanic Mechanic.

Sally lives in a mud-brick house on a nature reserve in the Klein Karoo, South Africa, with her artist partner and other wildlife, including a secretive leopard. Her background is adult education, and political and environmental activism. Her books are being published in fourteen languages by twenty-one publishers internationally.

Photo Credit: Andrea Nixon

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Website | Twitter| Amazon| Goodreads

Photo Credit: Andrea Nixon


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