By J.A. (Julie) Hennrikus
Today I write to you from my Somerville apartment
Of my five fellow bloggers, I feel like I know Jessie the least. We have crossed paths at the last few New England Crime Bakes, and had some great conversations there. But this was a great chance for me to get to know her a little better, and to introduce her to you.
Julie: When did you start writing?
Jessie: I feel like I was a writer before I could read. As a child I kept nearly constant company with a vast cast of imaginary friends. Their lives were fraught with difficulties which I enjoyed complicating. When I played make believe games with my younger sister she wanted for us to be princesses or rich people. I insisted we be utterly destitute because it would increase the drama in our story line. As soon as I could read I started writing stories. I wrote a short story in second grade inspired the Marlborough Man. I turned him into an armed bandit, which I guess was my first crime story.
Julie: OK, now you have to post the story about the Marlborough Man. Who are your writing influences?
Jessie: For mysteries, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Cannell and Charlotte MacLeod. I also love Scandinavian crime writers, especially Arnaldur Indridason and Jo Nesbo.
Julie: I haven’t read any Scandinavian crime writers. I will need to add those authors to my list! By way of introduction, would you tell us what you are working on right now?
Jessie: For my Granite State Mysteries series, I am finishing up Body of Water, which involves flooding and secrets unearthed by the rising waters. In untitled book 2 of my Sugar Grove series the main character, Dani Greene is trying to start an agricultural cooperative but members are experiencing sabotage at their farms.
[Julie note: Jessie has two series. Her debut novel, Live Free or Die, was published by Mainly Murder Press in 2010, and won the 2011 Daphne du Maurier Award, Mainstream Division.
Julie: Why cozies? Do you write anything in other forms?
Jessie: I love cozies because they provide a puzzle without being grim. I like grim but I am not always in the mood for it. You have to be willing to experience the emotions of your story world for large portions of your waking life. I am someone who tries to find the positive in most situations. Writing cozies allows me to enjoy the structure and challenge presented by the construction of a mystery while still usually killing off people that everyone would prefer to see dead. I do have a couple of less light-hearted projects under construction but they are not currently on the front burner.
Julie: With two series, that isn’t surprising! What’s your connection to New England?
Jessie: I have lived in New Hampshire since I was eight. With very few exceptions, all of my family lives in Maine. My family can be traced back to the Mayflower and a relative hanged at Salem for witchcraft.
Julie: OK, I am going to let you save the relative story for another blog entry. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Jessie: I adore Martha Grimes, Margaret Yorke, Lloyd Alexander, P.G. Wodehouse, E.F. Benson, E. Annie Proulx, Billie Letts, Fannie Flagg and John Irving.
Julie: What a great list! What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Jessie: I think most people that meet me now are surprised to learn how shy I was as a child. I couldn’t even order a pizza by phone. Eventually, I decided shyness was preventing me from doing what I wanted in life and I pushed myself to overcome it. I got a job as a salesperson in a clothing store when I was sixteen. The first day of work my boss told me to greet customers. I realized getting fired for not doing my job would be worse than speaking to strangers. I started out by smiling at people and eventually worked up to actually speaking to them. Slowly, I developed a more outgoing attitude in other aspects of life. I still hate to use the phone but I can order pizza.
Julie: Thanks for a great interview Jessie. She is going to be checking back in today, so any questions for her?