Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Special Interview: Jean Henry Mead

Special Interview with Jean Henry Mead

Today we have as our guest fellow western author and journalist Jean Henry Mead, author of No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy.

1. Tell us a little about your new book No Escape: The Sweetwater Tragedy.

It’s the true story of Ellen “Ella” Watson Averell, who was hanged with her husband James by cattlemen who want their homestead land. After her death, cattlemen call her “Cattle Kate” and spread lies about the couple, accusing them of running a bawdy house and accepting rustled cattle. I didn’t want to end the book with the hangings, so I created a single woman homesteader from a composite of some 200,000 actual women homesteaders. Susan Cameron files on land next to the Averells and in Albert Bothwell’s former hay meadow, thus placing her own life in danger. Veterinarian Michael O’Brien provides the love interest, although Susan pushes him away because she came to Wyoming for freedom and independence.

2. How did you get interested in The Sweetwater Tragedy.  What kind of research did you do for the book?

I was researching a centennial history of Wyoming by reading old microfilmed newspapers when I read about the tragedy, and researched the story on an off over the years while writing other books. Then, George W. Hufsmith’s nonfiction book was published after 20 years of intensive research, and I was able to fill in the missing puzzle pieces.

3. Have you always written fiction?  If not, at what point did you start?

I began my writing career as a news reporter so my first five books were nonfiction, although I really wanted to write novels. During the 1990s I finally sat down and began writing  Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, which features Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. I researched that book for years before it was first published in 1999. It’s been published by three publishers and is still my best selling book.

4. Has your background as a journalist and working with nonfiction been of help to you on writing your mystery and historical novels?

Definitely. Journalists have to sit down and write. There’s no such thing as writer’s block and journalism also teaches brevity, without unnecessary words or flowery phrases. Sometimes that means not enough description, but plots written by journalists are usually fast-paced and page turners.

 5. Your Logan and Cafferty books are fun to read. Were they fun to write? How did you come up with the idea for this series?
 Thank you. Writing dialogue is fun and I subconsciously wrote my first two books in the series without realizing that I was basing my protagonists’ relationship on my own long term friendship with Marge, whom I’ve known for forty years.

6. How do decide where to set your novels?

I set my novels in places where I’ve been, lived and driven a motorhome, including through a Rocky Mountain snowstorm, which starts my second novel.

7. How you go about the process of writing, do you plot or create as you go along?

I don’t plot. I sit down at the computer and read the previous chapter, which carries me forward into the next one. I then just listen to my characters and type as fast as I can to keep up with their conversations.

8. Do you have a set writing schedule?

I’m usually at the computer by 8 a.m. and write until I have completed five pages. That can take between 4-8 hours.

9.  What are your favorite authors, or what authors have inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple mysteries introduced me to the mystery genre. I then read Sue Grafton and a number of others. But it was Dean R. Koontz who taught me to write fiction. I read and reread his style and how he strung his words together.

10. What is your advice to novelists today in light of the present publishing scene?

Don’t send your work out too soon. When you write the end to your manuscript, place it in a drawer or on a shelf for at least two weeks before you take it out and read it as though someone else has written it. Edit and polish until it’s the best you’re capable of writing.

Thank you for inviting to your blog site.

No Escape, the Sweetwater Tragedy can be viewed at: http://www.amazon.com/No-Escape-Sweetwater-Tragedy-ebook/dp/B00BSG9F1U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363061784&sr=8-1&keywords=No+Escape%2C+the+sweetwater. You can read the first two chapters on Amazon.com. The book is available on Kindle and will soon be available in print.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Three Points of View in Writing

The Three Points of View: Writing in First, Second or Third Person 

There are basically three points of view from which a story can be written. Though which POV is used is up to the writer, some points of view work better for certain types of novels than others.
Basically, there are three points of view:

*First Person
*Second Person
*Third Person (limited, subjective multiple viewpoints, or omniscient)

First Person

First person means the story is told from the “I” viewpoint. This point of view brings the reader up close and personal with the narrator. Many detective and private eye novels are written in first person because this viewpoint immediately puts the reader “in the shoes” of the crime-solving hero. The reader can quickly identify and derive pleasure from experiencing the events in the book as if they are seeing them through the eyes of the main character.

