The Femmes Fatales are delighted to welcome Dean James. Dean (aka Miranda James) grew up in north central Mississippi, the setting for the best-selling “Cat in the Stacks” mysteries, though he has been a resident of Houston, Texas for the past thirty years. Currently a librarian in the Texas Medical Center, Dean has published seventeen mystery novels, under his own name and the pseudonyms Jimmie Ruth Evans and Honor Hartman, as well as six works of mystery non-fiction and several short stories. His work has been nominated several times for the Edgar, Agatha, and Macavity Awards, and he has won an Agatha Award for Best Non-Fiction and two Macavity Awards in the same category. He has thousands of books and one cat (not a Maine Coon). Take it away, Dean!
Readers are often curious about the source of a writer’s ideas, and the answer will vary from writer to writer. I have several different ways to answer that, because for me it depends on which book or character the reader is referring to when the question arises. For example, I created the character Simon Kirby-Jones because no one had ever written a cozy mystery series with a gay vampire sleuth, and I thought it would be fun to write. My agent sparked another series one day when she asked me “Why hasn’t someone written about a trailer park detective? Why are they always writing about rich people?” That’s how the character Wanda Nell Culpepper – single mother and trailer park dweller – popped into my head.
In the case of Charlie Harris, the widowed librarian who is the amateur sleuth in the “Cat in the Stacks” series, the basic idea came from my wonderful editor, Michelle Vega, and her boss, the amazing Natalee Rosenstein, at Berkley Prime Crime. They asked whether I’d consider writing a series about a librarian and a cat. Well, they both know I’m a librarian and a cat person, so it wasn’t hard for me to say yes to the idea.
Those words – librarian and cat – were the only spark I needed, and Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat Diesel walked into my imagination and my life. I know this may sound peculiar to some people, but once I knew the names of my two main characters, I knew a lot about them. I knew Charlie was a widower with two grown children, and I knew Diesel was a Maine Coon. I knew the books would be set in a small Mississippi town, and I knew who some of the secondary characters would be.
That’s what is so wonderful about imagination – or maybe it’s the subconscious. Maybe Charlie, Diesel, and the others were lurking in my subconscious the whole time, just waiting for the right moment to step out from the shadows into my conscious mind.
However it all came about, I’m thrilled, because I’m having a terrific time writing about these characters. Reader response has gratifyingly positive, making this series hit the best-seller list. My subconscious did me a huge favor with Charlie and Diesel, and if I knew how to thank it, I would.