The Blog Tour, Day #12: Jean Henry Mead

December 6th, 2011

Jean Henry Mead is the author of 15 books, seven of them mystery/suspense and historical novels.

She’s also an award-winning photojournalist who began her writing career as a news reporter and photographer. She freelanced for the Denver Post’s Empire Magazine and her articles have been published elsewhere domestically and abroad.  She is one of the best writer-interviewers in the business, and her collection of interviews with writers of westerns, Maverick Writers, has been inspirational to me.

So I thought I’d try to steal her secrets in the guise of an interview.

What’s your writing routine?  How did you evolve it? Why does it work for you?  Does it break down from time to time, and if so, why?  How do you get it up and running again?

I consider myself fortunate to live on a mountaintop at 7,000 feet—and no, I don’t need oxygen. (I’ve been asked that question.) What better place to write? I rise between five and six each morning and go straight to my computer in my pajamas with a bowl of cereal. By fortunate I mean all those hours of uninterrupted writing. We only have cell phone service here and that doesn’t work half the time, so I’m usually not bothered by telemarketers. My life may sound boring to some but my husband and I are basically hermits who make a trip to town once or twice once or twice a month to buy supplies and visit friends; less often during the winter. It takes planning but the solitude and beauty of the landscape are well worth any inconveniences isolation may cause.

A cup of chai tea topped with whipped cream opens my eyes in the mornings while I answer email and check on my books’ sales numbers. I then launch into one of three books I’m currently working on: my fourth Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel (Magnets for Murder), second historical (No Escape: the Sweetwater Tragedy), and second Hamilton Kids’ mystery (Ghost of Crimson Dawn) So, when I occassionally hit a blank wall—I hate the term writer’s block—I switch from the manuscript I’m currently working on to another. And if all else fails, I sit on the back deck and watch deer and antelope roam our land or come into the yard. I also enjoy watching the neighboring rancher’s horses as well as the mountain scenery, whether green with grass or covered in snow. That always gets my creative juices flowing. But, because I began my writing career as a journalist and was trained to sit down and write, I rarely hit a snag.

How do you develop your ideas?  Do you plot in advance or write by the seat of your pants? Once again, how did you evolve this approach and why does it work for you?

I’m a seat of the pants writer. My characters are so familiar by now that they’re old friends whom I look forward to visiting every day. I always read the chapter I worked on the day before, making minor changes, which carries me into that day’s work. I use the film strip method, which means I watch and listen to my characters in my mind’s eye and type as fast as I can to keep up with them. I rarely plot in advance and only outline my nonfiction books. I sometimes write myself into a corner although not very often. I also enjoy doing research at night while working on a book.

Please finish by making the one or two most valuable suggestions that you can offer other writers, or the one or two most valuable that were ever offered to you.

When I finish a book I place it aside for a few weeks, then take it out and read it as though someone else had written it. I edit and polish a number of times before I consider it finished.

The best advice I’ve received from several writers over the years is to never send out a manuscript before it’s finished. Aspiring writers are so anxious to see their book in print that they send them out too soon. If a freelance editor is affordable, by all means hire one before you seek publication. And make sure that your manuscript is the very best you can produce before you send it to a publisher or go the indie route. Especially if you self publish.

Thanks, Jean — it’s always great to pick your brains.  And today I’m not only picker but also pickee, over at Wendy Gager’s place, where Louie the Lost, Junior Bender’s (how he would hate this word) sidekick is being interviewed by Wendy’s ace reporter, Mitch Malone, and good luck to Mitch.

14 Responses to “The Blog Tour, Day #12: Jean Henry Mead”

  1. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    Thsnks for hosting me on your lovely site, Tim. I can’t believe the tour has gone by so quickly and is nearly over. It’s been fun and I’ve learned so much from and about my fellow tour writers.

  2. Marilyn Meredith Says:

    Great post, Jean, We’ll sure have a lot of time to write once this tour is done.


  3. john m. daniel Says:

    Jean, you’re right to caution people not to send out unfinished work. it’s impolite and sloppy. Like sending a statue made of live mice.

  4. m.m. gornell Says:

    Jean, wonderful post, and great writing advice. I can see you sitting on your mountain top, writing and drinking your tea.

    My husband and I also live a hermit-type life, but it seems like something is always happening to force us out of our cocoon–usually something breaking!

    Enjoyed your post a lot.


  5. EverettK Says:

    It sounds like you’re living the Life of Writer Riley (Life of Wriley?) up there on your Mountain, Jean! Thanks for sharing!

  6. BrendaW. Says:

    This is most interesting! It is peaceful reading about your peaceful life, Jean.


  7. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your kind words.

    Marilyn, although it was a fun tour, I’m happy to get back to a regular writing schedule. too.

    John, I love your “statue made of mice” analogy. That pretty well sums it up.

    Madeline, I know what you mean about something breaking. We have high winds here on the mountain that blow shingles from the roof and sent my greenhouse sailingo the neighbor’s fence line. It’s not a perfect existence.

  8. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    Everett, I vaguely remember the old “Life of Riley” show with William Bendiix, and I think he had more problems that I do, and I hope I’m not as grumpy. 🙂

    Brenda, it’s not quite as peaceful as it probably reads, when the wind sounds like a freight train at night but it is peaceful compared to living in the city. If I wasn’t a writer, I’d probably be bored.

  9. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    Everett, your name was drawn from my deeerslayter hat for an ebook copy of one of my mystery novels. Please email

  10. EverettK Says:

    I’m most honored, Jean! I look forward to reading it. E-mail is on its way…

  11. Sheila Deeth Says:

    Thank you for the advice. I’m certainly glad I didn’t self-publish my novel–I’m really enjoying working with my editor, and I’m constantly amazed at how much I’m learning.

  12. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    That’s good to her, Sheila. Best of luck with sales!

  13. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    Brenda, You’re the winner of a print copy of Dairy of Murder. Please get in touch at with your email address.

  14. Brenda Says:

    Thank you so much! I’ll get in touch right away!

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