Gin Jones overcame a deeply ingrained habit of thinking and writing like a lawyer in order to write fiction. In her spare time, Gin makes quilts, grows garlic and serves on the board of directors for The XLH Network, Inc.
How did you get started writing fiction?
I started out writing romance, didn’t sell any of them, but learned a lot, including that I don’t have an overtly romantic molecule in my body. Once I started killing (fictional) people, the words flowed and I sold my first completed mystery.
You are a lawyer. I’ve come across several lawyers who have become mystery writers. Do you think there’s something about practicing law that drives people to write mysteries?
Most lawyers are, at heart, storytellers. Some do it better orally and others, like me, do it better in writing. As a fiction writer, I love not having pesky little things like facts get in the way of a good story, but both forms of storytelling are essentially the same basic skill – start with a situation and figure out how to tell a convincing story that will lead the audience to the conclusion you want them to have.
Your series the Helen Binney Mysteries features a main character with lupus. Do you have a personal connection to that disease?
I have an extended family member with lupus (relatively mild symptoms), and a friend’s mother has it in a more intense form, so I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. Mostly, though, I do a bunch of research about symptoms unique to lupus, so I know what they are, and then channel my own experience with a chronic illness to understand the frustrations and motivations of a character who’s dealing with similar challenges.
One of the main characters in your Helen Binney Mystery series is a lawyer who retires to do wood work. Have you had experience with similar wood work?
Years ago, I did know a lawyer who was obsessed with wood turning. He’s not otherwise an inspiration for the character, but when I was thinking about a hobby for my character (to contrast with Helen’s lack of hobbies other than solving murders), I remembered how passionate this colleague was about his wood turning.
You have a trio of books about to come out, the Danger Cove Farmer’s Market, which deals with gardening. Do you like to garden? What do you like to grow?
I like to grow plant-based edibles of all sorts. I’m not necessarily good at it, so I often have more weeds than produce, and I need some help from friends for the stuff that’s too physical for me, but I grow garlic (LOTS! It’s the one crop that never fails me) and tomatoes, peppers, onions,
herbs, butternut squash, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, swiss chard, rhubarb and black raspberries (which mostly grow themselves, and the trick is just to get them before the birds do).
You are on the board of directors of The XLH Network, Inc. What is this about, and what is your connection to this disease?
The Network is a patient support/advocacy organizations for patients with XLH (X-linked hypophosphatemia). It’s a genetic, metabolic bone disorder that causes our kidneys to dump most of the phosphorus ingested instead of sending it into the blood stream to harden bones and fuel muscles. In childhood, it affects growth and the strength of bones and teeth. In adulthood, it causes dental abscesses, bone and muscle pain and weakness, calcification of ligaments, and sometimes hearing loss. I have the condition myself and as part of the Network, I’ve met so many other patients who are strong despite their soft bones. I’m in the process of editing a book of amazing patients’ stories about their experiences with XLH, which will be released in the fall under the title of Weak Bones, Strong Wills, the Stories of XLH.
As a lawyer, you specialized in ghost writing for other lawyers. How did that prepare you for your mystery writing career?
It didn’t so much prepare me as hamper me! I was never interested in writing legal thrillers, so it never gave me story ideas. And I had to unlearn some of the habits of legal writing, like infodumps and passive sentence structure.
What did you like to read as a child, and what do you enjoy reading now?
I was a pretty voracious and undiscriminating reader as a child. I raced through all the classics before I was old enough to really understand them, devoured Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and the like. I went through a science fiction and fantasy phase during law school, switched to romance (the only genre that, at the time, featured female protagonists who weren’t victims), and now have returned to both mystery and SF/F, and even better if the two genres are combined, like Peter Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, a police-procedural/urban-fantasy, which I highly recommend to all audiobook fans – the narrator, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is so brilliant with so many accents that I can’t believe are spoken by just one person, and I would listen to grocery lists if he recorded them.
You can read my review of A Dose of Death
You can read my review of A Denial of Death
You can read my review of A Draw of Death