Jean Henry Mead
Jean Henry Mead is a national award-winning photojournalist as well as a mystery, Wyoming historical and children’s novelist. Many of her 19 books have occupied various Amazon bestseller lists and she has served as a news, magazine and small press editor. She’s currently working on the fifth Logan & Cafferty mystery, A Murder in Paradise, due out this fall. Her website is www.JeanHenryMead.com
Patricia: Jean, please tell us, where did you grow up and did your childhood contribute to your desire to be a writer?
Jean: I was born in Hollywood, California and spent my formative years on Cameford Avenue, a block and a half from Paramount Studios. I remember sitting on the front porch with my mother and waving at the movie stars who drove by in their limos. I’m not sure whether that influenced me to become a writer, but I did write stories from a young age. My first book was written at age nine—a chapter a day to entertain classmates. Years later I interviewed actors and screen writers for several of my interview books.
Patricia: Where do you live now? Do you use that locale for settings in your novels?
Jean: We have a small ranch in Wyoming’s Laramie Mountains at 7,000 feet. It’s beautiful during the spring, summer and fall, but cold (and pristine) during the winters. I’ve set two of my Logan and Cafferty mysteries in Wyoming, one of them here in the Laramies (Gray Wolf Mountain) as well as one of my Hamilton Kids’ mysteries (Ghost of Crimson Dawn).
Patricia: What inspired you to write your most recent novel?
Jean: Because I started my writing career as a news reporter, I wrote five nonfiction books before I attempted my first novel. I spent two years behind a microfilm machine during the 1980s researching a centennial history book of central Wyoming (Casper Country: Wyoming’s Heartland), which became a college textbook. During my research I came across newspaper articles about a young couple who had been hanged by cattlemen who claimed they had been running a rural brothel and accepting stolen cattle as payment for their services. However, another article said that they were respectable people, the husband appointed by the governor as justice of the peace and postmaster of Sweetwater Valley. I spent over 25 years attempting to research the story that was reported around the world in 1889. Fortunately, George Hufsmith was commissioned to write an opera about the murders and spent the next 20 years interviewing people in the area who knew the truth. When his nonfiction book was published I finally had the missing puzzle pieces to begin writing my historical mystery-suspense novel, No Escape, the Sweetwater Tragedy.
I also researched single woman homesteaders of that era—some 200,000 of them—and created a composite, Susan Cameron, a young Missouri woman seeking independence and the right to vote and hold office well before the rest of the nation. I didn’t want to end the book with the murders so Susan experiences the aftermath of the story when her new friends, Ellen and James Averell are killed. Ellen, by the way, was known as “Cattle Kate,” and movies, books, songs and poetry have depicted the innocent young woman as a rustler and prostitute.
Patricia: When did you “know” that you wanted to be a writer?
Jean: When I was in elementary school. I dabbled in both writing and art and was placed in a special class, skipping the fifth grade, to work on advanced projects. That helped my creative talents immeasurably.
Patricia: Name three of your favorite authors in the mystery/suspense genre. What makes them your favorites?Jean: I learned to write fiction by studying the books of Dean Koontz. I like the way he strings his words together although I didn’t really didn’t care for his horror novels. Agatha Christie lured me into the mystery genre, where I stayed, also reading all of the alphabet series written by Sue Grafton. I’ve read many other mysteries written by a variety of authors, but Koontz, Christie and Grafton remain my favorites.
Jean is giving away a paper copy of No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy to someone who leaves a comment on this post.