I'm pleased to introduce my guest blogger for today, Jean Henry Mead. Jean's path to publication began when she was only nine. You can tell from her story that she was committed to her writing goals at an early age, and she has carried through by working hard and taking advantage of a variety of opportunities.
My Writing Life By Jean Henry Mead
I never dreamed of becoming a writer, although I used to rush home from school to write another chapter of my first novel on construction paper to entertain classmates when I was nine. Fortunately, it was never published.
When I was eleven, I visited the library each Saturday to carry home an armload of books, everything from astronomy to zoology. The nonfiction phase of my life carried through to high school where I wrote articles for the school paper. Later, while a divorced mother of four, I served as editor of my college newspaper while working part time for my hometown daily newspaper as a cub reporter and later as editor for a San Diego newspaper. When I remarried four years later, we moved from California to Wyoming, where I worked for the statewide newspaper and was editor of In Wyoming Magazine. I also freelanced for the Denver Post’s Empire Magazine and other publications both domestically and abroad.
I had always specialized in interviews, so I decided to write my first book. Driving the state alone, I interviewed well known people such as attorney Gerry Spence, Governor Herschler, our U.S. senators, country singer Chris LeDoux and other notable residents. That trip will someday become the basis for another mystery novel.
My second nonfiction book was the basis for my first novel, Escape on the Wind, later republished as Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel. The book that triggered the novel, Casper Country: Wyoming’s Heartland, is a centennial history that nearly did me in. I spent more than two years researching old newspapers on microfilm at the library—98 years’ worth. I also had to collect over 200 pages of photographs to accompany the text. Every edition fortunately sold out and Casper Country became a textbook at Casper College. I had so many notes left over when the book was published that I decided to someday write a novel.
Western Writers of America held a convention in Casper and I joined the organization of some 600 members and was named national publicity director. I then wrote Maverick Writers, interviews with Louis L’Amour, Will Henry, A.B. Guthrie, Jr., Hollywood screenwriters and others. Visiting L’Amour and Guthrie in their homes was the highlight of my career.
I interviewed so many writers, actors, politicians, artists and ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things that a collection of my best interviews was later published as Westerners: Candid and Historic Interviews. I also wrote a Wyoming Trivia book and edited What Our Parents Should Know: Advice from Teens. My daughter’s advanced middle school students in Salt Lake City wrote the book, which included chapters on drugs, coed sleepovers, sports envy, homosexuality and other topics.
I then wrote my first mystery novel, Shirl Lock & Holmes, with 60-year old widows as sassy senior sleuths in a retirement village where their friends and club members are dropping dead alphabetically. My publisher closed its door so I sold the series to another publisher, which became the Logan & Cafferty series, the first book titled, A Village Shattered. I then placed Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty in a motorhome and had them leave California on vacation. During the trip, Dana learns that her sister, a mystery writer, has died and her husband claims it was suicide. The senior sleuths then set out to prove it was murder. Dana inherited her sister’s mansion so Wyoming becomes their new home, where they encounter a vicious drug ring and more bodies. The book is titled, Diary of Murder. I’m currently working on the third novel in the series, Murder on the Interstate, which takes place in Arizona, in an area where I used to live. I’m incorporating the events currently taking place there.
My 13th book is my fourth book of interviews. Mysterious Writers is a collection of my blog articles featuring Carolyn Hart, Jeffrey Deaver, Louise Penny, John Gilstrap, Elmore Leonard—more than 70 mystery writers in all, with articles about the publishing industry written by each author. Released this month on Kindle, B&N and Sony readers, Mysterious Writers will hopefully appear in print in the near future.
Jean, I really appreciate you being here today and sharing your own path to publication. For those who want to know more about Jean and her books, see these interviews posted at her website. Jean is a contributor to the Make Mine Mystery blog and to Murderous Musings. She is the host of Mysterious Writers which features interviews with some of the best known writers in the mystery genre.