Author Jean Henry Mead is my special guest today. She began her career as a news reporter, later serving as a news, magazine and small press editor. The author of four novels, her latest release is a senior sleuth mystery/suspense novel, Diary of Murder. She’s also the author of eight nonfiction books. Her magazine articles have won state, regional and national awards and have appeared domestically as well as abroad.
Welcome aboard, Jean! Tell us about your professional career, before you became a novelist.
JHM: My first professional writing job occurred while I was editor-in-chief of my college newspaper. I worked 35 hours a week as a reporter/photographer for a daily newspaper in California, and drove 25 miles to a neighboring town to carry 15 units of study. At that time I was a divorced mother of four young daughters. We studied together at night and all managed to stay on the honor rolls. I also coached and managed their softball team which went all the way to the national playoffs one year. It instilled the work ethic in my daughters.
MA: You sound like a dedicated, multi-tasking mom and writer! So how did you come about to write novels?
JHM: I wrote my first novel at age 9 to entertain classmates, a chapter a day written with pencil on construction paper. But when I reached high school I wrote for the school newspaper and went on to become a news reporter. However, there was always the desire to write novels. Raising four children on my own sidetracked that desire until the kids were grown and I remarried.
MA: I understand fully how difficult it can be to write while pursuing something fulltime. In your case it was raising your family, but for me it was my USAF career. Do you have any professional experiences that influenced your fiction career?
JHM: I was a police reporter so that inspired my mystery/suspense novels, but I first wrote a Wyoming historical novel based on years of research for a centennial nonfiction book. I spent two years behind a microfilm machine for that and had 18 inches of typed notes left over, which I plan to use for a historical mystery series. And yes, I heavily researched members of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch for my novel, Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel. It’s based on actual historical events of the late 1890s and is laced with humor.
MA: Tell us about your subsequent novels.
JHM: My second and third novels are my Logan & Caffertry mystery/suspense series, which features two 60-year-old feisty widows who solve the murders of their friends and club members living in a retirement village in California’s foggy San Joaquin Valley. Dana Logan’s beautiful journalist daughter arrives in time to help with the investigation but places her own life in danger. The book is titled A Village Shattered.
In the second novel, Diary of Murder, they’ve sold their homes in the retirement village and purchased a 32-foot motorhome to travel the country. On their way to Wyoming to visit Dana’s mystery novelist sister, Georgi, they learn that she has died. Georgi’s husband claims it was suicide, but Dana and Sarah find Georgi’s diary and investigate her murder. Along the way they encounter a vicious drug ring and more bodies. They nearly lose their own lives in the process.
I’m currently working on the third novel in the series: Murder on the Interstate. Dana and Sarah encounter a murdered young woman along I-40 and are targets themselves.
MA: How did you go about developing your two protagonists? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
JHM: I’m a seat of the pants writer who listens to her characters’ dialog. They actually write the book for me. I may have subconsciously adapted some of the characteristics of a couple of good friends for Dana and Sarah but they’re definitely originals with quirks of their own.
Dana is logical, an introvert and determined while Sarah is quirky, old fashioned and outspoken. They seem to balance each other’s strengths while shoring up the other’s occasional weaknesses.
MA: Considering you write your mysteries in a series, is there are particular nemesis the ladies encounter in each book?
JHM: Because the women are on the move, they dispatch each antagonist before moving on to the next murder case in a new location. On down the road, a former “bad guy” may escape prison and come after them, but I like fresh villains in each book.
MA: Did any of your real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all? I imagine as a former police reporter you’ve got some good fodder for your stories.
JHM: Oh, sure. You have to write from experience to be convincing, unless you’re writing fantasy. My first freelance interview was with a couple of sheepherding sisters in the Wyoming outback, in their late 70s and early 80s. When I wrote my first novel, Escape, I portrayed them as twin sisters living in the badlands. Not until the novel was finished did I realize the characters had been patterned after the sheepherders.
MA: So what are your future writing plans?
JHM: I plan more Logan & Cafferty books because they’re so much fun to write. I’ve also finished a children’s novel, The Mystery of Spider Mountain, and a nonfiction book to be published by Poisoned Pen Press, called Mysterious People–interviews with other mystery writers, including Carolyn Hart, John Gilstrap, Louise Penny and Rick Mofina, among many others. I’ve also started a historical mystery/suspense series featuring a single woman homesteader in Wyoming.
Thank you for turning the tables on me with this interview. You can access my Mysterious People interviews at: http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/ and writing advice and book reviews at: http://advicefromeditors.blogspot.com/. Many of the writers I interview are giving away copies of their books to blog visitors who leave comments.
MA: Thanks, Jean. I appreciate your visit with us today and sharing information about your life and your books. I encourage my readers to visit your websites for more about Jean Henry Mead.