Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ahoy, JInx Schwartz!

Howdy, friends. Welcome to THE JOY OF STORY. Today you’ll have the joy of meeting mystery fiction writer Jinx Schwartz, and hearing her story, and hearing about how she crafts her stories.

Raised in the jungles of Haiti and Thailand, with returns to Texas in between, Jinx followed her father's steel-toed footsteps into the Construction and Engineering industry in hopes of building dams. Finding all the good rivers taken, she traveled the world defacing other landscapes with mega-projects in Alaska, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Like Hetta Coffey, the protagonist in her mystery series, Jinx was a woman with a yacht—and she wasn't afraid to use it—when she met her husband, Mad Dog Schwartz. Together they opted to become cash-poor cruisers rather than continue chasing the rat, so they sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, turned left, and headed for Mexico. They now divide their time between Arizona and Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

John: Welcome aboard Jinx. And thanks for spending some time with us. What an adventurous life you lead! How much of your past shows up in your fiction? How much of your present?

Jinx: Ah, the age-old question for a writer: what is the relationship between truth and fiction?

In my case, the edges blur. As with most writers, I take a truth, embellish it greatly, and come up with fiction. In the case of Land of Mountains (Finalist for 2012 EPIC Award for best YA), I pulled events from my childhood in Haiti, slathered it with a whole lot of fictitious, mysterious adventure, and came up with a fictography (a term I blatantly stole from the back cover of John Grisham's A Painted House.)

Lizbuthann, who moves to Haiti as a ten-year-old, spends the next two years coming of age, along with her best friend Doux Doux Boudreaux, in a village fraught with voodoo goings-on, political unrest, and a really pesky zombie.  She lives in an era when, even in a country such as Haiti, little girls were free to ride their horses through jungles and indulge in a great deal of snoopery. Her idol is a comic book character, Brenda Starr, star reporter. They both have red hair and spend endless hours prying into to others' business. Problem is, Lizbuthann (her real name is Elizabeth Ann, but no one in her native Texas says it that way) doesn't have a mystery man to bail her out of the messes she gets into.

John: Jinx, would you call yourself a stylist? Or better put, how would you describe your writing style?

Jinx: I would describe my writing style as breezy. I like lots of narrative (first person) and badinage between my characters. I also love crafting a one-two punch; when the reader is laughing, I hit them with an unexpected punch line. Writing Lizbuthann's take on life, from the point of view of a young girl thrown into a totally foreign situation, was a lot of fun. The fact that she is a bit precocious and incorrigible in an innocent kind of way made it even better.

Writing in first person narrative comes naturally to me, since my friends all tell me I'd talk to a fence post. That said, though, my favorite writers are Larry McMurtry (for his sense of history and humor) and Lee Child, because we all need a Jack Reacher in our lives. 

John: I guess we all need a bit of Jack Reacher, though that’s a far reach for me. Perhaps I could use some Hetta Coffey in my life. Tell me about her.

Jinx: Like Land of Mountains, my Hetta Coffey mystery series can also trace its roots back to fact morphed into fiction.

Years ago, when my dog upped and died, leaving me with a three-story, empty house, I bought a forty-two-foot yacht and moved aboard. In Just Add Water, Hetta, with zero experience in boating, does the same thing. Her adventures during the next four books find her sailing off into hot Mexican water (Just Add Salt), running afoul of a drug cartel in the Sea of Cortez (Just Add Trouble), and bucking up against human smugglers, and worse, on the Mexico/Arizona border (Just Deserts).

Hetta is a woman with a yacht, and she's not afraid to use it.

So, back to your original question, “How far from the truth are my fictional novels?”  Only The Shadow knows.

John: Thanks for such a sparkly conversation, Jinx. Now let us know how we can find your work. I’m sure lots of readers want to meet Lizbuthann and Hetta.

Link to buy all of my books:

Land of Mountains  is available in ebook formats and print. I have a direct buy link for all formats on my website

Link to my blog:

A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.


  1. John, what fascinating people you interview...Jinx I enjoyed your comments...talking to a fence post...I wrote a poem about that. Looking forward to picking up Land of Mountains...Augie

  2. Thanks, JOhn, for hosting me today.
    Thanks, Augie. I get it from my father. We would fill up with gas and by the time we left, he knew the station operator's life story!

  3. Jinx really displayed her fun personality in this interview. I think writers tend to do that--not just talk but listen, some of my best ideas have come that way. For some reason, old and young men in grocery stores always ask me where things are, and just this holiday season, a young couple asked me how to cook a turkey when they were picking one out. Of course I told them.

  4. Jinx, its a pleasure spending time with you today. What a fascinating life you've led, and are still leading. You're a fine storyteller. Augie, Marilyn, thanks for dropping by!

  5. Jinx: Can I come visit you on the boat? We have six inches of snow this morning and the kids are thrilled with a snow day. I just want to be basking in the sun...Great interview to both of you!
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  6. Jinx! Great interview, great life. Let's trade. You do my interviews for me, and I'll live your life.

    As one who has read LAND OF MOUNTAINS, I heartily recommend it to readers of all ages.

  7. Excellent interview, John and Jinx. I love the term "fictography" and recall it from Grisham's PAINTED HOUSE. Your books sound as fascinating as your background, Jinx, and I plan to read them all.

  8. Thanks for all the great comments. If it makes any of your happier, it is supposed to rain in San Carlos tomorrow! Hope not on my booksigning Saturday, tho.!

  9. Wonderful post, Jinx. I hope it doesn't rain on your book signing!