Christine Young

I am a writer and avid reader of romances particularly historical romances. Please join me on my journey through time

Christine Presents ~ Last Seen by Jo A. Hiestand

Please welcome Jo A. Hiestand author of Last Seen.

Jo A. Hiestand will be awarding a McLaren/”Last Seen” ceramic mug and a CD recording of the song featured in the book to several randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour (International Giveaway).


Last Seen

by Jo A. Hiestand



  1. What or who inspired you to start writing?

That’s easy to answer! The Golden-Age mystery writer Ngaio Marsh was (and still is) my idol. Her writing is beautiful, her characters well drawn and full of detail, her plots ingenious. I’d read all her books and wanted to create something similar using present day settings. That, coupled with my childhood immersed in “moody” books such as Jane Eyre, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, and Sherlock Holmes’ foggy London, whispered of such mysterious places and brilliant stories that I had to try to create my own.

  1. How did you come up with ideas for your books?

Story ideas for the McLaren
 series usually come from an event or place in the British countryside. For LAST SEEN, I’d been to Tutbury Castle, where about a quarter of the book takes place, and was overwhelmed by the size, history and people who must’ve lived within its walls. I thought of the centuries of events there, learned about the Minstrels Court (an event held annually for two hundred years) and thought the Court and the Castle perfect places for a murder. And who knows…perhaps one happened there!
What expertise did you bring to your writing?

I don’t know if it’s expertise, but I lived in England for a year, as well as vacationed there many times. I know parts of it and Scotland quite well, so I use those places in my books. I believe the scenes ring true. My BA degree is in English and I graduated with departmental honors, so I assume I can write fairly well.

  1. What would you want your readers to know about you that might not be in your bio?

At one time I considered opening a tearoom. I had the décor all planned, the name chosen, and even what’d be on the menu. But my energy level wasn’t up to actually instigating my big idea!

  1. As far as your writing goes, what are your future plans?

I’d like to say “sign a contract for a television series produced by the BBC”, but they haven’t approached me! Seriously, right now I’m focused on next year’s concert of the music written for FLIGHT PLAN, my ninth book. Each McLaren book features a song that’s integral to the victim or to McLaren, thus becoming important to the plot. These songs are recorded by local St. Louis musicians and available on single-song CDs. The music ranges from folk, blues and torch, to a baroque aria and classic jazz instrumental. My friend and nationally known composer Robert Chamberlin is writing a two-piano piece, composed of six movements, which will illustrate scenes and characters in the book, similar to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The world premier of the piece will be in the fall of 2016 (I can hardly wait!). I haven’t thought beyond that, other than to occasionally mull over a new McLaren plot. I’d like eventually to put all the music from the books onto one CD and sell the compilation. I think it’d be great to have them all contained that way.

  1. If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

Without a second thought, I’d be Brenna Taylor, from my Taylor & Graham mysteries. Brenna’s a detective-sergeant in the Derbyshire Constabulary. She’s skillful, determined, and imaginative in her crime solving, but faces the obstacle of male resistance in her field. She does eventually rise above the derision, and earns everyone’s respect. I admire Brenna for those qualities and for gaining the love of one of the colleagues who used to harass her. She’s the type of person I wish I were.

  1. If you were the casting director for the film version of your novel, who would play your leading roles?

This is a tough question. There are so many great actors, but physical appearances, of course, are also essential to fulfill the characters’ images in readers’ minds. My protagonist, Michael McLaren, could be played by either Jason Statham or Robert Kazinsky (no real preference); his sidekick, Jamie, definitely would be Colin Moy; McLaren’s nemesis has to be Paul Venables (though Patrick Malahide wouldn’t been my choice about thirty years ago, but I wasn’t writing yet!); and Dena, his fiancée, should be Rachael Stirling. Those are the reoccurring characters. If I added a few major characters from LAST SEEN, the roles of the Tutbury Castle curator, herbalist, Kent Harrison’s fiancée, and his singing partner could be played by Jim Carter, Bill Nighy, Joanne Froggatt, and Daniel Radcliffe, respectively. Director choice is between Brendan Maher and Susanna White.

  1. Do you belong to a critique group? If so how does this help or hinder your writing?

I tried one once and had the worst experience. There was no enforcement of rules (if there were any). We were told to bring two pages to read, and some people brought five or ten pages and hogged the entire time. People made fun of others’ writing and verbally tore it apart. I left after two sessions. Since then I’ve been hesitant about finding another group. If I have to sound out something, I talk to one of my Sisters in Crime chapter author friends, or bend another friend’s ear. I think their gut feelings are as good as any collection of other writers. After all, writing is subjective.

  1. When did you first decide to submit your work? Please tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.

Hoping I don’t sound hokey, I’d say it was my mother who nudged me forward. I’d talked about “the mystery I’m going to write” all through high school, but I never started anything. Finally she challenged me to do it. Of course that novel was dreadful, but she kept after me to write another one, instilling the realization that writing, just like cooking or playing baseball or learning an instrument, gets better with practice. When she read my first Taylor & Graham novel she thought I should send it to a publisher to see what they thought of it. If she hadn’t pushed, I doubt I would’ve had the courage to do it.

