Mark Lyons, author of “Only In Florida: Mosquito Lagoon”

#YourNextBeachRead is a way to introduce you to a new author and their works in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.

Today’s featured author is Mark Lyons, author of Only In Florida: Mosquito Lagoon.

What’s your name and where are you from?

Mark Lyons. Born and raised in Wisconsin, and moved to Florida when I sold my farm in Minnesota.

How long have you been writing? How did you start?

7-19 - Mark Lyons author photoFor many years I have been writing down book ideas. Frankly, I had never formed solid plans to incorporate those ideas into a book. Over the years I wrote short factual stories to my adult daughter and sisters, detailing accounts of my life and theirs. In the same way that anger can accumulate in some and result in a cathartic explosion, my mental coffers of mystery stories reached maximum pressure three years ago. Even a few weeks before I began Mosquito Lagoon, I had made no solid plans to create a novel. Eighteen months later I completed my third.

Who are some of your influences?

Though I have read more James Patterson than anyone else, you wouldn’t be able to tell that from my books. The stories of Jeffery Deaver, Dan Brown and Michael Crichton have always made me wish I could write like them at the time I read them, but I don’t. Danielle Steele helped me get in touch with the feminine side of my fairer characters, though nearly all of mine carry guns and are responsible for acts only men in her novels commit. Only when I read my own work for the first time did I recognize some of the existential elements that I wasn’t aware I retained from a college course many years ago entitled Literature of the Existentialists. The elements of being, of oneness, of sole existence and recognition of self that Sartre and Kafka and the others I have long since forgotten, used as central themes, are there in glimpses in my books. Fortunately to me, you won’t need to boil my books in water for ten minutes before reading, like theirs.

Those that have really influenced me the most are those doctors and nurses in my life who act only in good faith, who elevate the needs of others above their own and show a bias for action. These are the models for my characters.

What is your book about?

A woman is murdered in an orthopedic rehab facility, and Mike Lyman the nurse manager is accused of the deed. When it is revealed that the dead woman was suffering from rabies and had a very short life expectancy, Mike is drawn to the case. He is able to clear his own name easily, but by that time he had uncovered clues that he couldn’t ignore. Attempts on his life gave him much greater reason to figure out plot than just to get his job back. While the police and the FBI seemingly got nowhere, Mike was able to use his one special tool to ferret out the criminals and the motives. He uses a form of meditation to access his subconscious mind, where he is able to eliminate the irrelevant facts that cloud others’ thinking, and use what remains to form his judgements. Eventually, the police department, and Homicide Detective Natalie Bruce in particular, begin to accept Mike’s help. There is never a straight line to the truth, and this story is no exception.

Where did you get the idea?

Many of the elements of the story came over time, but the one factor that brought it all to my consciousness in a revelation, came from a real life occurrence. A former girlfriend called me out of the blue for medical advice. Sadly, forty plus years as a nurse left me with little to offer when she described her possible exposure to rabies. A colony of bats had taken up residence near the front door of the apartment she rented after she left me. Since it was bat mating season, the law prevented the removal of the animals that are the second most common transmitters of the disease in Florida. One day one of the potential disease spreaders came through the door and flew blindly around her living room as she attempted to protect herself with a broom. The more she swung, the wilder the trajectories of the echo locating mammal became. Eventually she got the small menace to fly out through the window, but not before sustaining a small laceration on her scalp. She had no idea that the walk in clinic would be bound by law to report her injury to the county health department. At her request, I called the Director of the County Department on her behalf. He was someone I had met after an outbreak of the Noro Virus at a facility I worked a couple of years earlier. The director told me that she could come voluntarily for her shots, or he would send a cruiser to pick her up. All of this filled in the gaps and created the background for the story I was percolating.

How long did it take you to finish it?

Two months to write it and a full year to edit and revise.

Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?

7-19 - Mark Lyons book coverOnly in Florida: Mosquito Lagoon is my first book, but I have since written two more in my series of Only in Florida crime novels. Currently, I am preparing my query letters and list of publishers for “He Who Brings Death”, and editing and revising “The Whittingham Hospital for the Criminally Insane.”

We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?

One of the physicians I work with, and have for many years has always been an inspiration for me, not because of the color he provides for a novel, but because he is the one standard for right to which all of my characters can be judged. The character that is loosely based on him does take a hard left turn toward the end of the story, but that is where the real Dr. P., and the made up Dr. P. become distinct. Most of the places and to a lesser degree the situations, are real and come from personal exposure.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

I am very fond of the wake scene in chapter 10. We are introduced to the character Jim Frank, a Florida Cracker by description, and an unlikely friend of the deceased, the former director of the Harbor County Health Department. Sound familiar? During his eulogy speech, many of the facts surface that were not readily apparent to the medical people and the police in the congregation that day. This wake also clarifies the roles of the criminal and the pursuer.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?

My sister, the college professor who writes curriculum pieces, and in the past her dissertation, told me to write to entertain. After reading an early draft of this book she added, to entertain yourself. Though she thought her recommendation was veiled by her academic superiority, it was perfectly clear to me. As a conscious choice, I disregarded her disguised shot at my abilities, but chose to heed her advice on a more literal level. The stories I write are primarily for my satisfaction. I enjoy them, and I enjoy sharing them. If anything I write ever becomes a commercial success, that will be great. I will probably buy a new television. If someone tells me that one of my books gave them escape during a hard time in their life, that will be a greater reward.

What’s the worst?

There are several possibles for that distinction. It remains possible that all other bits could end up in a thousand way tie for worst.

Where can we buy your book?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most other on-line sellers.

By most standards, Mark Lyons’s life has been filled with unusual events and experiences, and he loves to tell his stories. After two early failed marriages, his self perception changed, and he became more of a risk taker, and shunned the opinions of those who would judge him. If being a loving husband was not in the cards, he had to find fulfillment where it existed. For him, that involves doing things others feel are unnecessary or dangerous. Not always mountain climbing or skydiving dangerous, but risky in a social acceptance framework. He was the only man in his nursing school graduating class, and he always said he didn’t even meet another man nurse for the first ten years of his practice. For seven years, he worked with AIDs patients at a time when every diagnosis was a death sentence. That is where he really began to live his role as patient advocate, always eager to take on any personal issue for those unable to advocate successfully for themselves. His biggest heroes have always been those who work to the same end. Away from his job, his approach is much the same. He loved his farm, and he loved the outdoor life in Wisconsin and Minnesota, but Florida offers more year-round outdoor availability. One difference he likes to point out is that since he now swims in shark infested waters, he has given up skinny-dipping.