Welcome to Week 7 of the 2011 Mystery We Write Blog Tour. My guest is Jean Henry Mead. She is a mystery/suspense and western historical novelist, author of Mystery of Spider Mountain, Murder on the Interstate, Diary of Murder, A Village Shattered, Escape, A Wyoming Historical Novel; Mysterious Writers, Westerners: Candid & Historic Interviews and many others.
Jean is also an award-winning photojournalist. One of her fortes is interviewing writers, actors, politicians, artists and ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. She began her writing career as a
news reporter/editor/photographer, first in California Central California and later in . Mead transferred to San Diego , to serve as a staff writer for the statewide newspaper. While there, she served as editor of In Wyoming Magazine and two small presses. She also freelanced for other publications, both domestic and abroad, among them the Denver Post's Empire Magazine. Her first book was published in 1982. Casper, Wyoming
Anne – Welcome to my little corner of cyberspace, Jean. If everyone is comfy, let’s talk writing! Tell us a something about yourself that you would normally only share with close friends.
Jean - Although I’ve worked as a news reporter and photojournalist, I’m basically shy.
Anne - When did you first realize you were destined to be an author?
Jean - I wrote my first novel in fourth grade, a chapter a day to entertain classmates, and have always loved to read. But before I was able to write my first novel, I worked as a news reporter/magazine and small press editor, photojournalist and nonfiction book author. My first novel was published in 1999.
Anne - What one or two lines best sums you up as an author?
Jean - I’m someone who loves to entertain as well as inform, which is why I include humor in all my books, including nonfiction.
Anne - What activity (cause, charity, organization) consumes your time when you’re away from the keyboard?
Jean - I’ve been active in a number of youth groups such as scouting, YMCA and Bobby Sox baseball while my daughters were growing up. I’ve since served as national publicity director and secretary-treasurer for the 600-plus member Western Writers of America, president of Wyoming Writers and historian for Press Women.
During the snow-free months, my husband and I ride four-wheelers and take plenty of photographs in and of the surrounding mountains and wildlife.
Anne - Do you have a fear, phobia, or habit you’d rather no one knew about?
Anne – My sympathies! Heights and small spaces bother me, too. I often write while sitting in my car. Parked. In my driveway! I call it my “cone of silence”. My very own writer’s cocoon, if you will. Do you have a unique place to write? Tell us about it.
Jean - After working as a news reporter in a very noisy press room in
, I could write anywhere, including the middle of a traffic jam. San Diego
Anne - How long does it take you to write a book?
Jean - My first novel required four years of research and writing to complete. Escape, A Wyoming Historical Novel, is still my best selling book. Now that I’ve written and published 14 books, they usually take 6-8 months, depending on the genre. My children’s books are only 30,000 words so usually take 3-4 months.
Anne - Describe your home office as appears right now. Is this a good or bad thing?!
Jean - Because we recently moved to a small mountaintop ranch and my writing space is a third the size of my former one, it’s very cramped and filled with boxes that I haven’t had time to unpack because I’m currently have three WIPs. It really doesn’t bother me while I’m writing because I’m off in another world.
Anne - Do you belong to any writer’s organizations, critique groups, and/or depend on beta readers?
Jean - I’m currently a member of Mystery Writers of America, Western Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Author’s Guild and Wyoming Writers. I’d love to join a good online critique group of published writers.
Anne - How long did your journey from wannabe writer to published author take?
Jean - The journey from first publication to first paid publication took 20 years. I worked on my middle school and high school newspapers and was editor-in-chief of my college newspaper. I served as a cub reporter for my hometown daily while still a college student. I later worked as editor of In Wyoming Magazine and freelanced for such magazines as the Denver Post’s Empire Magazine and a number of foreign publications before publishing my first book in 1981. I’ve been fortunate to publish every book I’ve written.
Anne - If you could just snap your fingers and go, where would you visit, return to, or move? Why?
Jean - I’m a native southern Californian who married a Wyomingite, and I’m often homesick for my home territory, especially the weather. My best friend still lives there and I miss the hustle and bustle of the big city and the opportunities available to writers.
Anne - How many books have you written to date? Are you most proud of one in particular? If so, why?
Jean - I’ve written and published 14 books. There are two I’m most proud of. My second book, Casper Country:
’s Heartland, is a centennial history book, which I researched by reading 97 years’ worth of microfilmed newspapers. The project took four years of research and writing. The second is Escape, A Wyoming Historical Novel, my first novel. I used a lot of the research from Casper Country to write it. Wyoming
Anne - Of all the characters you’ve created, does one hold a special place in your heart? Why?
Jean - Tom “Peep” O’Day, an alcoholic horsethief, was the most fun to write about, and an actual person who was briefly a member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch until he caused the gang to bungle the Belle Fourche bank robbery. The mystery is how he remained a member for as long as he did and how he managed to survive.
Anne - What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Jean - Dragging myself away from social networking and blogging, which takes up an inordinate amount of time.
Anne - What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself from your writing?
Jean - That I have a talent for language and an ear for dialogue, my forte.
Anne - Are you a glass half-empty or half-full kind of person?
Jean - I like to think I’m a half-full kind of person but sometimes events over which I have no control make me a glass half-empty.
Anne - What makes you cry? Laugh? Lose your temper?
Jean - Tragedy, unfairness and disrespect from and for others makes me cry and lose my temper. The antics of small children and animals make me laugh as well as good comedy.
Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?
Jean - Read everything you can get your hands on, despite the genre or subject matter. Read your work aloud for sentence rhythm and set a “finished” manuscript aside for a month or more. Then take it out and read it carefully for errors and clarity. Edit and polish it again before sending it out. And research publications before you submit to them.
Anne - Outside of writing, what accomplishment are you most proud?
Jean - Returning to school as a divorced mother of four young daughters to earn a degree in English/journalism while working as a cub reporter for the local daily newspaper and serving as editor of the campus newspaper. And driving 25 miles each way in pea soup
fog during the fall/winters to do it. Also, surviving with four hours sleep during that time while staying on the honor rolls along with my daughters. (We did our homework together.) San Joaquin Valley
Anne - Quick. Your five favorites – author, actor, movie, song, quote.
Jean - Author: Carolyn Hart. Actor: Sean Connery. Movie: “Gone with the Wind”. Song: “You Light up My Life”. Quote: “Heaven is the Place Where All the Dogs You’ve Ever Loved Come to Greet you.”
Anne – Thanks so much for dropping by today, Jean. Murder on the Interstate, along with your other books, are definitely going on my TBR list!
Visit Jean Henry Mead’s blog sites:
Mysterious Writers: http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/
Writers of the West: http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/
Murderous Musings: http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com/
Make Mine Mystery: http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/
She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.
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