Jane Tesh Author of the Madeline Maclin Mysteries

Jane, when did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I have always been a writer.  When I was very young, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I never knew how to answer them because I already was what I wanted to be!  I believe I wrote my first poems when I was four.

That is so cool. What makes you passionate about writing?

I can’t imagine not writing.  Everyone I meet and everything I experience I wonder, how can I use this in a story?

A very good idea. What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

I started sending manuscripts out when I was 18, long before computers, long before the Internet, long before you could just email a book as an attachment.  I would type my books, then find a box big enough, and mail the manuscript to an agent or a publisher.  When it came back, I would send it to the next one on my list.  I did this for 30 years, and then I hit the right company at the right time, two months after I retired from my job as an elementary school librarian. I now have five books in print with two more on the way.

Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Yes, of course.  I came very close to being published a couple of times, but in one instance, the publishing company went bankrupt, and in another, the people who ran the company were dishonest.  But I told myself I would never give up.  I would start a new list, find some more boxes, and try again.  Long ago, there weren’t all the publishing options there are now, like print on demand.  You could pay to get your work published with what was called a vanity press, but it was very expensive, and I felt my work was good enough for a publisher to pay me.  I was going to hold out for that, even if it took years – which it did!

Perseverance does pay. What books have most influenced your life?

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

I read this book when I was 13, and the scene where Meg Wallace figures out how to save her little brother astounded me.  I realized then how powerful words could be.

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Terry is my favorite author.  I am always amazed how well he balances humor and drama.  That’s something I strive for in my work.

Does are very nice books. How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?

An idea is good if the book keeps flowing and I find more things to write about.  Some ideas stall, but the good ones keep going.
Amen to that…Please tell us about your book, Stolen Hearts.

Stolen Hearts is the first of the Grace Street Series, all featuring PI David Randall, his friend Camden, a reluctant psychic, Cam’s girlfriend, Ellin Belton, an intense career woman who oversees the Psychic Service Network, and Kary Ingram, a beautiful young woman Randall is trying to win.  They live in 302 Grace Street, Cam’s boarding house, with an ever-changing array of colorful Southern characters.

A seemingly minor case involving the recovery of a missing songbook leads Randall into a full-blown murder investigation.  Complications arise when Cam is possessed by the composer’s restless spirit.  Hearts are broken and healed and ghosts confronted as Randall searches for answers, family, and forgiveness from the little daughter he lost and could not find.

Mixed Signals is the second book in the series, and the third, Now You See It, will be published this October.

They sounds so good. Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?

I usually have an idea for a scene, such as: Randall and Cam meet someone in the coffee shop who gives them a clue.  Then the characters start talking, and I write down what they say.  A great deal of my work is unplanned.  I do make brief outlines of the days to keep everything in order.

Great! Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Early in my career, way before I was published, I had the good fortune to attend a Writers Retreat Workshop given by the late Gary Provost.  That first day during that very first lecture, I realized what was wrong with my work (I had multiple points of view all over the place).  Once Gary showed me how to fix that, my work improved tremendously.  Gary is the author of Make Your Words Work and 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, which are excellent reference books for writers at any stage of their writing career.

I am sure my readers will love that tip. I too have the same problem with my first book. What’s your secret to making the characters in your books come to life?

I love writing dialogue, and I think having realistic-sounding dialogue really helps the characters come alive.  I can always hear what my characters are saying.  I also like to give them distinctive quirks and habits, things real people have, and definite likes and dislikes.

I too love “dialogue” Besides writing, what other talents or hobbies do you have?

I play the piano and sometimes conduct the orchestra for productions at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, which is our community theater in my town, Mt. Airy, NC, which is the real life Mayberry.  I’m very fond of ragtime music and enjoy playing ragtime and dancing the ragtime era dances.  I also play the violin and folk harp and am learning how to play the mandolin and cello.

WOW! you will have your own band pretty soon…What is the most difficult thing about being an author?

Having to live in the real world.  When I’ve been with my characters all morning, sometimes it’s very difficult to leave my writing world and do things like go to the grocery store.

My problem exactly…How do you come up with your characters’ names?

My characters’ names are very important and usually the first thing I decide.  This is going to sound strange, but to me, different letters have different colors, so I base my decision on color combinations.  “Randall” is a hard name, very red and black, so I contrast that with “Camden,” which is softer and is gray and green.  I have many books of names with their meanings, which also helps me choose.  I try not to have too many names with the same letter in a book, as that can be confusing to the reader.

 To the writer too. What is the best complement you could receive from a reader? 

“I can’t wait to read your next book!”

That is so fun isn’t it? Where can readers go to find your books and order them?

My books are available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and from my publisher: www.poisonedpenpress.com

My website is www.janetesh.com

I blog at www.janetesh.wordpress.com

The Grace Street Series has its own Facebook page at

www.facebook.com/GraceStreetMysterySeries

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