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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.
I have added a few influences since this post was written. I would have to add E.F. Benson and P.G. Wodehouse along with Margaret York and Kate Morton.
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.
Drizzled with Death, the first in her Sugar Grove Mysteries, will be released from Berkley Prime Crime, a division of Penguin Publishing, October 1, 2013.]
So this has updated quite a lot! I’ve written 16 books since this post! I am currently at work on a stand-alone historical set in Maine.
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.
This is quite different for me too! I have written four novels that are decidedly not cozy. And I have moved away from contemporary novels to historical ones instead even when the tone remains lighthearted. I think as time has gone by my life has changed enough that I feel as if I have the emotional bandwidth to explore more tones. When my children were small there were so very many worries and I wanted to be able to escape into something that felt like all would be okay in the end. I still like to do that, but I have room for a bit more darkness at this point in my life. That may not always be the case, but I am enjoying it for now.
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.
This remains the same. I still live in New England, but have started spending part of the year in Maine since this post first published.
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.
I’d like to add Elly Griffiths, Kate Morton, Hilary Mantel, Vaseem Kahn, Diane Setterfield, Alice Hoffman, Charles Lovett, Lyndsay Faye,Tracy Chevalier, Kate Summerscale, Susanna Kearsley and Kate Atkinson to the list. I also tend to read more nonfiction than I did ten years ago. I particularly love Cal Newport’s work.
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.
One thing that has changed that seems to surprise people is that I hav become an utterly smitten and entirely devoted dog person albeit for just one dog, my poodle Sam. I have had dogs in the past, but didn’t for many years. Sam appeared it seems just as I needed him. I think my infatuation with him does tend to surprise people.
Julie: Thanks for a great interview Jessie. She is going to be checking back in today, so any questions for her?
Readers, which authors have you started to read in the last ten years? Leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win the giveaway today!