Monday, December 1, 2008

Guest Blog: Writing is My Life by Jean Henry Mead

I'm thrilled to have Jean Henry Mead here on her blog book tour for her new novel A Shattered Village.

Writing is My Life

I never dreamed when I wrote my first novel in fourth grade that I would eventually become a writer. When you're nine, you do things for fun, and for me writing a chapter a day to entertain classmates was pure pleasure.

Since that time I've struggled to learn the language of fiction, as Pulitzer winner A. B. Guthrie called it. Guthrie, a newspaper reporter and editor, made the leap from journalism to fiction with great stress and fortitude. I walked a similar path. Why would anyone who writes for a living have a difficult time making the switch? I guess it's because juornalism is objective and fiction delves beneath the surface.

I was privileged to interview the old man of the literary mountain at his modest A-frame home in northern Montana's outback. When I asked Guthrie the difference between journalism and fiction, he gave a great example: “A well-known man in Lexington, Kentucky died and afterward, his widow had a full-size portrait of him in the house, and when people came to visit, she would refer to the picture as if he were still alive, saying, 'Isn't that so, Enoch?' So you see, you can't put that in a newspaper, but it's great for fiction.”

Before I was able to write and sell my first novel, I worked as a reporter in high school, served as editor of my college newspaper and wrote for a number of daily papers in both California and Wyoming. Along the way I served as editor of In Wyoming magazine and freelanced as a photojournalist for the Denver Post's Empire Magazine. My first nonfiction book was published in 1982, a collection of interviews with Wyoming's VIPs, starting with then-Congressman Dick Cheney. Among my favorites were Governor and Mrs. Ed Herschler, infamous lawyer Gerry Spence and sportscaster Curt Gowdy. I also interviewed Ed Cantrell, the Wyoming lawman who shot and killed his own undercover agent between the eyes in the backseat of his patrol car.

Journalism is a great career for the young, but it eventually takes its toll. Reporting on tragedies and the pain and anguish of your fellow citizens either makes you callous or crazy. I opted for photojournalism so that I could pick and choose my interviews and stories. I freelanced for a number of years and won some awards. A number of my articles and interviews wound up in magazines in Norway and Germany, but what I really wanted to do was write novels. After seven nonfiction books, I wrote my first historical l and then the first of my mystery novels. My current mystery/suspense novel, A Village Shattered, is the first in my Logan and Cafferty senior sleuth series . I've always been an Agatha Christie fan and loved her Miss Marple books, so I decided that it was time for some feisty modern senior sleuths.

I was sitting at my computer one day when I began to write about Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, two widows who were suddenly confronted with the murders of their friends and club members in the Valley Retirement Village in California's San Joaquin Valley, where I had lived for a dozen years. After three murders they realized that the women were being killed alphabetically. Dana, a mystery novel buff, and Sarah, a private investigator's widow, decide to solve the murders themselves when they discover their club roster had been stolen and the killer is using it to select his next victims. Their own names are on the list and the newly-elected sheriff is bungling the investigation. During the reign of terror in San Joaquin Valley fog, Dana's daughter arrives at her front door and needs a place to stay. She lost her job as well as her fiancé and it isn't long before she's also on the killer's list.

After many years of writing I've finally found my niche. I love writing both mystery/suspense novels and western historicals. I hope you'll follow along on my first blog book tour and learn more about my characters. Six of my blog hosts will be interviewing characters from my book and others will be interviewing me. I'll also be writing some articles about writing. Please join us for the tour. The schedule can be found at:

Thank you for your interest!

Jean Henry Mead

Jean is giving away three copies of her book throughout the blog tour, to those who leave comments on the various posts. You can also buy the book here or on Amazon.


wordlily said...

I can attest to what Mead says, that journalism is a tough road. I'm glad I got out when I did. Now if I can just turn the corner, like she did, into novel writing, I'll be good. :)

Marvin D. Wilson said...

See that's what I love about these tours. You get to learn things you'd never expect about authors. Wrote your first novel in 4th grade? Gimme a break, Jean! And I though I was an achiever having written a short musical theater piece in high school.

Good post, Amy & Jean. And I'm looking forward to the 10th when I'll be interviewing (main character) Sarah as part of this tour. which remind me, I still got some reading & reviewing to do. Great read so far, Jean!

Jean Henry Mead said...


What helped me most in making the transition was studying the writing styles of Dean Koontz and Ernest Hemingway, who happened to be my favorite novelists at that time. Joining online writers' groups also helped because I was able to discuss any problems I was having.

Thanks for the kind words, Marvin. The novel I wrote in fourth grade wasn't a bestseller, by any means, but I've since worked in the Poetry in the Schools Program with elementary school kids. You can spot a writer among them at an early age, and should encourage them to use their creative skills.

Sharon - inspiring stories said...

Very interesting post. Sounds like your really have found your niche. Although I'm not a special fan of this genre, you have aroused my interest and I'll be following your blog tour to find out more.

Velda Brotherton said...

Jean, I'm getting to know you better, and this post helped immensely. What an exciting life you've led, and now you're putting all that experience to good use . . . writing what you've always wanted to write.
I look forward to following your tour and reading your books, all of which are in line on my TBR list.
Best wishes on your newest endeavor.

Lillie Ammann said...

I enjoyed hearing about your journalism career. You interviewed some fascinating people!

I'll see you and Micki on my blog on Dec. 11th.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Sharon and Velda. The internet is such a wonderful place to meet so many nice people while promoting your work. I'm a great fan of yours, Velda. Congratulations again on being a finalist in the Willa Awards.

unwriter said...

yes, I agree, A Village Shattered is a real good book and Jean a fascinating person. Thankfully she also has a great sense of humor because I don't do normal interviews as will be seen on the 8th of Dec. We get to see the creative side of this soon to be very famous author.

Writing is an art, writing mysteries is tricky, and she has combined both very well.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Ron.I look forward to the interview and book review on Dec.8 and 9. I also enjoy your blog site very much.

Mary E. Trimble said...

Good luck on your blog tour, Jean. I admire your professionalism.

Mary E. Trimble

Chester Campbell said...

Good start to the tour, Jean. I'll have to try this when the new book comes out in April. When I was a newspaper reporter, I loved doing feature stories, so it wasn't such a big leap to the fiction side of the biz. But it looks like you've handled it well. Good luck on the tour.

Gwyn Ramsey said...

Great write up and enjoyed reading about your mystery, A Village Shattered. Sounds very intriguing. I also personally discovered that what they teach you in college and what the publisher wants are two different types of writing. Good luck on your blog tour.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you for stopping by Mary, Chester and Gwyn and for your kind comments. Thanks also to Amy for hosting the first stop on my blog tour.

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