Welcome: Jean Henry Mead

December 6, 2012

I’ve been on tour with Jean several times now, and I love being on the “electronic road” with her! So glad to have you back.

Jean Henry Mead


Jean Henry Mead is the author of 18 books and is a national award-winning photojournalist published domestically and abroad. She writes the Logan & Cafferty mystery-suspense series and Hamilton Kids’ mysteries as well as western historicals and history books. She has served as a news, magazine and small press editor.

What Jean Enjoys

I enjoy writing dialogue because it’s an excellent way to bring fictional characters to life. I began my writing career as a news reporter and photojournalist, so dialogue was not something I learned to write. Fortunately, I have an ear for dialects and speech patterns, and journalism taught me brevity. So my characters rarely ramble or veer off topic.

I learned secrets of good dialogue from Sol Stein, who said screenwriting courses are a great way to learn to write fictional conversations. Although I wasn’t able to take his dialogue course at UC Irvine, I benefitted from reading his book, Sol Stein on Writing. In it he says “Talk is repetitive, full of rambling, incomplete, or run-on sentences, and usually contains a lot of unnecessary words. Dialogue, contrary to popular belief, is not a recording of actual speech; it is a semblance of speech, an invented language of exchanges that build in tempo or content toward climaxes.

“Some people mistakenly believe that all a writer has to do is turn on a tape recorder to capture dialogue.” He also said, “Dialogue is always in immediate scene, which is one reason readers relish it.”

I sometimes write too much dialogue instead of narrative because my sleuths discuss the murders they investigate. When I sit down at my computer each morning to write, I look forward to listening to what my characters have to say. After the fourth book in my Logan & Cafferty series, I know my characters well and their conversations fill my head as though I were eavesdropping on old friends.

Dialogue is a good way to insert humor into the plot. In Murder on the Interstate, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty are caught in a flash flood in their rented Hummer. When their car is swept away, Sarah is so frightened that she cries, “I irrigated my underwear.” Some readers might not find that humorous, but it made me laugh out loud.

In my latest release, Gray Wolf Mountain, Dana and Sarah encounter an old man whose grammar would cause an English teacher to cringe. It was fun writing his conversations and making readers aware that although he had little formal education, he was well versed in the ways of wildlife, especially the endangered gray wolf.

Dialogue says a lot about a character in very few words. The reader should be able to discern the character’s ethnic background, education, attitude, social standing, etc. through dialogue, and every word must count. Unnecessary dialogue or narrative can turn readers off because they want to get on with the story. I aim for one line-dialogue—no more than three—from each character. When exposition requires more than three lines, I switch to narrative or interruption from another character because, in my opinion, excessive dialogue is akin to chattering chipmunks.

Dialogue must be written and rewritten carefully, preferably aloud to maintain sentence flow. I enjoy composing fictional conversations more than anything else I write.

Jean’s latest book…

Gray Wolf Mountain
by Jean Henry Mead

Gray Wolf Mountain is available in print and on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Cafferty-Mystery-Suspense-ebook/dp/B008UEH6ZA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1348734596&sr=8-2&keywords=Gray+Wolf+Mountain

I’ll be giving away a copy of my recent release, Gray Wolf Mountain, fourth novel in the Logan & Cafferty series, to a visitor who leaves a comment during the blog tour. The winner will be announced at my blog site: http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/ December 13.


AND – Don’t forget Buster, Dobie, and Mugs (the latest) are each drawing a name from comments for free copies of Lies of Convenience (or a M.M. Gornell title of your choosing)!


20 Responses to “Welcome: Jean Henry Mead”

  1. mmgornell said

    Sure enjoyed your visit, Jean–and a great post! See you on the road…


  2. I love working with dialogue. It’s my favorite challenge when writing a book.

  3. I’m glad you agree, Earl. You do a great job with your own dialogue.

  4. I completely agree about dialogue, Jean, and it’s my favorite part of writing. What comes out of a character’s mouth tells so much about them.

  5. Thank you, Anne, for the kind words and for putting this fun blog tour together.

  6. Dialogue makes or breaks a book for me, too Marja. Stilted language tells me that the author has been reading the classics or hasn’t yet learned the language of fictoin.

  7. Thanks, Coleen. I agree that Sol Stein is the master of dialogue. He certainly placed me on the right track.

  8. Jake, I’m glad you think none of us suffer from dull dialogue. Thanks for bringing that up. We have a great group of writers on this tour.

  9. I couldn’t agree with you more, Marilyn. Dialgue should be conversation shorthand. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. You’re so right about dialogue. I can make or break a book for me.
    Marja McGraw

  11. Super advice on writing dialogue, Jean. Great post!

  12. Jake said

    Dialogue might break or enhance my reading experience. Dull dialogue guarantees move on to another book. Fortunately none of the writers on tour suffer from dull dialogue. Killing your characters with discretion leaves details to ones fertile imagination.

  13. Excellent information, Jean! Sol Stein is the bible of dialogue.

  14. mmgornell said

    Good morning, Jean. Looks like I’m a little late, but know you are soooooo welcome here! It’s another lovely winter day in the desert, and hoping you have a great day here!


  15. Excellent tips on dialogue, Jean. If we wrote dialogue like everyone speaks, it would be so boring. I always tell people it needs to move the plot along or reveal something about the character.

  16. Thanks, Joyce. I hope you get a chance to read the book.

  17. Mystery writers often use body parts analogies, Wendy, but I prefer to kill people offstage. 🙂

  18. Thanks for hosting me here today, Madeline.

  19. W.S. Gager said

    Jean: You are so right. Cutting your teeth in journalism really gives you a leg up in writing dialogue. (I’m not sure why I’m using body parts analogies.)
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  20. Gray Wolf Mountain looks like a good read, Jean!

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