Sunday, February 14, 2016

Our guest today - author Jeanne Matthews!

My guest today is author Jeanne Matthews!

Jeanne Matthews was born and raised in Georgia.  She graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Journalism and has worked as a copywriter, a high school English and Drama teacher, and a paralegal.  She currently lives in Renton, Washington

Welcome Jeanne! Tell us a little about your background.

Thanks ROCCO. I was born in Atlanta and studied Journalism at the University of Georgia.  My checkered career path has included stints as an advertising copywriter, a high school English teacher, and a paralegal.  Twenty years of working for lawyers inspired my interest in murder. 

Tell us a bit about your Dinah Pelerin mystery series.

Dinah is a wannabe anthropologist fascinated by ancient cultures and strange superstitions. She has an irreverent attitude, a sharp wit, and a clan of criminally minded Georgia relatives with the habit of turning up to cause her grief no matter how far she travels. Each book is set in a different country – Australia, Hawaii, Norway, Greece, and most recently the storied city of Berlin, Germany. Thee all involve a murder mystery, but they’re also filled with history, mythology, and local lore.  Wherever Dinah goes, something happens that forces her to find out what it is that matters to the people who live in that particular place.

How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

My characters walk onto the page wanting something and, usually, they want different things, which creates plenty of conflict.  They tend to develop as they confront obstacles and frustrations until pretty soon, they take on a life of their own.  Does it sound too weird if the writer carries on imaginary conversations with her characters?  Yep.  It happens.

How do you construct your plots?  Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

Unhappily, it’s the latter.  My husband has threatened to leave me on more than one occasion for waking him up in the middle of the night whining that I’ve painted myself into a corner.  If only you’d outline, he says, yawning.  Well, I wish I could but I can’t.  My plots evolve organically. To quote Flannery O’Connor, “I don’t know what I think ‘til I see what I say.”

Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

Character.  Character is fate.  Desire is fate.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

What keeps me motivated is learning amazing new things about the world. I had been traveling in the Northern Territory of Australia when I wrote my first book, Bones of Contention.  Learning about the Aboriginal concept of song lines fascinated me and that became a metaphor for Dinah’s personal quest to discover who murdered her father.  I had made Dinah part Native American because I thought it would give her an instinctive empathy for the Aborigines and other indigenous peoples she encountered in her travels.  Then I learned that the Germans are obsessed with Native Americans.  They form clubs in which they dress up as Indians, give themselves Indian names, and erect tepees in their back gardens.  It was an irresistible premise for my most recent book, Where the Bones Are Buried, which is set in Berlin. My biggest challenge was the same as for most beginning writers – finding someone who could help me get published.

Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?

I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful editor and publishing insider, Carl Lennertz.  Carl liked my story and made it all happen. 

What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

I left Dinah in something of a predicament in Berlin and, while she figures out how to deal with it, I’m trying my hand at a historical novel – learning parts of American history I never knew and dodging anachronisms like bullets.  The story begins in Chicago shortly after the Civil War.  At the time, the country was reeling from so much death that conjuring a murder seems excessive.  Nevertheless, it will be a murder mystery involving a family of Irish immigrants. 

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

There’s no such thing as a typical workday, but I’m writing (either at the computer or in my head) for four or five hours every day. 

If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?

Tough question.  I think I’d choose books I’ve never read.  A huge gap in my literary experience is Anthony Trollope.  Sue Grafton is a big Trollope fan.  Maybe a dose of Trollope would help my career as much as it’s helped Grafton’s.  I couldn’t live for a year without some Mark Twain, so I’d take his Following the Equator.  And for the sheer fun of browsing through history’s bizarre quirks, I’d bring along Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Read voraciously, write voraciously, and read your work out loud to other readers and writers.  You’ll hear what sounds natural and what gongs.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

In Grindelwald, Switzerland, I paraglided off a cliff in front of the Eiger.  The moment of the jump felt crazy, but floating among the Alps was glorious.

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

I wrote my autobiography at the age of eight.  It was short on incident, but my third grade teacher said it had flair.  I looked up the word in the dictionary and have been striving to live up the definition ever since. 

What question do you wish interviewers would ask?  (And what’s the answer?)  You’ve asked it.  It’s “Where can we learn more about you and your books?”

And the answer is:

Visit my website where there’s a page describing each of my five titles.  You can ask for them in your local bookstore or library, or order them from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The books are available in hard cover, trade paperback, e-book format, and audio. 

Just for fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat?  Dog, (specifically, a Norwich terrier named Reacher, after guess who?)

Beach or Pool?  Beach

Steak or salad?  Steak

Favorite Drink?  Red wine

Favorite Movie?  Gone With The Wind (After all, I am from Atlanta).

Favorite TV Series?  The Closer (unfortunately, Brenda Leigh now appears only in reruns)

Favorite Actor?  Bill Murray – His face is the picture of irony.

Favorite Actress?  Meryl Streep

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Martini – dry, not dirty

Hawaii or Alaska?  Has to be Hawaii.  My second book Bet Your Bones is set there.

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Dorothy Parker.  I’d love to share a martini with her at the Algonquin Bar.

If I had just one wish, it would be “Grant me a hundred more wishes, Mr. Genie.  Please.”

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, I wouldn’t.  It’s taken a lot of years, but I’ve finally gotten comfortable inside my own skin.  Problems, flaws, and disappointments aside, I’m okay being me.  Provided, that is, that I can continue to invent fictional characters who can say and do a few things I can’t get away with.

Jeanne will give away a hard cover copy of her first book BONES OF CONTENTION, to three lucky commenters. To enter, leave your name and email address in the comments section below. will select three lucky winners. Contest closes midnight, Feb. 20!


  1. Delightful..I look forward to reading the story.
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

  2. You are a new to me author but I found your interview with Rocco piqued my interests in your books and in you. I will be adding your books to a never ending wish list. Thank you for the giveaway.

  3. I think I'd enjoy your writing--it's a little different than what I am used to reading. Thanks for the contest.

  4. I look forword to reading this new series. Thank you for the interview

    gibsonbk at hiwaay dot net

  5. Anyone who had a flair in their autobio at the age of 8 is certainly worth looking into! I imagine you must do a lot of research, with each book taking place in a different country; I would like to hear how you do it.
    Best of luck with the new ones.

  6. I am expanding my reading adventures beyond light fiction...this sounds like a great place to start...