100 Creatives 2013: Dean James, New York Times Bestselling Mystery Novelist
Readers have a complaint about Miranda James's popular Cat in the Stacks series of cozy mysteries -- they have to wait too long between installments. Dean James, the male writer behind the Miranda James pseudonym, laughs at the often-heard grievance. "I'm writing one a year; I can't write much faster!"
James's latest release in the series, Out of Circulation, follows librarian Charlie Harris and Diesel, his rescued Maine coon cat. When a library fundraiser sets several of the organizers at odds, Harris is happy to sit on the sidelines and let the "ladies who lunch" duke it out. Then one of the women ends up dead, and Harris's housekeeper is the main suspect. No more sidelines for Harris; now he and Diesel have to catch the real killer in order to clear their friend's name.
Like the other titles in the Cat in the Stacks series, Out of Circulation made it onto the New York Times bestseller list. The experience left James "gobsmacked," according to his Facebook posts.
Also writing under the names Honor Hartman and, Jimmie Ruth Evans, James has five successful series to his credit. He says he owes his writing career to his stubbornness. "I inherited [stubbornness] from my mother. Without it, I wouldn't have kept at this this long. The first novel that I wrote as an adult, I wrote in 1985 and it was 15 years before I got one published. And then it was about that long before I got one on the bestseller list. I did a talk the other day and I told them I became an overnight success after 20 years. I kept writing, whether anybody was paying attention or not. And now, fortunately, people are paying attention."
What he does: James, who has a PhD in medieval history, does several things that fall under the heading of "jobs." He's a librarian in the Medical Center; he's one of many mystery experts who staff the local bookstore Murder by the Book, where he was a longtime store manager.
And, of course, he's an author. "Often I like to tell people that I like to kill people for fun and profit," he tells us, laughing. If the person he's talking to responds with a blank face, he goes on to soberly explain: "I'm a librarian and a writer."
Why he likes it: Dean wrote his first novel when he was just 12 years old and has been writing ever since. "Once I figured out that people actually wrote books, I knew that's what I wanted to do. It's just one of those things that if I didn't do it, I would be miserable. Characters and snippets of action pop in my head and I have to write them."
What inspires him: "I have an idea of what the book should be about and then I think, 'Okay, how do I finish this story? Who's going to die first? What are the relationships about? What makes one person want to kill another one?' It's like a big jigsaw puzzle. I won't stop until I finish it."
If not this, then what: "I would have loved to learn to play the cello. It's just such a rich instrument."
If not here, then where: "My ideal place would be somewhere in England. Failing that, somewhere closer to home in Mississippi, I think. Although there would be some social drawbacks to that."
What's next: James has plans to increase his writing output to two books a year, but he'll write only one for the Cat in the Stacks series. The second book each year will be for another series. (So sorry, Cat fans, you'll still have to wait a year between titles.)
More Creatives for 2013
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer
Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker
Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer
David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer
Danielle Burns, art curator
Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder
Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator
Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker
Amanda Stevens, scary book author
Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger
Ana María Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach
Billy D. Washington, comedian
Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer
Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer
Kelly Sears, animator and film maker
Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director
jhon r. stronks,dance-maker
Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer
Jordan "Monster Mac" McMahon, artist, designer