Joel Fox likes to mix a little history with his mystery.
Fox’ 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 has spent over 30 years in California politics, serving on numerous state commissions, working on many ballot issue campaigns, and advising candidates. An adjunct professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University, Fox has authored hundreds of opinion pieces for numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal,Washington Post, USA Today and Los Angeles Times. Joel Fox is also the author of the Zane Rigby mystery series—Lincoln’s Hand and FDR’s Treasure— in which an FBI Special Agent must solve a puzzle from the past of an American president to solve modern day murders. A native of the Boston area, Joel Fox lives in Los Angeles.
Website / Facebook
Q: Please tell us about The Mark on Eve, and what inspired you to write it.
A: This book comes out of a combination of my love for history and a desire to answer the Great Writer’s Question: What if? This book is actually drawn from a 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 off Cape Cod in 1717. The pirate ship was real and it 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.
Q: What themes do you explore in The Mark on Eve?
A: One theme deals with the changing role of women in American society over the centuries. In fact, my main character, Eve, who over the centuries has heard women called wench and Goodwife, Mrs then Ms, wants to hear a woman called Madame President. At the same time, in the world of politics, I deal with the question of political correctness: does one have to be of the same gender to understand or represent the other gender. In addition, another theme examines the influence of the media in modern politics. It also touches on the power of ambition and the power of love.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I write because I want to tell stories. While I know that without compelling characters readers may lose interest, clever plots, in other words captivating stories, are of great interest to me. I hope to capture such stories in my writing.
Q: How picky are you with language?
A: I understand Mark Twain’s famous saying, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” I strive for the right word knowing I will not be perfect.
Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
A: I am often surprised when the story takes me in a direction I had not intended to go. I am also surprised when a minor character pushes into the story demanding a larger role. So if by manipulation you mean forces you didn’t anticipate take over, then the answer is yes.
Q: What is your worst time as a writer?
A: When I realize something I have written isn’t working and I have to toss it. That may happen as soon as I finish the writing or it might come later, when I’m down the writing road and I realize I have to go back and re-do an important chapter. Of course, that may force changes in following chapters.
Q: Your best?
A: When I write something that feels real good. It actually excites me when my writing digs into my emotions and makes me feel for the situation or the characters every time I read that particular section and it gives me a thrill.
Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
A: I suppose if my work was completely ignored that would be frustrating and perhaps cause me to rethink writing. Fortunately, that has not happened.
Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
A: May I share two although neither story deals with novels? The first was the first time I received payment for writing. I finished second in a one-act play writing contest post college and received the second place prize.
The second occurrence happened last year and is a longer tale. It has to do with my farther and a span of nearly twenty years.
I wrote a column for the website Zocalo Public Square for a project they were co-hosting with the Smithsonian “On What It Means to be American.” The article was also re-published online by the Washington Post. The article dealt with an experience almost two decades ago when my family and I were traveling in Europe, visiting places that my father saw when he served in the Third Army under General George Patton in World War II. My dad told me to go to Wiltz, Luxembourg. There was a museum in Wiltz dedicated to the Battle of the Bulge. When I went to the museum the morning after we arrived in Wiltz we found it was closed for the season. When I told the people at the hotel I had come a long way to see the museum I was directed to a museum director in town at another hotel. When I informed him my Dad was with the 26th Division, he said, “They liberated us the second time. Come with me.” He gave my family a private tour of the museum then introduced us to patrons in the bar of the hotel he owned.
It was a warm welcome. Nearly twenty years later, I recalled this story in the article published in the Washington Post. Soon after the article was published in the Post I received a phone call from the director of the museum in Luxembourg. The United States Embassy in Luxembourg forwarded the article to him. Later in the day, I got a second call from Luxembourg. It was from the man who gave my family the private tour all those years before.
But that’s not all. I mentioned in the article that the people of Wiltz on occasion brought back an American GI who had played St. Nicholas for the children of the area in 1944 — the first time they saw St. Nick since before the beginning of the war. When my son’s friend read the article he immediately recognized the name of the soldier and his story. The soldier was his friend’s grandfather. My article was sent to the old soldier, still going strong at over 90 years old, who sent back a nice note through his grandson and my son’s friend.
The power of the written word.
Q: Is writing an obsession to you?
A: I don’t think it’s an obsession. Although my wife tells me I’m usually in better spirits when I’m writing. But I can go for some time without writing so I don’t think the word ‘obsession’ applies.
Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
A: The stories are connected because of my love of history and there is history in all my works. I think history is important for people to understand how we got to where we are. My belief is that by dramatizing history it may be more compelling for readers to appreciate.
Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
A: Yes, I do agree. You have to be true to yourself and ignore the reality that could crimp your style.
Q: Where is your book available?
A: On Amazon in paperback and e-book editions
Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
A: Yes, my website is www.joelfox.com. Thank you.