November 30, 2011

Mystery We Write Winter 2011 Blog Tour Presents Jean Henry Mead

 

Making the Transition from Journalism to Fiction

By Jean Henry Mead

Writing fiction has always been my goal. I wrote my first novel when I was nine, a chapter a day to entertain classmates, but my first published novel didn’t appear until many years later, in 1999.

There were no fiction writing classes available so I wrote for my high school newspaper. Later, as a divorced mother of four young daughters, I served as editor in chief of my college newspaper while working 35 hours a week for the local daily as a “cub” reporter. Driving 50 miles round trip to school in another town, often in pea soup fog, made me realize that I could do anything, if I lived through it. It also made me even more determined to write fiction.

When I wrote my first novel, after two years of sitting behind a microfilm machine to research a centennial history, I had so many typewritten notes that I couldn’t allow them go to waste. They served as research for an historical novel titled Escape on the Wind, which later resold as Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, now in its fourth edition. I had already written four nonfiction books and the focus, of course, is entirely different. Nonfiction is objective while fiction is subjective, although all fiction is rooted in fact.

For me, the transition was a struggle. Fortunately, during the 1980s, well established writers were still taking fledglings under their wings. My mentor was Fred Grove, who had won five prestigious Spur Awards from Western Writers of America. Fred had also begun his writing career in journalism so he understood that switching to fiction could be difficult. He encouraged me to snail mail him chapters as I wrote them. He then told me what I was doing wrong, as well
as right. He didn’t edit or rewrite my work but his encouragement made all the difference.

When historical western novels lost their popularity, I was encouraged by my pen pal, Loren
Estleman, to follow his keystrokes by writing mysteries, which I’ve always enjoyed reading. My two boomer amateur sleuths were given birth when I thought about the relationship between myself and a good friend while I was struggling through my college courses. The humor that’s sprinkled throughout my books originated with my friend, Marge, who could always make me laugh. (She missed her calling as a standup comic.)

After three Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novels, I decided to also try my hand at writing children’s novels, so the Hamilton Kid’s mystery series took root this year. Mystery of Spider
Mountain
and Ghost of Crimson Dawn were published after I took a children’s writing course with Louise Munro Foley as my mentor. I chose her because she also writes with humor.

I’m still writing nonfiction, mainly recycling blog articles into ebooks, but my favorite writing will always remain fiction.

Bio:  Jean Henry Mead is the author of 15 books, half of them novels. Her Logan and Cafferty mystery/suspense series is comprised of three novels: A Village Shattered, Diary of Murder and Murder on the Interstate. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist with articles published nationally as well as abroad. The southern California native now lives in Wyoming with her husband and Australian Shepherd.

Her website: www.jeanhenrymead.com

She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

Jean’s latest Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, Murder on the Interstate, is available at:

Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/6znjvsa (print and Kindle) and

Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/3vxzppy (Nook)

She’s giving away one of her mystery e-books at the end of each of her 14 blog appearances as well as three print novels at the conclusion of the tour. Be sure to leave a comment and email address to be eligible for the drawings. Her blog tour schedule is listed at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/

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  1. Welcome, Jean! Folks, I’ll be gone all day and into the evening, working at my daughter’s special ed class, where she teaches almost a dozen wonderful kids how to survive on their own as much as possible, so I won’t be able to respond to comments until late tonight. But I will respond first chance I get. Meantime, thank you so much for stopping by. See you soon! XOXO, Beth

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  2. Interesting Post, Jean.

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  3. Thanks, Beth, for hosting me on your great site fpr Day #6 of our holiday virtual tour. XOXO

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  4. Interesting background Jean. I wrote nonfiction for years but could never go back and forth between the two.
    Wendy
    W.S. Gager on Writing

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  5. Interesting, Jean, about the fiction and nonfiction. I seldom (only when my book club forces me!) read nonfiction, and my husband never read fiction. It’s all great…

    Madeline

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  6. Jean, among your accomplishments you failed to mention that your reporting and writing skills combine to make you one of the best interviewers of writers I’ve ever read.

    Thanks for this. I enjoyed it very much.

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  7. Wendy, I think you do a pretty darned good job portraying MIth Malone, ace reporter, in your books.

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  8. Madeline, I don’t know how anyone can write fiction without reading nonfiction for research. Even fantasy novelists have to find some basis in reality.

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  9. Thank you, Tim. I research each intervivewee before I ask questions. That’s a habit I acqauired while serving as a news reporter.

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  10. I’m sorry you got caught in the demise of the historical novel, too, Jean. Been there, done that — but it looks as though we both slogged into mysteries that way!

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  11. We sure did, Alice, but my historical novel is still outselling my mysteries and I’m currently working on another historical hat I hope will be finished next year.

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  12. Fine post, Jean. Obviously you were born a writer, and you’ve worked hard to make yourself a good, good writer. Part of that training must have been the discipline of writing and editing news, and of researching and writing nonfiction. However it happened, it has paid off. Good work.

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  13. Jean, Each time I read a post from you, I learn a bit more about your background. You are a tenacious woman, my dear.

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  14. Thank you, John, for the kind words. That means a great deal to me coming from you.

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  15. My husband calls it stubbornness, Jackie. 🙂 Life has so much to offer and I hate to fail at anything I attempt to do.

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  16. Good for you, Jean, for writing another historical novel! I’ve gotta finish one or two I’ve begun. Erk. I don’t want to 🙁

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  17. Alice, it’s a book I’ve wanted to write since the 1980s when I spent two years at a microfilm machine researching a centenninal history. I was angry when I read newspaper accounts of the hanging of Ellen Watson-Averell and her husband Jim, by cattlemen who wanted their homestead land. I’ve been researching the story on and off for years.

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  18. Hi, Jean,

    You definitely haven’t had it easy, and all your hard work and effort should be rewarded. Wishing you every success now and in the future.

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  19. Thank you, Jacqueline, for your kind words. It hasn’t been all work and no play. I actually enjoy writing and my series chaacters are like old friends.

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  20. Interesting blog, and I enjoy your writing. In you case it sounds like writing is the blood, so to speak. Thanks for sharing.

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  21. Thanks for stopping by, Marja. From raeding and enjoying your own writing, I think it’s in your blood as well.

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  22. Sorry I was MIA last night. NOt only was I at my daughter’s school yesterday, about a half hour after we left, on our way to shopping, I got sick. We came home, I hit the bed, and stayed there. Much better this morning but man, was I out of it last night. Anyhow, Jean is a fantastic writer and all around good person, and I enjoyed having her on my blogsite for the day. Much success in the future, Jean! To all of us, actually. 😉 XOXO Beth

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  23. Thanks so much, Beth. I hope you’re feeling much better today.

    Reply

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