I’ve invited Marc Jedel to Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about his latest novel, Chutes and Ladder.
Welcome Marc. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
MJ: Chutes and Ladder is the second book in the Silicon Valley Mystery series, but can be read standalone. Marty Golden is not your typical, cozy mystery protagonist. As a male sleuth who doesn’t own a bakery, bookstore, or bed & breakfast, or live by the beach, he stands out from the crowd of cozy protagonists. To stay with the “B” alliteration, Marty does bumble his way through the investigations, armed with nothing but an eye for detail and powers of self-delusion.
In Chutes and Ladder, Marty discovers the dead body of his friend while failing as chaperone for a Girl Scouts camping trip. After the police rule it an accidental death, he disagrees and decides to investigate because friends don’t let their friend’s death go unsolved. One reviewer called it “a gem with its great plotting and unusual cast.”
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
MJ: I tend to pay attention to the strange stories in the newspaper, especially about unusual deaths or bizarre situations. This became a lot more socially acceptable once I become a published mystery author. Almost like a puzzle, I enjoy trying to merge together multiple situations into a coherent plot and trick the reader.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
MJ: In a rare moment of introspection, I decided that the book should be about more than just humor wrapped in a mystery. A literary scholar, if one ever were foolish enough to select my novels for their dissertation, might say they’re about a search for family life, friends and happiness. However, Marty typically doesn’t realize this is what he wants out of life, so he tries hard to return to the quiet, simple and peaceful life that he had before his sister and his nieces moved to town.
Marty frequently mentions advice and etiquette lessons that his parents gave him when he was young. He’s often dismayed that their lessons didn’t cover the unusual predicaments that he finds himself in.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favorite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
MJ: I’m obviously partial to the protagonist, Marty, since the novel is told in first person. My friends and family believe he’s not exactly a huge stretch of the imagination for me to write. But it’s fiction. I mean, I’m not a software engineer. I enjoy writing Marty’s nieces, especially young Megan. They’re loosely based on my own nieces and kids, exaggerated and merged with other kids that I’ve known. Perhaps my favorite side character is Mrs. Quarles, the school secretary. Marty struggles mightily to deal with her, and I always laugh as I’m writing her scenes. A surprising number of readers tell me she’s one of their favorite characters too. I’d love to hear from your readers which characters or scenes they like best.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
MJ: I’ve lived a long time in Silicon Valley, working in high-tech, marketing roles. A lot of interesting characters work in big, high-tech companies. While I haven’t based any character directly off someone I’ve met, let’s just say that certain people influenced some characters more than others.
If Silicon Valley is portrayed in fiction, it tends to be a very one-sided and biased view. I wanted to bring the beauty of the area, as well as the diversity and unusual personalities that I’ve encountered, into my novels.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
MJ: I’ve found that writing has made me more willing to talk to strangers in different situations and more observant and patient in lines and crowded situations, as I’m looking for material. I’m normally more of an introvert. Who’d have thought that the solitary occupation of being an author would make me more socially outgoing?
Most of my detailed mystery research is done via the internet. I’m hopeful that no law enforcement agencies are watching my searches and wondering what I may be up to. Not to be paranoid or anything, but I’ll use this space to remind them: “Marc Jedel is a fiction writer of humorous murder mysteries. Fiction!”
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
MJ: I’ll quote a reviewer: “I enjoyed this fast-paced humorous mystery just as much as Uncle and Ants. His writing is clever, and the plotting is meticulous and exceptionally well-executed.”
Feel free to start reading the series with Chutes and Ladder. I think it’s even better written than Uncle and Ants, although that’s probably because I’ve just spent all this time with it. I’m sure I’ll fall in love with book 3, Serf and Turf, next as I work on that one. Both books are available free on Kindle Unlimited and will stay at a lower price on Amazon during the Great Escapes Tour so pick them up today!
Thanks for answering my questions, Marc, and good luck with Chutes and Ladder, this latest novel in your Silicon Valley Mystery series.
Chutes and Ladder is available on Amazon.
About Marc Jedel: For most of my life, I’ve been inventing stories. Some, especially when I was young, involved my sister as the villain. As my sister’s brother for her entire life, I’m highly qualified to tell the tale of this evolving, quirky sibling relationship.
My writing skills were honed in years of marketing leadership positions in Silicon Valley. While my high tech marketing roles involved crafting plenty of fiction, we called these marketing collateral, emails and ads.
The publication of my first novel, Uncle and Ants, gave me permission to claim “author” as my job. This leads to way more interesting discussions than answering “marketing.”
My family would tell you that Marty’s character isn’t much of a stretch of the imagination for me, but I proudly resemble that remark. Like Marty, I live in Silicon Valley and can’t believe that otherwise normal people would willingly jump out of an airplane and call it fun. Unlike Marty, I have a wonderful wife and a neurotic but sweet, small dog, who is often the first to weigh in on the humor in my writing.