Friday, December 5, 2008

Interview with Jean Henry Mead on Community Fridays

Welcome to Community Fridays!

During Community Fridays, I interview authors, editors, publishers, and pretty much anyone else who I can get my hands on from the writing and publishing community. Hope you enjoy, and feel free to suggest new participants. Check out current and past interviews here. Only have a minute? Click here for interviews at a glance.

For today's interview, I managed to coerce Jean Henry Mead, author of the book A Village Shattered to stop by on her blog book tour. The sheriff from the book, Sheriff Walter Grayson, is here also.

Sherriff Grayson, you had to deal with some slippery characters, and convince them to tell their stories. How was that? Did they give you any trouble?

The Logan and Cafferty women think they're amateur sleuths and decided to investigate on their own. They don't realize how dangerous that is with a serial killer roaming the village in the San Joaquin Valley's pea soup fog. The Lambert woman antagonizes me every time she sees me. She may be the mother of Russ Lambert, the former sheriff I defeated in the last election. But the worst suspect I had to contend with is Pat Wilson, who flaunts his guilt like waving a flag. He's my prime suspect and I'm gonna prove he's committing the murders.

Same with you, Jean. It must have been difficult keeping everyone in their places. Any tips for how you kept your story straight?

Pure luck in most cases, Emma. I swear that they literally ran with the book and nagged me to get up early each morning to catch up with them. They literally became real people that I watched in my mind's eye, and I typed as fast as I could to keep up with their conversations. I did very little hardcore rewriting because the characters wrote the book themselves.

How do you think she did, Sheriff? Do you think she'd be able to fill your shoes someday?

I don't think she would like to have my job. She was a police reporter who got tired of writing about people's problems and tragedies. Of course she uses some of her experiences to write mystery novels, especially when it comes to law enforcement. And her husband was once a highway patrolman. I know that she much prefers writing about fictional lawbreakers than real ones.

Were there any major roadblocks you encountered in your investigation? Any stake-outs gone bad?

Sheriff Walter Grayson: Plenty of roadblocks and red herrings. The only stake-out that went bad was when one of the two main characters, Sarah Cafferty, decided to stage a stake-out of her own, she and that Portuguese roommate of hers. That ended badly, but it wasn't my fault. I'm new at this sheriffing business, you know. I won the election not long ago and my only prior experience was training police dogs.

Jean Henry Mead: Yes, the sheriff does struggle to get a handle on things but he's a good man. He tries to stay on top of things but there are so many suspects to investigate that I doubt an experienced lawman could do much better. There's also the opaque San Joaquin Valley fog to contend with. And the killer uses it to his advantage. I lived in central California's San Joaquin Valley for more than a dozen years so placing the novel there was the easiest part of the project. No background research was necessary.

What were some of the most interesting details you dug up? Did you have to resort to any less-than-savory methods to find them?

SWG: I learned that the killer stole the Sew and So Club members' roster so that he could kill the women alphabetically. I figured that it was some old guy in the retirement village who was more than a bubble off, but the suspects keep cropping up with motives of their own. And no, I don't consider any of my methods of detection less-than-savory.

JHM: Actually, the sheriff has conducted himself quite well although he lacks experience. Everyone was mad at him at first but they gradually learned that he was trying his best to find the killer. One of the village residents, Micki Fagundos, even made a play for him although he only has eyes for Dana Logan.

Here is a personal question for you, Sheriff. People have likened you to that fictional hunk of law-enforcing metallic muscle, Robocop. What are your thoughts on this? Do you try and keep your emotions out of the case? Are you just naturally gruff? Or are you hiding something?

Robocop? Not likely. I'm not an emotional kind of guy but robotic? Officers of the law have to keep their emotions under control, even if they fall in love with one of the suspects. I may be considered naturally gruff but you have to understand that I'm going through a painful divorce. That would make any man less than gracious. Hiding something? Certainly not. There are plenty of secrets hiding in the retirement village, without me having some of my own. Well, maybe one. I fell in love with Dana Logan, but I doubt she feels the same.

One of the Village residents, Dana, is a huge mystery fan. Do either of you have favorite genres or writers? How have they influenced you?

SWG: I've always been a mystery fan but I haven't had time to sleep, let alone read since I took on this case. I like Joseph Wambaugh and a good many other mystery writers.

JHM: I think the sheriff's reading habits convinced him originally to run for sheriff. Some writers make law enforcement sound glamorous. I personally like the works of Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, James Patterson, Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle, and a host of others. I'm sure they've all influenced me to some extent.

Do you have any future plans if this case ever gets solved?

SWG: I'm not running for sheriff again.That's a fact! Police dog training has given me a great deal of satisfaction and I plan to return to that. Dogs, as you must know, are trustworthy and loyal, unlike a lot of human beings. I miss my K-9s greatly and keep a picture of them on my desk at the office.

JHM: As soon as this case is solved, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty will be plunged into another murder case, this time in Wyoming to investigate the reported suicide of Dana's sister, a mystery writer. But first they have to survive a Rocky Mountain blizzard in their motorhome. The second book in the series, Diary of Murder, will be out next spring.

About the Author

Jean Henry Mead has published eleven books, three of them novels. She's a mystery and western historical novelist, historian, editor and photojournalist. Some of her books are listed on her website. She also contributes to a number of blogs: Write On! (writing advice), A Western Historical Happening, Murderous Musings, and Make Mine Murder.

Please stop by and sign Jean's blog tour virtual guestbook! While you're at it, read about the other stops on Jean's tour, and how YOU can win signed copies of A Village Shattered! Also, Jean will be hanging around today, so don't forget to say hi!

© Emma Larkins and Jean Henry Mead
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