According to Joyce (jd) Daniels, “I didn’t choose writing. Writing chose me.” As a child growing up on her family’s Iowa farm/orchard, she loved listening to her mother read stories. She was the one of her seven siblings who could always be found with a book in her hands. Her writing talent blossomed in elementary school where she won several awards. As a young adult, she expressed herself through journaling. And even though she had to put her writing on hold for a while, she eventually became the author of an eclectic body of work that features strong female protagonists.
Daniels postponed her education after marrying and starting a family. “Life got in the way, and I didn’t return to writing until my mid-30s when my kids were older,” she says. She then went on to earn her Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Arts degrees from Drake University. Daniels received an Iowa Arts Grant for her first published work, The Old Wolf Lady, a biography of Jackie Day. Day, Daniels’ aunt, was one of the founders of the Council for Iowan Women. “I only got to know her as an adult,” Daniels recalls. “She was an advocate for Vietnam vets, very dynamic. She made a huge difference for women in Iowa.”
Daniels’ next book, Say Yes, a collection of poems,( many of which she wrote for her doctoral dissertation) topped the Cedar Rapid Gazette’s Bestseller List. This was followed by Minute of Darkness, a novella and collection of flash fiction set in Turkey where Daniels taught for a time. It tells the story of two women who share a dangerous past and become caught up in the ongoing civil unrest.
In 2010, Daniels bought a cottage in Matlacha, an artsy fishing town on Florida’s west coast. “I relate to small town culture,” she says. “It’s similar whether it’s in Iowa or Florida.” Matlacha also proved to be the perfect setting for her first mystery. Through Pelican Eyes introduces Jessie Murphy, a spunky redheaded artist Daniels describes as her alter-ego. “Jesse is part me, part my mom,” she says. “She’s the way I think my mom would have been if her life had been different. When I write from Jessie’s point of view, it’s like a visit from my mother. I feel like she’s looking over my shoulder, nudging me.” In Through Pelican Eyes, Jessie travels to Matlacha to join her amateur archaeologist boyfriend who is found dead under mysterious circumstances. Heartbroken, Jessie is determined to get at the truth, even if it means risking her life.
A non-fiction project about Florida crab fishermen became the inspiration for Daniels’ second mystery release. “I was fascinated by their stories but didn’t have enough material for a book,” she explains. Instead, she used the stories as the basis for A Quick Walk to Murder, her second Jessie Murphy mystery, where Jessie is enlisted by the locals to solve the murder of a crab fisherman’s son. The Pine Island Eagle praised the book as “A quick-paced murder mystery…a great summer read or winter read for snowbirds.”
In the next book in the series, Mayhem in Matlacha (released in January), Jessie is forced to deal with a stalker while investigating the murder of a church counselor. According to R.V.Reyes, author of Jewelers’ Mark—A Love & Diamond Mystery, “jd daniels` characters are eccentric and bold. She paints a perfect picture of a sleepy little artsy village turned upside down by mayhem.” In Matlacha, Bert’s Pine Bay Gallery threw a grand celebration launch party, and the following week Daniels had a standing-room-only reading at CW Fudge. Both businesses keep her novels on their shelves. She then signed books at Art Walk Night in Fort Myers at the Art for Acts Gallery. Two weeks later, along with other South West Florida PEN Women, she presented the book to an audience at Copperfish Bookstore in Punta Gorda. She has also been invited by the Friends of the Pine Island Library to speak about her writing life on March 16th at noon. Mayhem in Matlacha was also featured and reviewed in the February/March Issue of Lee County’s Gated Community Magazine, “Community Lifestyles.” As the days unfold, Daniels will be signing books in several places around the state, including a fun Pine Island fundraiser, The Rubber Ducky Race.
Daniels has already completed seven chapters of Book Four, tentatively titled A Natural Murder, in which Jesse tries to solve the poisoning of a businessman on a train traveling to Florida. Daniels hopes her books will entertain readers while giving them something to think about. “All my writing is about a woman’s journey, how she survives against the odds and becomes assertive,” she says. “I went through a period in my life when I was a voiceless woman. But I’m not voiceless anymore.”
For more information or to arrange a visit to your book club, go to the author’s website at www.live-from-jd.com.