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
ur 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.

Where can we find you on the web?
My webpage is located at: JeanHenryMead.com. I have two blog sites. One is a writer’s advice site, Write On! at: http://advicefromeditors.blogspot.com/ and my Western Historical Happenings site: http://awhh.blogspot.com/. I’m also a member of two mystery blogs: Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery.

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!


Becky said...

"A Village Shattered" looks like an intriguing book! I love reading great mystery romance novels- just finished reading "The Silent Note," by Patrick Davis and have since been looking for another great book to read. I am definitely going to check out your book!

Lillie Ammann said...

I recommend A Village Shattered, especially to senior citizens who like to read about protagonists who aren't twenty-somethings.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

What an interesting life Jean - and you slipped in the bit about growing up in the Hollywood Hills, but didn't mention how/why you migrated from there to Wyoming. That's quite a change in environment!

Anonymous said...

Jean, the more I read about you the more impressed I am. I want to grow up and be just like you one day. Writing novels in 4th grade, president of Wyoming Writers, I mean your list just goes on and on.

Nice interview, LJ and Jean. Looking forward to my host stop on Free Spirit on the 10th!

Emma Larkins said...

Jean, I didn't know you were so active in your local writer's community! I'll have to add Western Writers and Wyomings writers to the website I'm working on about local writer's associations by state!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Becky, I'm not sure my book is great but it made it to the number one spot at Fictionwise-ePress in multi format before it was out a week. I think this blog tour and premotional announcements are responsible. I'm now waiting for the print edition to be released this month at Amazon.com.

And thank you, Lillie, for the much appreciated recommendation.

Jean Henry Mead said...


I married a handsome Wyomingite while he was stationed at the country's largest naval air station during the Vietnam War, which happened to be my beat while I was a California news reporter.

Jean Henry Mead said...


Thank you for the kind words. I'm nearly six feet tall, so you'll have a lot of growing to do. :)

And, Emma, I was also historian for Wyoming Press Women and I'm currently a member of WWW (Women Writing the West) and MWA (Mystery Writers of America). I was active for years but I'm now just a member because writing has become more important than participating in writer organizational projects and politics.

David Fitzgerald said...

Excellent interview with some original questions!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, David. L.J. is an excellent interviewer.

BTW, I just got word that the print edition of my novel is finally up at Amazon.com in time for Christmas: http://tinyurl.com/5alkkr

Sharon - inspiring stories said...

I enjoyed finding out a little more about you today, Jean. I have one question - do you still have a copy of the novel you wrote in 4th grade?

Jean Henry Mead said...

Good heavens, no. I do remember the title though: Janie's Adventures in Pinedale (California). Thanks goodness it was never published. LOL

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, L.J. for hosting me on my blog tour. This has been fun and I appreciate your work in putting it together. I look forward to reading and reviewing your book, The Sex Club.

Jean Henry Mead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan Mandel said...

What fun to interview famous people. The only famous one I interviewed was Sidney Sheldon when I freelanced for the Daily Herald.

Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Helen said...

What a great interview. I so enjoyed learning more about you Jean. What a fascinating life and career you have.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Helen. I enjoy reading your articles on Straight from Hel. What a fascinating life you've led.

And Morgan, that was quite a coops interviewing Sidney Sheldon!

Shari Lyle-Soffe said...

I am a big fan cozy mysteries and this sounds like it would be a good one. Being a little over the hill myself, I enjoy reading about the antics of seniors who still have spunk.

I will start looking for Jean's books

Jean Henry Mead said...


You can start looking at Amazon.com. A Village Shattered was just listed yesterday. Thank you for your interest. The following book, Diary of Murder, will be out next spring.

Jean Henry Mead said...

By the way, everyone, I know how to spell coups, but have been in a fog since before the tour started from lack of sleep. Now that it's 5 below zero here on the high plains and my office is only partially heated, I'm afraid I'm going to make even more typos. I need a secretary or a good pair of typing gloves. :)

L.J., thanks again for hosting my tour. You rock as a blog host.

Dana Fredsti said...

D'oh! I did leave a comment...under my boyfriend's Google account name. It doesn't hurt to say it twice, though - I really enjoyed the questions and answers for this interview!

unwriter said...

Good background on Jean. With the police backgrounds of both it made the book more real to life. You've covered the pea soup fog of the valley very well.

Sun Singer said...

The alphabet approach really ramps up the suspense, I'll bet. "A Village Shattered" looks like the kind of book I need for a dark and stormy night just before the power goes out.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Sun Singer, My emerging author friend Emma Larkins said my novel gave her nightmares, so I don't know if you should read it on a dark, gloomy night. : But I hopoe you do read it. The second book in the series, Diary of Murder, will be out early next year.

Gwyn Ramsey said...

I love the idea of the older sleuths in your book "A village Shattered". What a great idea. Especially since they are both women. Also the Shelley Winters and Gina Davis idea was a good visual.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Gwyn. Their images just sort of popped into my mind as they were sitting on the couch talking, following Alice's death, the first murder victim.

Becky said...


I just finished reading "A Village Shattered." Great job! I really enjoyed your book.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Becky! You've made my day!!!