Jean Henry Mead is a mystery/suspense and western historical novelist. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist. One of her fortes is interviewing writers, actors, politicians, artists and ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. She began her writing career as a California news reporter/editor/photographer, first in Central California and later in San Diego. Mead then transferred to Casper, Wyoming, to serve as a staff writer for the statewide newspaper. While there she served as editor of In Wyoming Magazine and two small presses. She also freelanced for other magazines, both domestically and abroad, among them the Denver Post’s Empire Magazine. Her first book was published in 1981. She’s since published thirteen novels and nonfiction books.
She currently writes the Hamilton Kids children’s mystery series as well as the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series. Her latest release in the Logan & Cafferty series is Murder on the Interstate.
Visit Jean online at www.jeanhenrymead.com. She blogs at:
She is also on Facebook and Twitter.
Q: Thank you for this interview, Jean. Can you tell us what your latest book, Murder on the Interstate, is all about?
Two 60-year-old widows are traveling in their motorhome on I-40 in northern Arizona when they discover the body of a young woman in her Mercedes convertible. The killer returns to make sure his victim is dead while the women are investigating, and he shoots out their tires. A woman trucker by the name of “Big Ruby” McCurdy comes to their rescue and they pile into her produce truck to record the killer’s license number during a downpour.
Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty are separated at the Flagstaff truck stop when Dana returns to the RV with a wrecker bearing new tires and Sarah travels on with Big Ruby. Traveling the interstate construction bottleneck, the killer manages to board the motorhome, which Dana wrecks to escape. Now the killer is pursuing her. She and Sarah are caught in a flash flood and are later kidnapped by the killer’s homegrown terrorist group who are contaminating water supplies and planning to take down the nation’s power grids.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty are amateur sleuths who can’t stop stumbling over bodies during their travels. Their first case, A Villlage Shattered, concerns the murders of their friends and club members in a central California retirement village. When the inept sheriff bungles the case, they decide to solve it themselves, knowing their names are on the killer’s list. They then sell their houses and buy a motorhome to travel the country in Diary of Murder. Dana is the introspective mystery novel buff and Sarah is outgoing and the widow of a private investigator, who can’t wait to follow in her late husband’s footfalls.
Dana’s journalist daughter Kerrie has played a supporting role in all three novels in the series. She’s tall, gorgeous and intelligent—a younger version of her mother, who falls in love with an FBI agent who’s investigating the terrorists.
I’m sure certain people’s character traits have made their way into my novels although I like to think they originate in my imagination. It would be difficult not to include some of my own.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
When I sit down to write I only have a vague idea of what’s going to transpire that day. I know my main characters so well that I give them free rein and type as fast as I can to keep up with them.
Q: Your book is set in northern Arizona. Can you tell us why you chose this area in particular?
I once drove my own 37-foot motorhome in the rain during massive road construction along I-40, while listening to truckers on my CB radio. I also researched chemical spills in the area and terrorists crossing the Arizona border with illegal aliens. Phoenix is the kidnap capital of the country and averages five murders a week. It’s fertile ground for murder mysteries.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
The story takes place mainly in Arizona, from west of Flagstaff to Phoenix, and later Las Vegas, ultimately concluding in Denver. The suspense factor is the women fleeing the killer, whoever he may be.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
The two women are caught in a flash flood while fleeing the killer in a rented Hummer. The water is lapping at the doors and the H2 is pushed sideways against a road sign. Dana and Sarah are praying for all their worth when they hear the sign crack and the Hummer begins to spin in a whirlpool. Water is seeping in up to their knees.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
Another explosion rocked the building, leveling the entire right wing. The air was again polluted with blinding smoke and rubble. A large chunk of concrete landed on an ambulance, crushing it as attendants were loading a patient. Those standing nearby were injured to varying degrees as smaller chunks fell around them. There was a rush to clear the entire area and patients were carried or pushed across the street to the city park. The grass was littered with the dying and injured who had not yet been taken to other hospitals.
Dana pushed her daughter’s wheelchair across the street to the park and returned with Sarah to move Roger’s gurney and IV stand. Police had blocked off the streets around the hospital and everyone who could was helping those who were unable to help themselves. Dana wondered if this was how the 911 disaster had happened—on a smaller scale. She hoped no one had jumped from a hospital window. There must have been a number of people killed in the explosions who were still inside the hospital.
She could hear babies crying somewhere in the park. When she reached Kerrie’s wheelchair she discovered an infant in her daughter’s arms.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Jean. We wish you much success!
My pleasure. Thank you for hosting me.