Author’s Corner: Story Behind “Haikriddles” Series with Janet McMahan

What inspired you to write Haikriddles?

Author Janet McMahan grew up in a home with a dad who never met a riddle, he didn’t want to unravel, a conundrum he didn’t want to contend with, or a precarious predicament he didn’t want to palliate. 

Riddles, puzzlers, brain teasers, arithmeticklers and the like were as much a part of dinnertime as Mom’s homemade biscuits served with her handpicked, homemade damson preserves.

Every night after the last bit of jam was ingested, Daddy would dazzle us with tales that began, “Once upon a time, not in your time, not in my time, not in Nana’s time, but a long, long time ago there lived a …” The plot would thicken as he would weave words of whimsy, sometimes fact, sometimes fable, into pure parabolic pleasure. More times than not these accounts would end with a question mark. The call of the interrogative left us begging him for more, but it was up to us, the listeners, to find our own way to the “happily ever after.”

Lateral thinking 101 taught us life lessons of love, kindness, character and empathy. He didn’t give us the answers. He asked the questions, dropped breadcrumbs along our way, and guided us to answers that we would be able to call our own. 

At times, these mind bogglers made my brain hurt, that is, until the “aha” moment occurred, when the Hallelujah chorus would play in my head and I was all at once baptized in delight.

How did you come up with Haikiddles?

To this day I live in a split screen world. One side is poetic, fluffy, free flowing – the other longs to follow patterns, to passionately place puzzle pieces in perfect order. The twain have finally bonded – their offspring – Haikriddles.

I am and have for years been somewhat obsessed (operative word not being somewhat) with the ancient Japanese poetic form called Haiku. While not complying in the strictest sense to the iconic form, I do my best to adhere to the beauty of the 5 7 5 syllabic form.

In Haikriddles you’ll find a hybrid of riddles, puzzlers, arithmeticklers, anomalies, puns, “aha” moments, “DUH!” moments, along with tidbits of trivia and a tiny touch of trickery. These are brought to you in the form of Haiku.

Each magnificent human brain perceives and analyzes data differently so you might find that some of these brain benders listed as difficult may be quite elementary to you and vice versa.

In categorizing I had to rely on my own intuition, the input of my editor and publisher, Robert Martin as well as reliable friends and colleagues. 

Your mission should you decide to accept it (which perhaps you have indicated that you have by the fact that you’ve read this far) is to have fun. Don’t beat yourself up when you experience a “duh” moment, but do delight in the “aha” moments. Don’t hesitate to bask in the glow of the lightbulb. There may be times when the answer suddenly flies into your mind unexpectedly. Listen closely, you may very well hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” with an angel choir and full orchestra. 

What would be the takeaways of readers?

If I may beg your indulgence for a moment or two of personal reflection. In May of 2006, I experienced a brain hemorrhage, a hemorrhagic stroke in my brainstem. I was bedridden for three months. I couldn’t walk or feed myself. Because of God, my mom and some of the world’s most amazing friends, I am doing great. I am forever grateful. I refer to this experience because I decided early on in my recovery that I was determined to remain mentally functional as possible. I had three school age children at the time and I had to be strong for them – for so many reasons. 

While I lay in bed, most of the time with my eyes closed, I worked through puzzles in my head. I solved problems, arithmeticklers, puzzles, mostly recalled from my dinnertime with Dad. I memorized the first 100 digits to pi, the countries of the world and their capitals in alphabetical order, the scales of the ecclesiastical musical modes in every key. The list goes on. While my body was on a break, my brain was in boot camp. 

I believe, along with my neurologist, that it made a huge difference. In fact, upon recovery I scored higher on an IQ test than I had prior to the hemorrhage. In many ways, the experience was a blessing. But that’s another story for another time.

The brain’s a lot like any other muscle. The more we use it, the less likely we are to lose it. I find the more I practice my Spanish, the fewer times I lose my car keys.

I can almost promise you that if you work, (I’d rather call it “play”) your way through the book, you’ll find yourself sharpening your skills in countless other areas of your life. But that’s not the reason I hope you’ll dig in. I hope you’ll immerse yourself in Haikriddles just for the fun of it.

What do you want readers to appreciate about the series?

My hope and prayer is that Haikriddles will accompany you to your next appointment where you just might have to wait, on your next road trip for a game to reduce the number of “are we there yet,” or perhaps it will find a comfy home on your night stand for a little late night fodder for your subconscious to ponder upon in the land of dreams.

On a final note, I am a collector of a few things…quotes, original art from friends I love, letters, life experiences and riddles. Should you have one to share, I would be honored to hear from you.

Should you do so, don’t be surprised to see it in Haiku form.

Happy Haikriddling! You can order the Haikriddles series in a bundle at City Limits Publishing to score 25% OFF discount plus FREE shipping.