Thursday, December 04, 2008

Author Jean Henry Mead

Jean Henry Mead has a long career as a writer. She started out as a reporter in California for a local daily newspaper while editing her college newspaper. From there she worked for the statewide Wyoming newspaper as magazine editor, freelance photojournalist and editor. Her magazine articles have won both regional and national awards. To date, she has published seven non-fiction books and three novels. Her latest, out this month, is a mystery called A Village Shattered. (It's #1 in sales at FictionWise-ePress!)

The protagonist of A Village Shattered is what Jean calls a “senior sleuth.” With all the baby boomers around today, Jean can expect a lot of enthusiastic readers. Everyone wants to read a book that has characters they can identify with, and A Village Shattered has that for the millions who are retired or looking forward to retirement. Readers follow two members of the Sew and So Club, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, who set out to find a killer and along the way encounter mystery, suspense and a bit of humor and romance.

Today, Jean is going to tell us about writing the “senior sleuth” and why she chose this category within the mystery genre. She’s very open to questions and comments, so stick around and visit with her! (She’s also giving away free books!)

Contemporary Senior Sleuths
by Jean Henry Mead

I write senior sleuth novels because there’s a growing market for retirees who like to read in their own age bracket. Years ago I was intrigued Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Periot, who were wise and perceptive, but never seemed to have any fun. That’s not true of today’s seniors who are less inclined to retire to their rocking chairs than previous generations.

Pat Browning, who wrote the novel Full Circle, said a St. Martin's editor gave her a piece of advice she never forgot: ‘Be careful not to turn your characters into cartoons.’ Pat said, “I try to picture older characters as they are--the same people they always were, only older. This is especially true when it comes to romance and sex. For all the jokes about senior sex, it’s a very real part of senior life, and it's no joke to those lucky enough to have a romantic partner late in life.”

I agree. Not unlike Janet Evanovich’s character, Grandma Mazur, who is eccentric enough for a cartoon character, most seniors have the same interests they’ve always had, with the possible exception of roller blading and downhill skiing. On second thought, I once interviewed Buffalo Bill’s grandson Billy Cody, who learned to downhill ski at 65 to keep up with his much younger wife.

Mike Befeler writes what he calls “Geezer-lit.” His first novel, Retirement Homes are Murder, features his octogenarian protagonist, who is short on memory but has a sense of humor and love of life. He accepts his ‘geezerhood,’ solves a mystery and enjoys romance along the way.

My latest senior sleuth mystery, A Village Shattered, takes place in a California retirement village. The plot is generously sprinkled with humor but none of the seniors resemble cartoon characters, although a couple come close, a redneck Casanova and love starved widow.

Another senior writer, Beth Solheim, spent years working in a nursing home and says she loves the elderly and their “humorous, quirky insight to life, love and longevity.” Her protagonists are 64-year-old twins in her humorous, paranormal cozy series, The Fifi Witt Mysteries.

Octogenarian Chester Campbell writes the Greg McKenzie Mysteries. He said, “My friends in this [age] bracket are out going places and doing things. Some, like me, continue to work at jobs they enjoy. I chose to use a senior couple in my books who are long married, get along fine, and do a competent job as private investigators. Greg, who narrates the books, is aware of his limitations from age and makes up for physical shortcomings by outsmarting his adversaries. My hope is to dispel some of the absurdity of the stereotypes about seniors that are all too familiar.”

Like so many other novelists, I write what I enjoy reading. My readers are mainly retirees and baby boomers who number over 87 million. Some 8,000 boomers are moving into the senior column every day and are the fastest growing potential book buying market on record. We’re experiencing the graying of America. What better subgenre to write for?

(The first novel in my Logan & Cafferty senior sleuth series, titled A Village Shattered, will be released in both print and multi format in early December. The second in the series, Diary of Murder, will appear next spring. I’m currently working on the third in the series.)

Thank you so much, Jean!

If you’d like to read more about Jean Henry Mead, you can find her all over the Internet. She has a website and several blogs: Murderous Musings, Make Mine Mystery, Write On! Advice From an Editor, and A Western Historical Happening. Now that A Village Shattered is out, Jean is going on a virtual book tour. You can follow her schedule, and take a look at her brand new book trailer. In addition, Jean will be giving away three signed copies of A Village Shattered. To put your name in the hat for a book, follow her on her tour and leave a comment. (Leaving a comment here today gets you in the drawing!)

You can buy A Village Shattered at FictionWise in multi-format or there's still time to order your Christmas copy from Amazon.

I hope you’ll leave a comment for Jean, ask a question or just say hi. See you in the Comments Section!


