A chat with j.d. daniels, author of 'Quick Walk to Murder'

jd daniels holds a Doctor of Arts degree from Drake University with a dissertation of her poetry.  Her award-winning fiction, non-fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including: The Broad River Review, The Sylvan Echo, The Elkhorn Review, Doorknobs & Bodypaint: An Anthology, The National PEN Woman’s OnlineMagazine and riverbabble. “Nancy’s Woodcut” won a prize in a contest sponsored by Emerson College, Cambridge University.
Say Yes, a book of poetry, 2013 topped the local bestseller list in Iowa City. The Old Wolf Lady:  Wawewa Mepemoa, was awarded a publication grant from The Iowa Arts Council and three research grants from the college where she still teaches writing. Minute of Darkness and Eighteen Flash Fiction Stories debuted January, 2015. Through Pelican Eyes, 2014 is the first of the Jessie Murphy Mystery Series.             
The Iowa Arts and Poets & Writers Directories invited her inclusion. She is also a co-founder and an editor for Prairie Wolf Press Review, a literary online journal featuring new and emerging writers and visual artists. jd maintains a blog, is a member of two critique groups, Mystery Writers of America, and South West Florida PEN Women. Quick Walk to Murder, the Second Jessie Murphy Mystery, was recently released.  Visit her website to find where you can get her book.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Quick Walk to Murder, and what compelled you to write it.   
j.d. daniels: Quick Walk to Murder—the second in a planned series—is a who-dun-it, so of course there’s a sleuth trying to nail a murderer.  In this case, she’s property manager/artist, Jessie Murphy. 
I love my amateur sleuth, Jessie Murphy.  She’s my alter ego and has bits and pieces of my creative mother in her as well.  The protagonist’s first name is my mother’s middle name.  Her last was my mother’s maiden name. Thus, each time I write a book with Jessie Murphy in it, I’m also exploring and visiting my mother’s life who passed away at the age of eight-six.  I get great satisfaction when I get into her skin and brain to solve these murders.  As soon as I finished the first book with her as a protagonist, I started writing the second.  Plus, Matlacha, Florida, an island I fell in love with, is the perfect setting for this mystery. It’s funky and colorful.  A pleasure to describe.  So, I guess I would say, both wanting to spend more time with the main character and being surrounded by the sea are big factors in compelling and inspiring me to write these mysteries.
M.C.: What is your book about?
j.d. daniels: In Quick Walk to Murder the victim is the son of a Florida crab fisherman.  A couple of years before starting to write this book, I did some leg work with the idea of compiling the personal histories of crab fisher folk in Matlacha and Pine Island. The crab fishing lifestyle in the area was greatly affected by a net ban and is in danger of disappearing.  I thought the story should be told from their point of view.  Unfortunately, after only a few interviews, the project fell through.   After I wrote my first Jessie Murphy mystery, I realized that I wanted to give the crab fishermen’s stories a voice.  So, although the book is about solving a murder, it’s also about the life of crab fisher folk in Pine Island and Matlacha.
The book also explores the issues involved in getting over the mourning of a loved one and moving on.
M.C.:  What themes do you explore in Quick Walk to Murder?
j.d. daniels: 1. Corruption 2. Manipulation 3. Beating the odds 4. Perseverance 5. Friendship
M.C.:  Why do you write?
j.d. daniels: I’m compelled to by my muse.  It’s my passion. For years, I lived the life of Super Mom and Super Wife.  When my kids were in junior high, I went back to complete my college degree.  I completed my undergraduate degree, then my masters.  When I was offered a fellowship to pay for doctoral work, I grabbed it.  I began teaching writing.  While doing this, I free wrote with my students at the beginning of each class to loosen up their imaginations.  That practice changed my life.  My muse or demon, whichever you want to call her, broke free and I mean FREE!  It was a physical, emotional and mentally painful experience.  I’ve been writing ever since.  I guess she was in some kind of coma all those early adult years—now she won’t be denied.
M.C.:  When do you feel the most creative?
j.d. daniels: Probably in the morning.  But if I take my notebook or journal to a cafĂ© or sit near the sea, I usually can spill out a paragraph or two or a poem.  There is something about being near water that tickles my muse.
M.C.:  How picky are you with language?
j.d. daniels: Very.  I’ve taught writing for years at the college level.  I also write poetry and flash fiction where every word counts.  Words and writing strategies should be chosen with consideration to its sound and to how or what the word might trigger in the mind of a reader.  I hope this is evident in my writing.
M.C.:  When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
j.d. daniels: Interesting question: When I write well, I am in a zone that no one but me and my muse can enter.  As I said before, I’m very aware that I have an inner muse that either helps me write or even writes for me.  Is that being manipulated from afar?  Not really—from within.
M.C.:  What is your worst time as a writer?
j.d. daniels: When I’m not writing because others or circumstance are demanding my writing time. There are, of course, plenty of times I give my writing a break—that’s more than fine.  It’s when I lose control of when that happens that makes me unhappy.  Does that make me a control freak?
M.C.:  Your best?
j.d. daniels: When I’m in my zone.  Love that place.  Crave that place.
M.C.:  Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
j.d. daniels: I hope not.  If I went blind?  No, I could use voice recognition.  If I lost my hands?  Voice recognition again.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
j.d. daniels: I think it was when my first piece was published.  When I saw my words on the page of the college literary journal and my name at the end, it was, well, it was a stunning feeling.  Realizing that day that someone who didn’t know me personally, but only my words had chosen them to be worthy of publishing was a moment I will never forget.
M.C.:  Is writing an obsession to you?
j.d. daniels: Oh, yeah.  Big time.  Had to learn to curb the time I spend doing it.  I was becoming way too weird.
M.C.:  Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
j.d. daniels: Always.  In some way.  Maybe the setting.  Maybe the experience.  Maybe just the theme, but connected.  Definitely connected.
M.C.:  Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” 
j.d. daniels: Absolutely.  If you are a writer like me who is driven to write, to not stay drunk on it would make for a reality that would destroy me.  Sure. Not a pleasant thought, but sure.