  1. What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

The best advice came from Shirley Kennett, a St. Louis-area published mystery author. She read my first Taylor & Graham manuscript, told me to change one of the two male protagonists to a female, tell the story in first person instead of third person, and tell it from the female’s point of view. She also suggested I give her a female friend who’d act kind of like her confidant and diary. I didn’t want to do it at first, but with all the manuscript’s rejection slips staring me in the face, I finally followed through on Shirley’s suggestions. The first publisher I sent it to offered me a book contract. Thank you, Shirley.

Along with that best advice subject was a former boss who said the carols I’d written to celebrate Groundhog’s Day should be published. I wasn’t sure anyone but he, a handful of my friends, and I thought they were funny, or that there’d be a wide enough audience who’d want the little book, but he kept urging me to do it. I eventually acquiesced. To the basic thirteen carols collection I added food recipes and party decoration ideas, threw in some history about the origin of the day and some interesting facts about groundhogs, and published it on my own. CAROLS FOR GROUNDHOG’S DAY is one of my top selling books, believe it or don’t. Thank you, Mark.

The worse advice I’ve received was not to write a second series – the idea being my energy would weaken if split between two sets of stories. If I had taken that advice, McLaren wouldn’t have entered the world, those wonderful CDs of music wouldn’t exist, and I’d not have met a superb group of musicians, who have become my friends. Sometimes ya just gotta go with yer gut feelin’, despite contrary opinion.

  1. Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I don’t outline, but do have what I call my Notes Page. On that I jot down paragraphs, ideas, and bulleted lists for the story. These are the main points, actions and scenes that I need to include. If a snatch of dialogue occurs to me, I’ll put that down, too. I have my notes document file open on the right side of my computer monitor screen; the actual manuscript is on the left side. That allows me to consult my notes as I write to make sure I’m including everything I want to. On the notes page I also have info of places, photos of the area, and songs that should go into the story. For instance, in LAST SEEN, my notes page included snaps of Tutbury Castle and its layout, a list of prisoner rehab programs at Sudbury Prison, a map of the road from the castle up to the village of Buxton, information regarding when police might guard a patient’s hospital room and who’s allowed to visit such a patient, a few photos of Beresford Dale, etc. I like to think it all out, including what will be revealed in each chapter, and then I write.

  1. Do you have any hobbies and does the knowledge you’ve gained from these carry over into your characters or the plot of your books?

My main hobby is music, whether listening to it or performing it. I gave McLaren that hobby, too, even down to him playing in a folk singing group, which I did for a few years. He talks about songs and I show him tuning his 12-string guitar. He uses his guitar knowledge, in fact, in LAST SEEN, to understand a clue to the murder. McLaren’s passionate about nature and about preserving the land, which also derives from me. I think pouring some of yourself into your characters gives your writing authority and, therefore, believability. If tuning a guitar is described in detail, for instance, the reader knows the author’s done this and learns to trust the author. This also establishes a bond between them. Plus, it’s a lot easier to write about something you know than to stop every other sentence to research something and hope your writing sounds authentic! I also give McLaren my love of cooking and baking, telling how he cooks something as well as what he’s cooking. All these little additions round him out and make him a little more real to us. And even though I love to do crewel embroidery, that’s one thing McLaren won’t do!

  1. Do you have an all time favorite book?

My, what a difficult question to answer! The first one that comes to my mind is actually a tie of three books: Ngaio Marsh’s Scales of Justice, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, and Charles Nicholl’s The Reckoning. If I went to the classics, I’d also include Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. So many good books!

  1. Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your book?

Actually, I’m nearly finished with the ninth McLaren mystery. It’s called FLIGHT PLAN and takes place in Cumbria, England instead of Derbyshire. McLaren’s on a short vacation and gets involved in investigating the murder of teenager Bradley Allard. There are scenes at Uther Pendragon’s castle, a prehistoric stone circle, the military training range of Warcop (yes, those three places really exist), and the village (fictitious in the book but based on a real village. I just changed the name because I didn’t think they’d like two murders occurring on their doorsteps!). The church sexton, nicknamed Barmy Barry, is one crumpet short of a tea party. He sees faeries at the castle as well as thinks Pendragon is about to come back. Add to that lights at night, a physical assault on the vicar, and Barry’s insistence there’s a ghost in the forest… What’s going on in the village, and who killed Bradley? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

  1. Who is your favorite actor and actress?

It depends on the era. In the 1940s it’s Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Always seems odd to me because Gary Cooper is so quiet and reserved, and Barbara Stanwyck has such powerful, emotional scenes at times. But they’re both strong and are by favorites. If you’re talking about current people, I’d have to name Mark Rylance, Patrick Malahide, Alun Armstrong, and Anna Maxwell Martin as topping my list, but I have many second-place choices.

  1. Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

LAST SEEN concerns the disappearance and subsequent murder of Kent Harrison, a local teacher and a musician in the reenactment Medieval/Tudor style. His death is certainly a tragedy, for he was popular and about to make the big time in the entertainment world. But probably the darkest event occurs when McLaren’s girlfriend, Dena, is kidnapped and wakes in a small room. She doesn’t know who abducted her, where she is, why she was taken, or if McLaren will find her. Sometimes the room is dark, multiplying her fear.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about what it is like to write a series.

