The mysterious art of writing

Marilyn Jax returns to Books & Books on Friday, 11 March, at 7pm to discuss and sign her new novel, Road to Omalos.

“I love Grand Cayman,” she tells Weekender.

“It’s my home away from home. I’ve been coming here for the last 20 years to escape the cold, snowy winters of Minnesota. I find that writing comes easier for me here. Looking out onto the turquoise water and sandy beach, seeing the palm trees swaying in the breeze, inhaling the intoxicating aroma of night-blooming jasmine and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face – these all put me in the mood to write. And that is exactly what I do when I’m here.”

Road to Omalos is the second outing for the characters of breakthrough novel, The Find – Claire Caswell and Gaston “Guy” Lonbard. And they’re still globe-trotting; The Find was set in London, Miami and Grand Cayman but this time the pair are in Crete. There’s already a third novel, Sapphire Trails, in the offing. A series is developing, no less.

“Yes, a series, but not sequels per se. I plan to write a series of mystery novels that all have the same two main characters. Each book will present the investigative duo with a new, riveting case to solve.”

Government enforcement

Prior to becoming a best-selling author, Jax was employed as a government enforcement investigator in the United States. So how do the two roles differ?

“My cases were highly confidential unless and until they resulted in formal or legal action. Therefore, I was required to keep a low profile and keep my investigations very private. Although I worked on cases some evenings and many weekends, I did find some free time away from my work.

“Being a mystery novelist, however, allows me very little time off. It is my passion and I love it, but it does take up a huge portion of my life. Writing is hard work. Oftentimes I sit at the computer for 12 or more straight hours each day as my stories pour out.

And when I am not writing, I am marketing. My life is filled with speaking engagements, teaching seminars, TV and radio interviews, and book presentations and signings. Life is busy and now my visibility is very public.”

Writers’ Workshop

With the Mystery Writers’ Workshop coming up on Thursday, 17 March from 6pm to 9pm, there’s even more opportunity for aspiring writers to find out about Jax’s intriguing background and how she puts her work together.

“I will discuss the components of mystery writing in depth. Participants will try their hand at writing in two separate exercises and we’ll discuss this activity.

Those attending will leave with much knowledge about mystery writing and an eagerness and excitement to try it themselves. This is edge- of-your-seat learning.

“Mysteries, unlike other genres of fiction, have specific components. Readers of mysteries are looking for a puzzle to solve. Detectives, investigators, police; a bad guy — usually a killer; one or more victims, witnesses, suspects, scapegoats, crime, red herrings, twists and turns, and other interesting characters must all be wrapped up into an intriguing and compelling story line in a mystery novel. Tension must occur periodically and suspense must be present from beginning to end. This keeps the reader turning the pages.”

Life’s mysteries

Life, of course, is full of mysteries, both inside and outside the pages of books.

“I would say that death is a great mystery since no one has died and come back to describe what actually awaits us on the other side. Beliefs about our soul and the afterlife are based upon faith and not upon actual evidence. Also, the mystery of the meaning of life — our purpose — also comes to mind. There has been much scientific, philosophical and theological debate on this topic. Many thoughts. Many theories. But in the end, it’s a mystery each person must figure out for himself or herself.

“Then, I would have to say the great pyramids and the sphinxes. These are true enigmas. How were these amazing structures built and by whom? Fascinating stuff. Again, plenty of theories, but no one knows for sure. It seems that many early civilisations were seemingly more highly technologically advanced than the current age. Certainly a puzzle there. And last, but not least, I think there is a great mystery surrounding success. It seems rich people are not those who have the most, but rather those who need the least.”

Marilyn Jax is at Books & Books on Friday, 11 March, from 7pm to discuss and sign Road to Omalos. Attendance is free.

The Mystery Writers’ Workshop takes place at the bookstore on Thursday, 17 March, from 6-9pm and costs $40, which includes an autographed hardcover copy of either The Find or Road to Omalos.

For more information, contact Bianca Freeland at [email protected]