Please welcome Amber Foxx, author of the Mae Martin series.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I have two kinds of perfect day. One is the contemplative, productive day in Truth or Consequences: Eight hours sleep, a couple of hours of writing, a five mile run in the desert, more writing, yoga, time with friends, more writing, and a soak in the hot spring. The other is the Santa Fe summer perfect day—going with the flow, doing whatever I feel inspired to do at the moment. Exploring galleries, dancing at Bandstand … and of course writing when I get back.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I have a bracelet by Navajo silversmith Randy Hoskie. It’s decorated with intricately carved details of the landscape of his homeland. A hogan, a brush arbor, a sheep pen, all the little outbuildings, and then the sun over the mesas and mountains in the background. The work is exquisite, and shows such love for the land. I’m from New Mexico and like to carry this image of it on my wrist.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
I think of creativity as a combination of attention and discipline. Deep attention to all aspects of inner and outer experience—feelings, sensations, conversations, relationship, environments—and then the discipline to craft stories from that. The people who have influenced my creativity have taught me attention and discipline. My dance teachers and my acting teachers in college helped me turn attention and discipline into art, and into the creation of characters. My yoga teachers at Yoga Source in Santa Fe and High Desert Yoga Albuquerque inspire me to pay attention deeply in the present moment. Yoga helps me to focus my mind for extended periods, and to know how to renew myself. For me, that’s the foundation of creativity.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Music helps me with brainstorming. I don’t touch a keyboard; I just listen and come up with scenes and images. They’re so vivid I don’t need to take notes, and to do so would break the flow and make me stop hearing the music. Once I’m actually writing, I have the quietest space possible. Music can be inspirational, but I don’t like to have it in the background.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Red chile dark chocolate, because it’s complex, a little unusual and not too sweet, and also it’s featured in the book. Someone keeps leaving anonymous gifts of red chile chocolate and green chile pistachios for a touring musician. The gift-giving turns creepy after a while.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
My books are as much about the way the characters cope with challenges in their lives as they are about mysteries. This one started with the image of singer-songwriter Jamie Ellerbee on his first tour, having something terrible happen—I didn’t even know what it would be yet. I grew the story forward and back from that intuitive image. My protagonist, Mae Martin, ends up trying to help him with his crisis. I looked for story elements that would present challenges for Mae in her personal life as well as in her psychic work. I wanted to challenge myself as a writer, too. Snake Face is closer to genre than my previous books in the series, which bend the edges of genre even for murder-less mysteries. It’s still a genre-blender, but with more elements of suspense and it even has a crime.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
The search for balance between independence and intimacy; psychological issues like depression, anxiety, or addiction; psychic phenomena, energy healing, and shamanism; and the right and wrong uses of all kinds of power.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person she is today?
Mae Martin was raised to be a Southern lady but by nature she’s forthright and unconventional, so she’s always a little torn between being nice and speaking her mind. She’s maternal and nurturing, sometimes too much so. It’s both her best trait and her weakness. Readers can see a lot of what made her who she is in the free short story “The Outlaw Women,” a prequel to the series. Mae’s grandmother, an Appalachian folk healer, was an influence on her as a child, though not in the way one might expect. Her father, a coach and former minor league baseball player, was also a positive influence. Her mother, an intense and difficult woman, is a major character in The Calling. In this first book in the series, conflict with her mother is one of the factors contributing to Mae’s maturation as a psychic and healer, and as a woman.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
She’s based on a good friend of mine. She talks like her, and she’s had some of her life experiences. It’s hard to see her as anyone but a version of that friend. I didn’t think of any book characters, movie characters, or famous people in creating her. There may be some connection that someone else could find, but I’m so out of touch with who’s famous, I think most of the top celebrities in the world could walk right past me and I wouldn’t have any idea who they were!
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
This is one of the best questions I’ve ever been asked.
First and foremost, the ghost of James D. Doss—and I’m sure he would gladly come in that form, based on the spirits with whom his shaman character Daisy Perika communed, and on his contemplations in his final book about the dead observing their own funerals. I hope Tony Hillerman’s spirit would also attend. I’d love to hear him and Doss talk about their Ute and Navajo detectives and the four corners region. I’d invite Nevada Barr. She’d appreciate the New Mexico setting for the party, and her love of the land and of language would mesh well with Doss and Hillerman. I’d also invite Álvaro Mutis, author of the Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll. I picture him being a great story-teller in person because of the raconteur quality of Maqroll’s strange and dreamlike adventures. I’d include Australian author Robert Moss, whose nonfiction works on dreams and historical novels set in Iroquois country are equally fascinating. He’s at home in the spiritual and the real world, and knows his way through their intersection. I’d add one strictly nonfiction writer, Dr. Larry Dossey. His humor, his scientific-spiritual perspective on mysterious phenomena, his appreciation of New Mexico, and his story-telling gifts would fit perfectly. I can hear Dossey and Moss talking about precognitive dreams; Moss, Hillerman and Doss talking about writing and researching various Native cultures; Mutis charming everyone with a good story. Barr and I are both former actors, so I’d love to ask her how that experience and training influences her process of writing. The possibilities are endless. This party would go on all night.
What’s next for you?
My fourth book in the Mae Martin series is on its third round of critiques with a new set of beta readers. My fifth book is going into its first round of critiques and revisions. I have a stand-alone horror short story I need to do some work on, too. It’s a genre I read but had never written before. I have the beginnings of another book in the series and of a short story that takes place midway in the series in progress, too, just the first halves of first drafts of both. This goes back to my perfect day, doesn’t it? A lot of time for writing. ☺
Amber Foxx writes the mystery series featuring healer and psychic Mae Martin. Amber’s professional training and academic studies in various fields of complementary and alternative medicine, as well as her personal experience and travels, bring authenticity to her work. She has worked professionally in theater and dance, fitness, and academia. She divides her time between the southeast and the southwest, but Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is home.