I enjoy it immensely. I’m crazy about McLaren and his pal, Jamie. I believe they’re interesting characters and I’d like to count them both as friends if they were real. Since I like them so much, I can’t wait to think up new cases for them and watch how they figure out whodunit. Through nine books, now, I’ve come to know them both very well, so when I’m considering a situation or plot, I can picture them in it – or not! Their personalities dictate where the story will take place, how they’ll treat the other characters, and how they will respond to situations. It’s almost like listening and watching them react to things, just writing it down as I see it unfolding in my head. They don’t control the plot, though; I have a firm grip on that. But they stubbornly stay true to their morals and personalities. I have the luxury of a series to watch their personalities change and they grow in many directions. That’s a wonderful thing about a series, seeing them as “human beings” develop as other people and events affect them. I also enjoy building on something that happened a book or two previous and refer to it or have it mean something to them in the current book. Writing about McLaren and Jamie is like being with a long-time friend. I feel comfortable with them and get the warmth of camaraderie from them. Which means I can’t wait to get up each morning and see what they’re up to next.

  1. Anything else you might want to add?

Once I dined with Omar Sharif. Of course, there were ninety-nine other people dining with us. It was at the end of a bridge tournament in Manchester, England. But if you only read the first sentence it sounds romantic!

Thanks for the interview, Christine! Hope to talk with you again some time. Jo


One dark night, popular singer Kent Harrison goes missing after his performance at Tutbury Castle. When his body’s found in a forest, the police investigation focuses on Kent’s ex-wife, a local herbalist, a covetous colleague, and even the curator of another castle who tried to lure Kent into performing there. But his occasional singing partner, Dave Morley, seems to have the biggest motive. He’s dying to make his name, money, and the big time, especially at the medieval Minstrels Court reenactment, where Kent’s appearance guarantees SRO. Did Dave murder Kent to eliminate the competition…or had their partnership struck a wrong chord? To entice him into investigating, ex-cop McLaren’s girlfriend plays detective. But Dena ends up in great danger. Now McLaren must not only solve Kent’s murder but also rescue her, a hard task when a blast of jealousy, anger, and lies mutes the truth.



She seemed to be floating in a bizarre landscape where time had ceased to function and the sole inhabitant stared mutely at her. For, framed in the open doorway, silhouetted against the florescent light in the hallway, stood a tall figure dressed in dark coloring. A rubber mask of a smiling Margaret Thatcher covered his face. His hands were gloved, the left holding a coil of rope, the right holding something dark that glistened in the light. He stepped into the room, not speaking, yet making his desires known with the gesture of the gun.




AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Jo A. Hiestand knew in grade school that she wanted to be a mystery writer. But life got in the way: singing in a semi-pro folk group, traveling to New Zealand, working as a camp counselor, co-inventing P.I.R.A.T.E.S. (a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game), becoming a tour agent for a Scottish folk singing group, attending a citizen police academy and riding along with police officers… But she needed to immerse herself in All Things British for her books.   England beckoned and she responded.

She bee-lined to Derbyshire, feeling it was the ‘home’ of her books. Derbyshire also bestowed the essential English police contacts and transformed the St. Louisan into an Anglophile.

She’s returned nearly a dozen times to Derbyshire, researching and photographing for her McLaren cold case detective novels.

In 1999 Jo returned to Webster University to major in English. She graduated in 2001 with a BA degree and departmental honors.

Her cat, Tennyson, shares her St. Louis home.

Follow Jo and McLaren on these websites:

and on Facebook:




Jo A. Hiestand will be awarding a McLaren/”Last Seen” ceramic mug and a CD recording of the song featured in the book to several randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour (International Giveaway).




6 comments on “Christine Presents ~ Last Seen by Jo A. Hiestand

  1. Goddess Fish Promotions
    September 21, 2015

    Thank you for hosting today

  2. Jo Hiestand
    September 21, 2015

    Good morning, everyone! Thank you, Christine, for hosting my interview today. I hope readers find it interesting…and of course I hope everyone enters the Rafflecopter! jo

  3. achristay
    September 21, 2015

    Welcome to my blog. I hope you have a great tour.

  4. Jo Hiestand
    September 21, 2015

    It’s time I went to sleep. 😉 Thank you again, Christine, for the wonderful interview and for giving your time and allowing me to appear on your blog today. Hope everyone enjoyed it — I certainly had a good time! Hope to come back some day. jo

  5. Pamela
    September 27, 2015

    How interesting. Your post shows the importance of those we know–such as your mother and your friends–in influencing our life’s paths. I’m so glad you were able to bring your various talents together and give us mystery readers another fascinating series to enjoy!

    • Jo Hiestand
      September 28, 2015

      A bit belated reply, but thanks, Pamela. I agree completely. I think those people close to us tend to know us better, and therefore may be able to see what may be a good path or good advice.

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This entry was posted on September 21, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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