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. "Geezer-Lit" LOL Love it. Hey smart, Jean. Writing for Boomers is smart. I watched a savvy marketing video about ten years ago that said if you want to get wealthy, follow the boomer generation. Noitice the large keypad calculators out now for the aging eyes? The magazines that are flourishing that cater to the boomers? The boom in pain-killer sales? Boomers are still the largest segment of the US population and still have HUGE buying power.

  3. Jean,
    I've been following you and will host you on your tour. I read and enjoyed A Village Shattered.

    However, I didn't know about all the other senior sleuth authors and novels you mentioned. Yours is the only one I've read.

  4. Thank you for the very nice presentation, Helen. I love your informative column and read it every day.

    Marvin, you're so right about the Boomer generation, which is the wealthiest on the planet. Now, if they'll just discover me and other senior sleuth writers. :)

    Lillie, bless you for following along at every stop of my tour. I'm looking forward to my visit with you on Dec. 11 as well as reviewing your book on Goodreads and my Write On! blog.

  5. Jean,

    Your novels sound like a great concept. If I were sleuthing I can imagine taking off my glasses because I can't see a clue through my trifocals or trying to get my old contacts in the department to run some fingerprints only to discover they've all retired or past away.

    I hope your novels are well received and provide pleasure for many years.

  6. Jean,

    A VILLAGE SHATTERED sounds like my cup of tea!

    Following up on Tim's comments, retirement centers and senior activity centers are popular for that very reason -- the Grim Reaper is breaking up that old gang of mine.

    In the Central California town that is the model for my fictitious Pearl in ABSINTHE OF MALICE (formerly FULL CIRCLE), most of my old friends have moved away, and some have died. It's always a jolt to get that kind of news in real life.

    Fortunately, as a fiction writer I can keep my characters alive as long as I want.

    Good luck with your blog tour! Congratulations on the new book!

    Pat Browning

  7. Did anyone watch Boston Legal the other night when CS&P sued the networks for age discrimination because they didn't produce any TV show for seniors? And the indirect comment that Boston Legal is one of the only shows on TV that has stars over 50? It's good to know that writers are still producing novels with characters of all ages.

  8. I'm like you, Lillie. I'm glad Jean included some of the other senior sleuth authors. I'm going to check them out.

  9. I taped that episode, LJ, but haven't had a chance to watch it. It's definitely on my list of things to do. Just gotta make sure no one tapes over it!

  10. Thank you Tim and Pat for your good comments. I enjoyed reading your book, Pat, when it was titled Full Circle. Both editions have beautiful covers.

    And, L.J., I'm sad that "Boston Legal" is being taken off the air because Washington considers it too controversial. It's my favorite show. Same thing happened to "Commander-in-Chief." I'm afraid we're going to see more of the same thing happening, leaving us with silly, nonsubstance programming.

  11. Jean, I find your characters refreshing, and you've made them real enough that you don't have to be a part of any specific demographic to enjoy them! I think that if you write real, you can write about anything and people will be interested.

  12. That's true Emma. A lot of the time, I don't have a clue as to the age of a character -- and don't even wonder. I just like the character.

  13. Emma and Helen, I didn't emphasize age in the novel because at 60, you still have your facilities about you and are usually physically capable of doing most of the things you've always done. They say 60 is the new 40 and for a lot of seniors it is. Few people now say, "Act you age."

  14. I love that name - Sew and So Club.

    Also, the part about seniors being the same people as before.

    Morgan Mandel

  15. I say Jean rocks! I'm calling for more books with senior sleuths.

  16. Thanks, Helen. You rock as a blog host. Did I mention that the second book in the series, Diary of Murder, is at the publisher and will be released next spring. I'm working on book number three.

  17. Wow, Jean. If I were you, I'd be so excited. Congratulations.

  18. A day late, but better late than not at all!

    My mom said something that has always stuck with me and changed my perception of 'old people' - she said when she looked in the mirror, it was always a shock to see an older face because that's not how she feels or views herself at all. Something I've never forgotten and can sympathize with more and more as I get the gray hair and wrinkles...

  19. I think that's why more people have botox injections and face lifts, Dana. I guess if you look young, you feel young.

  20. This is a very informative column about other senior sleuths that I had not heard of. I've hit near this senior part of life, but I won't admit it, unless I get a discount. Christy was a good writer but I found her boring. A village Shattered on the other hand has enough action to keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

  21. Thank you, Ron, for your endorsement of A Village Shattered.

  22. Hello, I can relate to Chester Campbell. Senior moments are addicting and seem to settle in for good. Keep up the good interviews.


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