Joel Fox likes to mix a little history with his mystery. Fox’s newest book is The Mark on Eve, a modern day paranormal suspense with a historical background. A spell cast by an 18th century witch has condemned Eve Hale to an endless life. Centuries later, her secret could unravel and doom the election of the first female president when Eve dives in front of an assassin’s bullet to save the candidate’s life.
Joel Fox also writes the Zane Rigby mystery series. FBI Special Agent Zane Rigby must solve a puzzle from the past of an American president to solve modern day murders.
For over 35 years, Fox has been involved with California politics, serving on numerous state commissions appointed by governors and assembly speakers from both major political parties, working on many ballot issue campaigns, and advising candidates. He is an adjunct professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University.
Fox authored hundreds of opinion pieces published in many national and state publications including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times. He has also contributed non-fiction accounts to various publications on different subjects from California politics to baseball, in a book sanctioned by the Baseball Hall of Fame, entitled What Baseball Means to Me.
Fox grew up in Massachusetts. He says he got his love for history breathing the air in the Boston area, often driving past the homes of the presidents Adams and visiting many historical sites.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Mark on Eve. When did you start writing and what got you into paranormal suspense?
I have written for a couple of decades with some of my work falling within the mystery genre. However, this book has a paranormal aspect to it – a woman who has lived for 300 years. I was curious about how someone would navigate the changing times as America advanced through history. To examine that I needed a character who could not die. Such a story brought me into the realm of the paranormal.
What is your book about?
A woman in colonial America, Eve Hale, is cursed by a jealous witch to live forever. Not aging, she tries to live in the shadows, afraid that if her secret is revealed she will be captured and poked and prodded by people of religion and people of science. Yet, her journey begins to take purpose when she finds herself aiding the female governor of California running for president of the United States. Over the centuries Eve has heard women called wench and Goodwife, Mrs. then Ms, she wants to hear a woman called Madame President. However, when Eve saves the governor from assassination by stepping in front of a bullet and miraculously lives, her secret might be revealed when a persistent reporter wants to find all about the heroine — and can find nothing. The story moves back and forth in time as the modern day Eve flashes back to different eras and places in America. Her life has twists and turns in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to being one of the first women to vote in Wyoming Territory, to following a woman who defied the mores of the day to declare for president in the 1870s, to the Jazz Age in Harlem in the 1920s — always trying to keep out of the spotlight until that fateful day an assassin wants to prevent a woman from becoming president. If Eve’s secret is revealed her greatest fear will be realized and it would also end the governor’s presidential ambitions.
What was your inspiration for The Mark on Eve?
The idea for my book came from an actual Cape Cod legend in which a woman in colonial New England was suspected of witchcraft in drawing her pirate lover’s ship into a storm and the ship sank. The pirate ship Whydah, Captained by Sam Bellamy, was real. It sank in 1717 and was discovered and salvaged in 1984. I simply took some of the persons in the legend and changed the story by asking: What if the woman was not a witch but was be-witched to live forever? It allowed me to explore how she would manage through different periods in American history all the while maintaining suspense in the modern day story in which she tries to keep her secret while giving meaning to her long existence by helping a female governor run for president of the United States.
Did your book require a lot of research?
Yes, I need to do research because while my book takes place today and within a field I know (the political world), there is history and historical characters in this book. I need to learn about these characters, events, and surroundings. While I am not writing history, the feel of the period must be accurate for the readers. In my first mystery, I figured out how the mystery would be solved after discovering a 100-year old book during my research and what it had to say about an historical event I was working on.
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
I believe in keeping the story moving. I rely on relatively short chapters and chapter endings that hopefully leave readers with the desire to see what happens next. In this particular book, I have a number of flashbacks in time so a chapter may end with a question but the next chapter takes place during a different historical period, usually connected in some way to the previous chapter. The reader will get involved in that part of the story and read on to find out what happens in the modern day story.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
I guess there is always some anxiety wondering if the story ideas will flow forth. However, what I often try to do is end the previous day’s work in the middle of a chapter so that I have some sense where I’m going. That way, I find it is easier to pick up the story and move on the next day.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
I do most of my writing in the early morning when everyone is asleep and the phone is not ringing. Usually 5 to 7 a.m. That way I have a sense of accomplishment even before the sun is up and I don’t have to excuse myself from family to get involved in my writing. I also find early morning writing is more conducive to creativity. I think I might work out some of the problems I face with the writing while I’m sleeping. Am I disciplined? Yes and no. When I’m working I rarely miss a day. However, as the project is starting or between projects I don’t sit down and write all the time.
How do you define success?
I once told a writing instructor that I would consider that I was a successful fiction writer when someone pays me for my writing. As an act of encouragement, she sent me a few coins to build my confidence that I was a paid writer. I appreciated the thought but I needed to receive payment from an independent source. Now that I have conquered that step, I look forward having readers tell me they enjoyed what I wrote. That is success.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0692306196]