Writer Wednesday: (Miranda James) Dean James

Dean James aka Miranda James aka Jimmie Ruth Evans aka Honor Hartman

Dean James aka Miranda James aka Jimmie Ruth Evans aka Honor Hartman

We are so pleased to introduce you to New York Times bestselling author Dean James! You've probably heard of him or his extremely popular "Cat in the Stack" mysteries, which he writes under the pen name Miranda James. We are BIG fans of his work and highly recommend his books but must admit that his background as a librarian and his love for cats fully won us over. (We're suckers for a fellow cat lover.) And it will come as no surprise that he's an avid reader and has a collection of print books that by appearances, may take over his home at some point in the near future.......we're jealous. Find links to all of his books here if you're shopping for a well-written cozy mystery.

What is your name and what are your pen names?

My name is Dean James, and I currently write as Miranda James. I previously wrote as Jimmie Ruth Evans and Honor Hartman.

Describe your books/genre to our readers.

I write what are often called cozy mysteries, though some also refer to them as traditional mysteries. Basically this means that there is no explicit violence in the books, nor is there explicit sex or bad language. The crimes usually occur in a community of some kind, and the detective is most often an amateur sleuth. I love amateur detectives, and all my series have featured them.

How and why did you become an author?

I wanted to be a writer ever since I was about twelve, when I wrote my first book. It was a bad knock-off of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, my two favorite mystery series at the time.

With their broad chests and muscular bodies, maine coons are the defensive tackles of the cat world.
— Miranda James, "Murder Past Due"

I find it fascinating that you write under so many different pen names. Why do you do this and is it hard to keep up with them?

The reason for different names is primarily marketing. My own name, Dean James, tends to get lost on the Internet. Google it, and the results are mostly about a dead movie star. Thus with pseudonyms I have an identity that is easier to discover. I don't have trouble keeping up with them, because the characters in each series are different. Also, two of the series have more or less ended, and I write only as Miranda James these days.

Your Cat in the Stacks mysteries are a huge hit with readers. What inspired this series? Are you a cat person?

Berkley dropped my Wanda Nell Culpepper series (written under the name Jimmie Ruth Evans) due to lack of sufficient sales, and my editor wanted me to keep writing for the house. She and her boss suggested I write a series about a librarian and a cat. She knows I am a librarian and that I love cats, so the idea was a natural for me. From that basic premise I created Charlie Harris and Diesel, and fortunately for me, the series was an immediate hit.

I read that you're a Nancy Drew fan. I have a huge collection of these myself! What draws you to Nancy Drew?

When I was ten, I discovered Nancy Drew. The first mystery I ever read was The Secret of Shadow Ranch, and I was immediately hooked. After that I searched for every book in the series, and I discovered many other juvenile mystery series, like Trixie Belden, the Dana Girls, the Hardy Boys, Judy Bolton, and numerous others. I have always loved Nancy, partly because she was my introduction to mysteries, but also because she never let obstacles stop her from helping people who needed assistance. She believed in justice, and she was determined to get it for people who couldn't get it for themselves.

Dean's cat, Toby

Dean's cat, Toby

Dean's cat, Pippa

Dean's cat, Pippa

This question is for Diesel Harris. For those that don't know, Diesel is a Maine Coon and a character in the "Cat in the Stacks" mysteries. Diesel, you have your own Facebook page. How do you handle your popularity and fame?

Fame is a burden, but, after all, cats were deities in ancient Egypt. A highly civilized group, of course. I am always happy to have the human translate my answers to my fan mail and comments on Facebook. I am able to have some privacy, thanks to the stand-in who poses for the book covers. He is not a Maine Coon, but he is a handsome fellow, as am I.

As a librarian, what do you see in the future for the book industry? Do you think the print book will always have a place in an increasingly digital society?

I think print books will always have a place, not only for their content, but also for their aesthetic qualities as objects. Printed works have been the foundation of literate societies for thousands of years, and they have an enduring quality that can't be completely eclipsed by a computer file. Publishing is going increasingly digital, and that opens up opportunities that didn't exist before.

What are 3 things most people don't know about you?

1. My roots, both paternal and maternal, are distinctly Southern, reaching all the way back to seventeenth-century North and South Carolina, and prior to that, England. Generation after generation of farmers. 2. I'm an only child. 3. Perhaps because of my heritage, I'm a devout Anglophile, and I've been to England nine times in the past twenty-four years. I would live there, for at least part of the year, if I could afford it.

Are you working on any new projects this year?

I'm currently working on the first in a new mystery series, a spinoff from the "Cat in the Stacks" books. It's scheduled to be out October 7, 2014, and the title is Bless Her Dead Little Heart. The new series features Miss An'gel and Miss Dickce Ducote, first introduced in Out of Circulation. After I finish that I'll start work on the next Charlie and Diesel book, Arsenic and Old Books, due out in late January 2015.

How can our readers contact you? email, Facebook, Twitter, blog, website

The easiest way for readers to get in touch is through my website, www.catinthestacks.com. They can email either Miranda or Diesel. I also have Facebook pages for Miranda and Diesel, in addition to my own page. For now, I have resisted Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites.

Feel free to add anything about yourself, your books, your site etc. here. Also include any parting comments or words of wisdom for M.L. Gardner's readers.

I write to entertain, to help distract readers from the cares and woes of daily life. The fan letters I treasure most come from readers who tell me that my books have helped distract them during difficult times in their lives. That means more to me than anything.

Posted on March 12, 2014 and filed under Writer Wednesday.