Thoughts from novelist L.J. Sellers, who now writes first thing every day, even if the bank account is low and the bathroom needs cleaning.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Fast, Fun Mystery!
In case you’re tired of my ramblings, today I’m interviewing fellow mystery writer, Jean Henry Mead. Jean is on a two-week blog tour to promote her new mystery, A Village Shattered. This cozy whodunit is a fast, fun read, featuring senior sleuths, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty. The story is Jean’s third work of fiction, but the author has a long career of writing, interviewing, and taking photographs. But I’ll let her tell you in her own words.
What’s your elevator speech for your new novel, A Shattered Village? Two 60-year-old widows living in a retirement village are suddenly confronted with the deaths of their friends and club members, who are dropping dead alphabetically. A serial killer has stolen their membership roster and their own names are on the list. Dana Logan, a mystery novel buff, and Sarah Cafferty, a private investigator’s widow, decide to solve the murders themselves when the newly elected sheriff bungles the investigation, but not before Dana’s beautiful daughter Kerrie is in danger of being killed in the process. San Joaquin Valley fog hides the killer and helps him commit the murders.
Who are your characters, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, modeled after? Which one is more like you? I didn’t realize until Dana and Sarah are discussing the first murder of their friend Alice Zimmer that Dana resembles actress Gina Davis, and Sarah looks like Shelley Winters. Dana is tall like me as well as stubborn and a little eccentric. There the resemblance ends.
You were a journalist and nonfiction writer long before you wrote novels. When did you make the switch and why? I actually wrote my first novel in fourth grade, a chapter a day to entertain classmates, and have always wanted to be a novelist. But I worked for my high school newspaper and graduated to editing my college paper while working as a cub reporter for the local daily newspaper. After I had written my third nonfiction book, Casper Country, a centennial history, I had stacks of research notes left over, because I had read 97-years’ worth of microfilmed newspaper. So I decided to write a novel, utilizing all that research. The result was a recent publication, Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, featuring Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch and a kidnapped young heiress disguised as a 12-year-old boy.
Is there other overlap between your nonfiction books and your novels? Yes, Escape is about 50% actual history and 50% dramatization. Most of the real characters are true to life, and I added a few fictional characters to move the story along. With my latest senior sleuth novel, my police reporting came in handy. And my husband is a former highway patrolman, so his advice helped as well. A Village Shattered is the first of my Logan & Cafferty senior sleuth series, which will be followed next spring by Diary of Murder and later, Died Laughing, both of which take place in Wyoming.
You’ve done a lot of work and organization on behalf of western writers, founding the Western Writers Hall of Fame and working for the Western Writers of America? What motivated you? I was serving as president of Wyoming Writers when Western Writers of America held their annual convention in Casper. A local writer, Bill Bragg was hosting the convention and asked me to do advanced publicity. I joined in 1979 and became national publicity director for WWA. Two years later I established the Western Writers Hall of Fame and wrote Maverick Writers, a collection of interviews with some of WWA’s most prominent members.
You’ve interviewed some very famous people. Who was you favorite person to interview and why? I enjoyed all of them, but Louis L’Amour, A. B. Guthrie, Jr., and Wyoming governor Ed Herschler top the list. I also enjoyed interviewing Gerry Spence, although it was in a crowded Ramada Inn lobby while he was holding court. Louis L’Amour was downright shy about being interviewed, which surprised me. He submitted to very few interviews and invited me to his home in Bel Air for an hour, which stretched into several hours of talking about his past. He showed me his office, which contained some 10,000 books with hinged floor-to-ceiling book cases that revealed identical ones behind. I expected him to be arrogant, but he was just the opposite and made me feel at home. A. B. Guthrie was full of himself but was hospitable at his modest A-frame home at the foot of Montana’s Sawtooth Mountain range. I felt privileged to have interviewed them both. Governor Herschler was in his golf duds when I interviewed him at the state capitol building in Cheyenne. He was very candid about his life and court battles against his friend Gerry Spence.
What is the one thing in your life or list of accomplishments that you are most proud of? Having my books published, which will soon number over a dozen, and hearing from my readers, who have said they enjoy my books. What more could a writer ask? Who are your favorite authors? I learned to write fiction by reading Dean Koontz’s novels and he remains a favorite. I also read James Patterson (without his co-authors), Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie, and the classics at the moment. I read Janet Evanovich when I feel in the mood to laugh. I like a lot of writers, who are too numerous to name.
What's next for you? I’m working on my first children’s book, The Mystery of Spider Mountain, which is a takeoff on my childhood home in the Hollywood Hills. I’m also working on another western historical about the unwarranted hanging of Ella Watson-Averell, who was nicknamed Cattle Kate by her cattlemen executioners. Reading about the hanging made me angry, which is a good reason to write a book. And, of course, I’ll continue to write Logan & Caffery senior sleuth novels.
The rest of my blog book tour is listed at: http://myblogtour.blogspot.com/. I hope everyone will stop by to leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing for three of my signed copies of A Village Shattered.
If you have more questions for Jean, feel to to ask!