Jean Henry Mead, Mystery We Write Blog Tour
The Mystery We Write Blog Tour continues with Jean Henry Mead. Jean is a national award-winning journalist as well as a mystery writer. I've enjoyed her books, including one of her YA books that I read. Welcome, Jean.
How I came up with my ideas
By Jean Henry Mead
Writers are often asked where their ideas come from and we have to stop and think. Because I started my writing career in the dark ages as a police reporter, I have a lot of experiences to draw from. I say the dark ages because when I started my first job, reporters were still using manual typewriters.
But long before I was old enough to hold down a job, I read Los Angeles newspapers, where I grew up fascinated with crime and murders. And there are plenty of both in the City of Angels. I’d wait on the front porch after school for the newspaper boy to toss one into our rose bushes. Then before I read the comics, I reviewed the front page with its grisly articles about gang wars and killings. I don’t know why that fascinated me, but it’s probably why I turned to journalism in high school and college.
After eight years of police reporting—which takes a toll on everyone except the most hard-bitten journalists, I decided to retire to write mystery novels. It wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. I first wrote a number of nonfiction history books, one of which became a college textbook, as well as interview books. Traveling the state, I interviewed everyone who was anyone in the cowboy state where I’d moved after marrying a Wyomingite. Back in the 1980s, you could call the state capital and talk to the governor, so I interviewed Governor Herschler, his wife Casey, our U.S. senators, the secretary of state, attorney Gerry Spence and any number of V.I.P.s, but what I really wanted to do was write fiction.
After my first frustrated attempts at novel writing, I took the Famous Writers Fiction course and was on my way. I’d spent two years at a microfilm machine researching a centennial history book and had a stack of typewritten notes nearly a foot high. I decided to write a historical novel so all that research wouldn’t go to waste. Fortunately, Western Writers of America held a convention here that year and I joined WWA. Among the writers who attended were Fred Grove and Richard S. Wheeler, both multi-award-winning writers who took me under their writing wings and served as mentors. Fred allowed me to send him my fledgling chapters, one at a time (in snail mail), and he critiqued them but didn’t edit my work. When the book was finished, Richard read it and made further suggestions as well as writing a great review.
The book was first published as Escape on the Wind and later resold twice as Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel. The book has outsold all my other 16 books put together. So I guess you could say my ideas for the book came not only from the microfilm machine and my two mentors but my interest in Wyoming’s rich history.
My mystery novel protagonists originated from my relationship with my best friend Marge. My two feisty women amateur sleuths are semi-autobiographical and their relationship stems from the fun times we’ve had together. In Murder on the Interstate and Diary of Murder, my ideas evolved from my experiences driving a mothorhome all over the Southwest, which my protagonists do, solving murders. And one of my protagonists, Dana Logon, has a daughter Kerrie who is a journalist. She surprised me by showing up on her mother’s doorstep during the San Joaquin serial killings, in A Village Shattered, where I once lived. So most of my ideas have come from experience.
My most recent book, The Mystery Writers, is a collection of interviews with Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, Julie Garwood, J. A. Jance, Vicki Hinze and a host of other authors, many of them bestsellers and award-winners. There are also a great many good articles written by them that will benefit both novice and veteran writers. The interviews originated on my blog site, Mysterious Writers, and were so good that I couldn’t allow them to disappear—my idea for a good book! I can say that because I’m only the editor.
Thank you for sharing with us, Jean.
Lou Allin will be continuing the Blog Tour on April 23 with a blog about her story ideas. Please stop by. You won't be sorry.
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