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Thursday, 14 August 2014

Interview: Jax Daniels, author of the Winki Witherspoon series

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I recently had the opportunity to interview author Jax Daniels, who also participates in the same writers group as me. Her novel, The Dead Man's Deal is due for immediate release

About Jax

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Bug me:

Jax Daniels was born in Chicago, raised in Denver, educated in Berkeley (go Bears!), and employed as a software engineer in the Bay Area and Seattle. Needless to say, she’s seen a good deal of the continental US, so when it came time for her and her husband to settle down, they picked New Orleans. They live in a townhouse they call “The Tower” in Uptown with their two dogs, Savannah and Bert. She spends her time writing, walking, yoga-ing, and making stained glass creations.

Hi Jax! Thank you for giving the time for an interview. Would you like to start with a bit of background on who you are and what got you into writing?

Funny thing, writing was NEVER on the my bucket list.  I avoided all things literature and English (that's what we call the reading/writing classes in the states) all through high school and college.  In fact, in order to graduate from UC Berkeley, undergrads needed one year of English, and I put that off until my senior year!  I loved mathematics, which I majored in, and immediately got work at Apple Computer after graduating in 1988.  Yes.  I'm old.

But I had an active imagination.  And for some reason decided I needed to put these stories onto paper to get them out of my head (okay, I've never once written ON paper; I've always used computers).  That was back in 1990.  I've been writing my fantasies ever since.

One of these days I'll dust off those stories and rewrite them.  That should seriously torture my writer's group.... muwahaha!

Wow that was quite a change of direction! I assume you carried on working your day job, but did you find that working in words instead of numbers came easily? Or was it a slow slog at first to get words on the page?
The words came out easily since the images in my head were like watching a movie, so easy to describe.  But they didn't come out well.  It took many hours of writing and comments from readers (like writer's group) to get the words useful, colorful, and entertaining to others besides me (I'm always entertained by my work!).

Your perseverance has certainly paid off as your first novel is about to come out. Did you have any inkling this one was it? And for bonus points, can you estimate how many did come before it?
My husband is my best critic, having read a TON of books.  When he told me this one was good I knew I was onto something.  The poor guy suffered through roughly a dozen prior works, none of which were well written.
I also owe my friend Jennifer for this book.  She edited another of my books with a male hero, but she suggested I try a female one.

Now I pass the page over to you for a minute, tell us a bit about your book, what makes it different from all the other novels out there, and why we should pick it up.
The Dead Man's Deal has a number of things that set it apart from other urban fantasies.  It was inspired by my hometown of New Orleans, which is where the story is set, a city known for vampires (thanks to Anne Rice) and voo doo.  The grand mansions and manors in Uptown and Garden District definitely inspired Witherspoon Manor, the home of the heroine, Winki Witherspoon.  Among the wacky staff that she inherits, all with magical "talents" of their own, she discovers her "mentors" aren't limited to people—she has to deal with a cockroach with attitude and a spider as a personal trainer.
In short the book is a fun read.  I hope to make you laugh, cry, root for the heros, engage in the mystery, and solve the "whodunit."

I love your little cockroach, not a normal statement, but one I think most readers of the book will agree with. I just don't think they should turn up to fan events dressed as one! The book had a number of strong characters, but what was your favourite aspect? The characters, mystery, kick ass, or something else?
This is the first story where I'm quite please with the whole enchilada; interesting characters, engaging plot, strong woman hero.

Although I have to say, some of the characters were extremely difficult to write.  In fact, when I first came up with the idea of a cockroach familiar I rejected it immediately.  I mean, who'd want that?!  Not me!  But I did want something small, and let's face it, cats and dogs have been done to death.  And, we were in New Orleans, home of the cockroach.  Thus, Hercule was born!  

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Now Herule, your cockroach, is a kind of familiar, a friend and guide to supernatural beings. Many authors seem to have a familiar of their own to keep them company, or just nap on the warm computer. Do you have anyone in your life that fits this role?
I have no "familiar" as far as guides, but I do have two dogs that love to interrupt my writing sessions!  They seem certain that I'll get more inspiration if I just pet them for a while.

Well, all authors need someone to remind them to eat from time to time! Talking of eating, it played quite a part in socialising in your book. Your characters felt very filled out and not just from the food. Were these all your imagination, or did you use people you knew?
It's New Orleans! We love food! My characters definitely have some influences of people I've seen in movies and on TV—it's hard not to be influenced these days!  I don't watch tons of TV (and rarely movies) but enough to fill "way too much time."  And my tastes in entertainment vary drastically; I like silly shows like Psych to drama-type shows like Justified and Major Crimes, sci fi shows like Warehouse 13, Stargate SG1, fantasy shows like Once Upon A Time, and humorous stuff like Big Band Theory.  Even British stuff we get over here (Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, and Lewis).  I suspect that I'm not alone in that, watching a bunch of different genres, so I sprinkle little bits of pop culture into my writing to keep my readers on their toes.

What do you read and watch, both now and as a child? Do you think this has influenced your writing style or subject?
As a child I was greatly influence by the original Star Trek.  And Sesame Street :)  Yup, I think that is a really good insight into the mind of Winki!

Funny thing, until very recently I wasn't a big reader at all.  I hated books.  Holding them was a hassled (especially if they were big), toting them was a pain in the neck (literally!), and trying to read at night meant fiddling with book lights or bothering my husband with a desk light.  Very rarely would I bother, except for authors like Anne Rice, Agatha Christie, and fun mysteries like Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.  Then came the data pad, and I started reading like wild.  I'm a big fan of The Dresden Files, The Iron Druid Series, and the Mary Russell series.  I gravitate to an engaging story that's fun to read—the “take it anywhere and enjoy the afternoon” type of books.

Given your eclectic tastes, who would you recommend this book to?
I recommend this book to someone looking for a bit of fun or escapism.  I see The Dead Man's Deal being enjoyed by number of readers;  YA, fantasy, foodies, gamers, and anyone who's interested in New Orleans. 

And lastly I'd like to pass you the floor. Do you have anything you'd like to say?
I'd like to acknowledge the people who helped shape this book, like the poor souls of my writer's group, Leasspell.  The Dead Man's Deal wouldn't exist without their honesty, wisdom, and guidance over the last 15 years (good gravy!).

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me.

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