Monday, January 16, 2012

Scene of the Crime with Author J.M. Hayes!

Mondays get a bad rap. It seems as if most people hate Mondays. I don't, because once again it's time for an interview with one of my favorite crime fiction writers. This week I'm interviewing J.M. Hayes, creator of the Mad Dog and Englishman series. English (known as "Englishman") is a divorced father who's sheriff of Benteen County, Kansas. Mad Dog is his part Cheyenne half-brother. Pacing, vivid characters, humor... if you haven't read a Mad Dog and Englishman mystery, I certainly hope you'll give one a try!

J.M. Hayes and friends
Looking for more information about J.M. Hayes and his books? Here are a few links for you:

Now let's get to the fun part-- the interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special? 

I had a child's picture book  that delighted me--The Little Engine That Could.  That was a favorite, as was a Christmas book with three dimensional pop ups on every page.  But the first real books I remember falling in love with were The Swiss Family Robinson, The Little Lame Prince and The Marvelous Land of Oz.  My mother read them to me and then I reread them myself, over and over.  Adventures in the wilderness and magical fantasies.  Both still call to me.  

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time? 

I try to stay reasonably fit.  My joints do a lot of complaining when I run these days, so I swim laps--really boring except when beautiful women are doing the same thing.  I walk my dogs and play or do obedience work with them every day.  And, unlike anyone else I know in my age group, I play World of Warcraft.  It's the world's largest MMORPG (Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game).  I have five level 85 characters (the top level you can reach) and should have a sixth by the end of the year--Borgward, Sinnomore, Chindi, Allielujah, Curmudgeon, and Jinnblossom. It's like something out of the Science Fiction novels I read when I was growing up.  Oh, and of course I read--history, biography, scifi, literary fiction, and lots and lots of mysteries. 

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

El Tiradito
Come to Tucson during the Lent/Easter season and we'll go visit the ceremonies at Old Pascua Yaqui Village.  Yaquis came into contact with the Spanish in the 16th Century.  The Spanish could never conquer or convert them, but the Yaqui adopted some aspects of Christianity and blended them with their own beliefs.  They practice elaborate ceremonies all through the Lenten season, climaxing on Easter--masked forces of good and evil do battle throughout the village.  The Yaqui at Pasqua welcome visitors as long as they are respectful and leave cameras and other recording devices at home.  

Anytime you come to Tucson, we can visit El Tiradito, aka The Wishing Shrine.  It's just south of Tucson's convention center next door to a great Mexican restaurant.  It's the grave of a young man who killed his wife's lover and was put to death.  They say that, in order to redeem himself, he intercedes with God on behalf of those who bring him their problems.  The shrine for this folk saint is just an adobe wall soaked in the wax of countless candles--the burning wishes left by those who've brought him their troubles.  El Tiradito is just blocks from downtown's skyscrapers and on the edge of Barrio Viejo--a little piece of magic caught between historic Tucson and the city we may someday become.  

You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you? 

Humphrey Bogart
It's a tough choice--Lou Costello or Humphrey Bogart.  Or possibly Tarzan's Cheetah, in his prime. 

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?  

Most recently, I'd say Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire.  I see his Sheriff Longmire as my Sheriff English, transported to an alternate reality.  Wyoming qualifies as alternate reality if you start on the flat-earth Great Plains of Central Kansas. 

Name one book that you've read that you wish you had written. What is it about that book that made it come to mind? 

I could name hundreds of books I wish I'd written.  If I have to narrow it down to one, I suppose I'd pick To Kill A Mockingbird, perhaps the single best novel I've ever read.  It's perfect for adolescents and adults, a story about good people trying to do the right thing in the face of small-minded bigotry.  And it's told from the point of view of a precocious young girl incapable of dishonesty.  I also love the fact that Harper Lee and Truman Capote spent part of their childhoods together and turned each other into characters in their novels.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore? How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

I was amazed.  I hadn't gotten my copies yet and I was prowling the shelves of Tucson's sadly-departed top-ten-nationally-ranked bookstore, The Book Mark.  An acquaintance happened to be shopping there as well.  I showed her my book.  She bought it and I autographed it.  It was one of the best moments of my life.  I celebrated the sale of the manuscript by telling all my family and friends, and hoping it would actually get into print.

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

I've spoken to many authors about their book signing experiences, so I don't think I've had any that are truly unusual.  I've gone from sitting all alone and studiously ignored by any customers who happened into the store to being told my novel was someone's all-time favorite.  Unfortunately, the second event only happened once.  That makes it unusual, at least for me. 

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?

I like to think, for my age, that I'm pretty e-savvy.  After all, I spend hours every week as computer-generated entities like elf mages or werewolf priests.  But so far I don't do ebooks.  I've seen them up close and know all the wonderful things they can do, but it's a tactile thing.  I love the feel of a book.  I love covers.  I love stacking the books I've read on my shelves.  I love being able to tell what someone else is reading in public.  I'll probably end up with an e-reader one day (I'm running out of bookshelves), but I'll continue to read real pages that I can enjoy the pleasure of turning for myself for as long as I'm able.  Call me a selective Luddite.   My hope for ebooks is that they'll get me more sales.  They're a lot cheaper and these are hard times.  I'll take all the readers I can get, whatever the format.

On Sale Now!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. We enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know you a little better.

May your book sales do nothing but increase!


  1. Yikes! J. M Hayes is one of my favorite authors because of his amazing characters. His plots are plausible, hilarious, and fast paced. So I have to note that English is not divorced. His wife died of an inoperable brain tumor. Even in novels, life happens, and it goes on. Kudos to Mr. Hayes on his most recent book, English Lessons.

  2. Elizabeth-- When I describe a series, I assume that most of my readers haven't read the books, so I keep descriptions to how the series starts out. That way, everyone who decides to read gets to experience how the characters develop.

    Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. Ah, Mike, so many things i love along with you. Il Tiradito and the great restaurant next door--El Minuto. I once started a story with Il Tiradito, the Wishing Shrine, but ti never panned out. Love Walt Longmire, too---a great character and sheriff. My other favorite sheriff is your own Englishman.


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