We finally got a chance to meet Jess Lourey yesterday. She was doing a book signing at Cherry Street Books.
Jess, of course, is incredibly famous as the creator of Mrs. Berns. OK, Mira James is THE protagonist in her books – and a wonderful character she is as well [Editor’s note: In discussion with Jess we learned Mira is pronounced “Mirror-ah,” not “My-rah.” Jess said women generally think the former; men the latter – I told her I generally thought of her either way, which brings into question my gender.] When I asked Jess to guess my favorite character, however, she immediately said Mrs. Berns. Mrs. Berns is Mira’s 80-year old library assistant who often comes to work in attire that would get a teenager tossed out of school and placed on double secret probation. We both agreed Betty White would play Mrs. Berns in the movies.
Jess taught English at Alexandria Technical College (now the Alexandria Technical and Community College) for nine years. She left Alex in 2007 (if memory serves, though it often doesn’t) for a similar position at St. Cloud Technical and Community College – closer to her hometown, Paynesville. But it was in Alex where she began her career as a writer – murder-by-month mysteries that revolve around the high crime metropolis of Battle Lake, Minnesota.
She was here to sign her latest book – October Fest. In a bit of a calendar challenge, her “November” book will come out in March. She is also under contract for “December.” When she runs out of months she thought she’d probably go to days of the week. 😉
We asked how a full-time teacher finds time to write novels. Her response was basically that’s what weekends are for. Moving closer to home freed her weekends for writing because her mom can provide childcare. She writes a 1,000 words per day, which will produce a novel a year.
I was amazed at the number of patrons at the bookstore who are writers, either by vocation or avocation. Jess handed all a handy-dandy five-page reference guide entitled How to Write and Publish Your Novel. I undoubtedly will find it extremely useful as I venture into the construction of the great American novel – Pork Chops and Cabbage Patch Dolls. (OK, I made up that last part – by choosing random vowels.)