The 2nd edition of Set Up will be released on February 16th. Indies United Publishing House will re-release the next two in the series, The Hydra Effect (May, 2022) and Nothing Comes After Z (August, 2022) in preparation for the new book, Coyote coming in November of 2022.
What’s your connection to Mexico and in what ways did it inspire Set Up?
I fell in love with Mexico in 4th grade when we studied “Our Neighbors to the South” in social studies class. The book had lots of pictures and I fell in love with the romance of sombreroed men strumming guitars, the little firewood laden donkeys, the dark-eyed beauties with swirling be-ribboned skirts, and most of all, the legend of the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl looming over Mexico City. Having grown up overlooking Mt. Tamalpais with its legend of the Sleeping Lady, I believed the Aztec legend that Iztaccíhuatl was a princess who fell in love with one of her father’s warriors, Popocatépetl. When Popocatépetl returned from war to find his love dead, he took her body to a spot outside Tenochtitlán and kneeled by her grave. The gods covered them with snow and changed them into mountains. Later, my first cousin married a Mexican banker and now I have three generations of family in Mexico City. When I visit, I feel wholly alive as though I belong to the place. It’s hard to explain my reaction, but Mexico has everything to do with inspiring Set Up and the rest of the series.
How did Jade Anne Stone develop for you? Is she based on a real person? You, perhaps?
Although protagonist, JadeAnne Stone and her canine companion and bodyguard Pepper, travel Mexico to find the wife of an American banker who has disappeared in the fashionable resort of Ixtapa, the landscapes, art, architecture and especially the food capture her imagination. Even the pervasive threat of organized crime’s greed-driven degradation and violence sink their talons into her as she comes to belong to this mysterious country steeped in culture and corruption. In this way, JadeAnne is like me. My dog and I drove a VW camper to Mexico and, like Jade, we were threatened by armed narco thugs on the Pan American Highway. (Parsley and I were not kidnapped.) Jade started out with a world view similar to mine but as she developed, she became her own person—a much thinner, younger and braver woman! She wears bikinis and knows how to shoot a Glock. I don’t. Jade fights for her convictions. I tend to send donations. But Jade and I share some familial experience; some of her wounds are a tad too familiar, but overall, she’s a stronger woman than I am, and she continues to demonstrate it when she refuses to act the way I try to write her.
What draws you to write thrillers? Have you written any other fiction genres?
Writing about horrible things like human trafficking isn’t always pleasant, but I love writing action scenes and I love building the tension needed to get a reader’s blood pounding. That said, I write in more genres than thrillers. Right now I’m working on the memoir of my time in Mexico with my chilango boyfriend. Yes, he’s a character in The Hydra Effect, but I’ll let you figure out which one! I’m also working on “the great American dysfunctional family” novel loosely based on my own family. I used to write a lifestyle column for a local paper, and still enjoy writing a personal essay now and then, and I read and write poetry. I love poetry so much, I produce the North Bay Poetics—Rooted in Words, a grassroots Zoom community of poets, poetry lovers, artists and anyone interested for speakers and readings. So far we’ve hosted 6 poet laureates and 1 Pulitzer winner. My first two chapbooks, Nature Girl and Little Palace of Illness are available on Amazon and the third, currently titled WIP, will be found poems on the topic of global warming and hopefully will come out this summer.
You’re also a poet. In what ways do poetry and fiction writing feed different parts of your creative soul?
I can definitively say writing poetry is a wonderful tool to get at the essence of things. Poetry makes me see in more essential ways. It isn’t only about how something looks, but also about what’s at its center, what it means. I encourage writers to bring this to their fiction writing. When I’m stuck, I write a poem. It’s like mental floss. The elemental, emotional aspect—the guts—of writing the poem can clear away the intellectual debris of exposition and leaving the prose cleaner and more deeply meaningful. Simply put, poetic technique applied to prose can tighten it up and make it pop. But to answer the question, poetry is like sitting on the deck, smelling your potted Meyer lemon’s blossoms and gazing at the bright yellow lemons still clinging between the waxy leaves—it’s complete, the past and the future. Stories are more of a walk in the woods, with every bend in the path comes a new vista, perhaps a pond, or a swath of grassland and with that vista, new smells, the sweet humus of rotting wood or the dusty scent of serpentine and chert. Maybe a bay thicket. Prose has a beginning, middle and end, but a good story opens up possibilities that there could be more, even if in the reader’s imagination. I think humans need both the contained and the opening up.
What do you read?
I’m an eclectic reader. I read thrillers and mysteries by my siblings in Sisters in Crime, the occasional literary prize winner (I loved the Goldfinch), and I’m reading books set against the backdrop of WWII. I just finished Miss Eliza’s English Kitchen set in 1835, and a fun modern romance in the For the Birds series (and loved them both!). I listened to Educated, a memoir, and I’m in the middle of The Dope, The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade, which I highly recommend, and an anthology of poems edited by Molly Fisk, California Fire & Water. Next up: Bukowski in a Sundress, Confessions from a Writing Life, by Kim Addonizio. Oh and the latest Johnny Was catalog, which arrived in today’s mail.
Can you share a few tips for novice writers just getting started on their writing journey?
My advice to emerging writers is to read a lot. Write a lot. Submit. Meet other writers—take a class or at your local community college, join writers organizations, attend conferences. When you’ve made some writerly friends, form a critique group and meet regularly to discuss the merits and mistakes of your work, then revise. Thomas Edison might have been talking about writing when he said, “success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” When you think you’re done, reevaluate who you’re writing for, hire an editor and revise again. And don’t forget to proofread your work!
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