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 Online Magazine 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, a UNESCO City of Literature. 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. Her website gives further information: www.live-from-jd.com.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Quick Walk to Murder. When did you start writing and what got you into mystery?
I started writing in earnest when I was in graduate school studying literature and teaching writing as a Fellow. While practicing freewriting, my inner muse or demon broke free. That was a scary experience as I began writing obsessively and often wrote something I didn’t know that I had written. Of course, I thought I was insane. With time, I accepted that I was a creative writer whose muse had been put in a coma by traumatic childhood experiences. I was glad she now was an integral part of my life. During this strange episode in my career, I wrote and published my first poem in a literary journal. When I found out I could present a creative dissertation for my doctoral degree, it was easy to come up with enough poems to meet the requirements. The collection was accepted and I received a Doctor of Arts degree.
Accepting advice from my mentor who believed the rigors of an academic life damaged a writer’s imagination, I chose not to apply for full-time positions. As I traveled and taught as an adjunct and wrote in the following years, I had several poems and short fiction pieces accepted in small literary journals.
After writing my first novel I searched for an agent. I’ve had two. Neither were successful in selling one of my books. I’ve always been a lover of mysteries. I decided to try my hand at writing one. After reading my not fully evolved manuscript, to New York editor, Lou Aronica he said, “I don’t know if you have the DNA to write a mystery.” I took the challenge and buckled down to learning the craft.
What is your book about?
Quick Walk to Murder is a mystery, so of course there’s a sleuth trying to nail a murderer. In this case, she’s property manager/artist, Jessie Murphy. 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.
What was your inspiration for it?
Quick Walk to Murder is the second in the Jessie Murphy mystery series. The first book received positive reviews, but I had already sat down and written the first draft of the second.
Quick Walk to Murder’s amateur sleuth is twenty eight, Irish, and a fledgling artist. Her first name is my mother’s middle name. Her last name was my mother’s maiden name. While she is no doubt my alter ego, she was also developed from how I envisioned my creative beloved mother to be at this young age. 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 several years ago at the age of 86 Inspiration? Oh, yes!
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
I imagine my reader standing over my shoulder watching the action on the page, experiencing the action as I write. I was asked once by another writer if I ever thought of writing screenplays. There was a reason for that question: I love painting pictures with words to engage my reader. Realistic dialogue, use of metaphors and similes, use of active verbs and specific nouns, helping my readers experience all five senses in scenes—all these writer tools make my writing be active and exciting. I assume my quirky, engaging characters add some pizazz as well.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
When I am writing the first draft of a book and then through the revision process, discipline becomes my middle name. I am lucky to have a mate who honors my profession. Normally, as soon as I put my coffee on, I go to my desk. But I do not have to write only in the mornings. If I can’t do this, I free up other time in the day. If I can’t write that day, I read, knowing I will return to the manuscript soon. Some people having trouble finishing projects. I am compelled to do it. The demands of my muse, coupled with my Midwest background, most likely are causes of this trait.
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
Being in control of my own time. Being my own teacher. Years ago when I began writing obsessively in graduate school, my creative writer mentor said: “Run, don’t walk from academia.” Although the pay was never sure and the road was, and still is as an adjunct, a bartender, a restorer of old homes, more than bumpy, I love that I followed his advice.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
I do. Thanks for asking: www.live-from-jd.com If you go to it, please write me a comment. I love to hear form my readers.
Where is your book available?
Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. CW Fudge and Bert’s Pine Bay Gallery in Matlacha, Florida. The Copperfish Bookstore in Punta Gorda, Florida. It is also available as an ebook and will soon be an Audible book.
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?
Well, my demon is there all right. And I can’t resist or understand her. In my case, my demon was in a coma for years, so once she surfaced through a process of excessive free writing (and yes, that was a scary experience) I let her have her way, thus becoming a way too obsessive writer. It took me years to get the obsession to a healthier place where I added routine exercise, friends and other activities to my writer’s life. I look at the writing process as work not an illness. A struggle? Yes. Long? Yes. Painful, no—not now—at first, yes. Now, I love it when I sit down, put a pencil in my hand and have no idea what is going to happen. So, I have evolved to the place where the experience is not horrible and certainly no longer painful as it once was. Maybe I’m just luckier than George or maybe his demon was edgier and more evil.
Author photo and cover art published with permission from the author.