Jean Henry Mead's Mystery of Spider Mountain

My guest today is author Jean Henry Mead, writer extraordinaire and member of the 2011 Mystery We Write Blog Tour. For the interview with Jean that was posted this week, please visit my Anne K. Albert blog. Okay, now, let’s talk writing! Welcome to my little corner of cyberspace, Jean.

Anne - What one or two lines best sums you up as an author?

Jean - A doggedly persistent writer who loves research and likes to entertain and inform my readers. Nothing makes me happier than to hear from a reader who not only enjoyed one of my books, but who says they learned something.

Anne - Tell us about Mystery of SpiderMountain.

Jean - Mystery of Spider Mountain is my first childrens’ novel and is somewhat autographical because I spent my formative years in the Hollywood hills of California. We called our hill, Spider Mountain—with good reason. My four brothers were reduced to two and Jaime, Sam and Danny climbed the hill to investigate the mysterious house at their “mountain’s summit.” What they found there changed their lives forever.

Anne - I often write while sitting in my car. Parked. In my driveway! I call it my “cone of silence”. My very own writer’s cocoon, if you will. Do you have a unique place to write? Tell us about it.

Jean - Because I wrote in very noisy newsrooms, including one in San Diego, I can write anywhere, including the middle of a traffic jam. But I prefer a quiet space where no one tries to talk to me while I’m writing. Or where phones aren’t ringing while I’m in the middle of a scene. My travel trailer is a great place to write when I turn off my cell phone.

Anne - How long does it take you to write a book?

Jean - I’ve had a nonfiction books take up to four years of research and writing, including a centennial history that required two years of sitting behind a microfilm machine to read 97 years’ worth of newspapers. A children’s book takes 3-4 months and a mystery novel 6-8 months if I’m not distracted by other projects. I currently have three WIPs (books in progress).

Anne - Describe your home office as appears right now. Is this a good or bad thing?!

Jean - At the moment it’s a haven for packing boxes because we recently sold our house in the valley and moved to our small ranch in the Laramie Mountains. It’s a great place to write unless a herd of deer or antelope walk by my window and I’m distracted and grab for my camera.

If writer’s block ever rears its ugly head, I’ll finish unpacking the boxes and try to find someplace to put everything (old manuscripts, etc.).

Anne - Any words of advice for struggling, unpublished writers?

Jean - Read everything you can get your eyes on, regardless of genre. Learn what constitutes good writing as well as bad. I learned to write novels by studying the work of Dean Koontz and Sue Grafton. I also studied the work of, and interviewed Pulitzer winner A.B. Guthrie, Jr., who wrote The Big Sky and The Way West, among other award-winning novels.

Above all, don’t give up. I’ve interviewed hundreds of writers who said that ten years is the average length of time between first sitting down to write and publishing a good novel. However, now that anyone can publish anything on Kindle, that rule no longer holds true. The best thing you can do, in my humble opinion, is to place your “finished” manuscript in a drawer for a month, then take it out and read it as though it were written by someone else. Edit and polish it again before sending it out. If you can afford an editor, by all means hire one if you want to be published by a traditional publisher.

Anne - Outside of writing, what accomplishments are you most proud?

Jean - Winning ten dance contests in a row when I was in my late 20s, chosen as the soprano to represent my high school for the Los Angeles All-City choir, winning an art contest, and driving a full-sized moving van from New Mexico to Wyoming in the dead of winter on icy roads by myself.

Anne – Would you share an excerpt with us from Mystery on Spider Mountain?

Jean – Of course!

     There were too many trees to walk a straight line but she kept the needle as close to south as possible. Glancing at her watch she noted the time: 2:15 p.m. What time had she left camp? Probably one o’clock. The camp had to be close by. Tired, she sat down in the shade of tall tree and drifted off to sleep.         

     When she woke, the sun was slanting low over the trees and she looked again at her watch. It was nearly five o’clock. Mom and Grandma must be worried. She called their names but heard no reply. Checking her compass, she headed north again, noticing that the trees were no longer pine. She must be going in the wrong direction. She then turned south to retrace her steps.

     A flock of birds flew overhead but she ignored them. There was no time to take pictures.

     She had to return to camp before dark. Picking up her pace, she dodged trees and forgot to recheck her compass. A grove of evergreens was ahead and she hoped it was the same one she had originally walked into.

     Branches scraped her bare arms and jeans as she hurried into the grove. When she remembered the compass, she reached into each pocket and found it missing. It must have fallen out of her pocket when she stopped to take a nap. It was too late to look for it. She had to keep going. The sun was now hiding behind thick branches of trees. It would be dark soon. She stopped and yelled her family’s names. Dad and the boys must be back from fishing by now. Maybe they were out looking for her.

     “Dad,” she yelled. “Sam, Danny, Mom, Grandma. Where are you?”

     A tear hesitated on her cheek but she couldn’t allow herself to cry. She had to find her way back to camp. Which way should she go?

Anne – Thanks so much for dropping by, Jean. Children’s book aside, this adult is adding Mystery on Spider Mountain to my TBR list!

Visit Jean Henry Mead’s blog sites:
Mysterious Writers:
She’s also on Facebook and Twitter.

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If you have a moment, click on the logo below for my interview this week on author Marja McGraw's blog - it's all part of week # 7 in the 2011 Mystery We Write Blog Tour. Thanks!

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Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks, Anne, for featuring the first book in my Hamilton Kids' series, Mystery of Spider Mountain.
I'm busy at work on the second novel in the series, The Ghost of Crimson Dawn.

Anne K. Albert said...

My pleasure, Jean. I'm looking forward to reading all of your books!

The Stiletto Gang said...

Hi, Jean. I've always wanted to write a children's books, never got around to it though. Your series sounds great!

I can write anywhere too, but because I've always been able to tune out everything around me, probably because of raising 5 kids, 4 grandkids at various times though the years, and having lots of interruptions.

Great interview!


Jean Henry Mead said...

I know what you mean, Marilyn. I also raised 5 kids, had 9 grandchilden until two were lost in accidents. Mystery of Spider Mountain is dedicated to the loving memory of Coleby and A.J.

Beth Anderson said...

As always, Jean, it's fascinating to learn more about you with every blog post. Your children's mystery sounds like it'd make great Christmas gifts. I'll put them on my FOUND ONE list!

Sharon Ervin said...

Ah, Christmas gifts. SPIDER MOUNTAIN. Great idea. It's 104˚ here this afternoon. At your suggestion, I savor thoughts of Christmas. Enjoyed the blog.

Anne K. Albert said...

Yikes! The weather is finally warming and my toes aren't always cold. Christmas I can handle. Winter? Brrrr!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Beth and Sharon. I hope kids will enjoy reading Spider Mountain as Christmas gifts. There's a lot of humor to make them laugh and some interesting information on spiders, such as the fact that tarantula's noses are on their feet. There is also some good advice foe kids that get happen to get lost in the forest during a camping trip. And some fun with a Ouija board.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Anne, I hope to be in California this winter so maybe I'll set the third Hamilton Kids' mystery on the Central Coast. It's a lot warmer there than here on our mountain. :)

4RV Publishing said...

What a wonderful memory of your grandsons.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Thank you, Vivian. I miss them terribly and I know they would have enjoyed the book.