First person viewpoint is also effective in a thriller. A first person viewpoint can provide immediate empathy with the main character and enhance suspense because the emotions are deeply felt by the reader. First person gives the effect that each twist and turn, each setback or sensation of joy, fear or pain seems to be happening to the reader personally.

Many “confessional” novels or ones with a gothic atmosphere are written in the first person point of view. In this case the hero may actually be a villain. Seeing the story unfold through the eyes of a narrator who may be self-deluded and not entirely truthful in his account can be very effective. First person can also create a sense of foreboding because the emotions are deeply felt by the reader. Of the books listed below, The Meaning of Night, which begins with the narrator’s confession of the murder of a total stranger, would be much less effective if written in third person.

Examples of mysteries and thrillers written in first person:

The Woods by Harlan Coben
Shattered by Dick Francis
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

Second Person

Second person is told from the “you” viewpoint and is most often associated with literary works. It would be rare to find an entire mystery written in this point of view. However, second person can be very effective in small doses, such as in a prologue or in italicized scenes interspersed throughout a first or third person novel. But an entire novel written in this tense can quickly gets tiresome unless the author has mastered the technique. Two authors who consistently employ this point of view are Joyce Carol Oates and Thomas H. Cook. Thomas H. Cook writes both literary novels and mysteries. Many of his novels contain a blend of tenses, including second person.

An example of a novel which contains scenes written in second person:

The Orchids Thomas H. Cook

Third Person Limited

Third person limited means that everything is seen through the main character’s eyes and in past tense. A book written in third person has the phrases “he said, he thought,” all coming from the same person’s head. The reader sees, thinks and feels only what the main character experiences. There are no shifts at any other time to other character’s thoughts or emotions. Many detective novels are written in this simple, straightforward tense. This POV is comfortable, easy to read, and readily accepted by most publishers.

Third Person Subjective Multiple Viewpoint

A change in viewpoint can heighten suspense. Many mystery writers use subjective multiple viewpoint to tell their story. In the Tony Hillerman Navajo mysteries, there are two main narrators, officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. When the reader is in Leaphorn’s mind, the viewpoint stays with Leaphorn until it shifts to Jim Chee in an alternating section or chapter. (Some portions of Hillerman’s stories, such as a murder scene, may also be told in an omniscient viewpoint, from no particular character’s point of view, however the larger portion of his work is seen through the viewpoint of one character at a time.)

Books written in third person limited or subjective multiple viewpoint

The Case of the Daring Divorcee by Erle Stanley Gardener

A Taint in the Blood by Dana Stabenow

Cold in the Grave by Peter Robinson

Coyote Waits by Tony Hillerman (alternating narrators Chee and Leaphorn)

Third Person Omniscient

In the third person omniscient point of view, the author takes a panoramic, bird’s eye view of the characters and in describing the overall picture. The story is not shown through the eyes of any one character, but an invisible, all-knowing, all-seeing narrator. This point of view works best in a story with a complicated plot and multiple characters. Most of popular author Stephen King’s works are written in third person omniscient.

Novels written in Third Person Omniscient:

A Time to Kill, The Partners by John Grisham

And then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Mixed Points of View

There is no solid rule that a book must be written from a single point of view. Many authors mix points of view, alternating from third person limited to third person omniscient. In this case, part of the book is usually seen through omniscient eyes, the other through the eyes of the detective. Some authors may also switch from first person to third person viewpoint, using first person for the hero and third for the villain.

Choosing a Point of View

What kind of novel are you writing, suspense, detective, confessional? Take a look at some of these author’s books and familiarize yourself with the different points of view and their variations. Try writing the first few pages of your novel in first person, then switch to third. Which seems more comfortable to you? Once you have “found your voice” you will be well on the way to writing your novel.

For more novel writing tips check our our ebook Fiction:From Writing to Publication on Amazon Kindle and Smashwords.