My guest today for the Murder We Write blog tour is Jean Henry Mead, a writer known to many of us not only for her mystery novels but also for her energetic and generous posts in the blogosphere. Jean is the author of 15 books, seven of them novels. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist published domestically as well as abroad. The former news reporter-photographer has served as a news, magazine and small press editor in California and Wyoming.
I asked Jean a number of questions, and I know you’ll find her answers enlightening. We could all learn from such a successful, entertaining crafter of mystery fiction. So, with no further ado...
John: Jean, what in your opinion is the relationship between fiction and truth?
Jean Henry Mead: All fiction is based on truth, whether mystery or fantasy. No matter how creative the storyline, there’s always a reality peg on which to hang it.
John: We’re often advised to write about what we know about. How does this work for the mild-mannered mystery writer who never saw a corpse or has never been hassled by the cops?
Jean Henry Mead: Research is how a mild-mannered writer gains the knowledge he/she needs to write a mystery novel. Research is my forte and I enjoy reading about what I didn’t previously know or understand. The fun part of writing for me is to spoon in (not shovel) the best of my research into my novels because my goal is to inform as well as entertain. And that’s probably a result of my journalism training. I enjoy tackling social issues as well as entering the minds of serial killers.
John: Are you proud of your style? If so (and let’s hope so!), why?
Jean Henry Mead: It’s taken many years to develop my own style. I’ve studied the work of a number of writers, from Dean Koontz to Shakespeare, and I’ve been told that my style is unique and often humorous. Most comments I receive are that my novels, no matter how serious the theme, are “fun reads.” All 15 of my books, both fiction and nonfiction, contain humor and I hope that my readers finish my books with a smile and a feeling of satisfaction that they ended well, although I often leave a few unresolved strings hanging to be picked up in the next book
John: Can you name six essential ingredients of a mystery plot that begin with C? (Extra credit for more C’s.)
Jean Henry Mead: Characters, charisma, challenges, chagrin, champions, chaos, coroner, cadavers, caring and crying (emotions), chapters, civility, capers, car chases, cats, chai tea (which is what my characters drink).
John: What makes your protagonists unique? What are their passions? Do they have flaws?
Jean Henry Mead: I write two mystery series: Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense, and the Hamilton Kids’ mysteries.
Dana Logan & Sarah Cafferty are two feisty 60-year old widows and amateur sleuths who sell their homes in a retirement village after a serial killer systematically murders their friends. They buy a motorhome and travel the West (as I once did) stumbling over bodies wherever they go. They’re hooked on solving murders despite the dangers they place themselves in. Their murder solving hobby is both a passion as well as a flaw because they rarely turn their evidence over to the police.
A lovesick sheriff from the first novel, A Village Shattered, pursues Dana Logan through each novel, attempting to convince her to marry him. He also helps in their investigations although Dana doesn’t always treat him well. She tries to keep him as a friend while holding him at arm’s length. To complicate matters, her friend and traveling companion Sarah Cafferty has a crush on him.
John: What are your feelings about love and sex in fiction? Are they essential to plot and character development?
Jean Henry Mead: A little romance goes a long way in mystery novels and I include tidbits in all my books. I may hint at sex but I don’t think graphic descriptions add anything worthwhile to the plots. I concentrate on character development and solving puzzles. That’s what mysteries are all about.
John: Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Jean. Now let’s tell our readers a bit about your recent book, Murder on the Interstate.
Murder on the Interstate features two senior women sleuths, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, who gun their motor home to pursue a murder whose victim they’ve found on the side of the highway. The story is peppered with suspense, humor, romance, and automotive disaster. See Jean Henry Mead’s website, http://www.jeanhenrymead.com/index.htm, for a description of this exciting tale, with an enviable list of review quotes and blurbs by some of her esteemed colleagues. The book can be ordered through your local bookseller, from the publisher, Medallion Books, and from online booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Highly recommended!
She's giving away one of her mystery ebooks at the end of each of her 14 blog appearances as well as three print novels at the conclusion of the tour. Be sure to leave a comment and email address to be eligible for the drawings. Her blog tour schedule is listed at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/
A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.