A globe traveler-turned-novelist, this neighbor has stories to share

Being a globe traveler comes with its share of adventures, and neighborhood resident Janis Susan May has had plenty — like the time she dined with a Mexican bandit, or the brief period when she was simultaneously engaged to three men, each living on a different continent.

Tales from her experiences (plus ideas from her active imagination) wound their way into the eight novels May had under her belt by 1995. But she wasn’t finished exploring yet. Still in the prime of her life, May lived in Mexico for months at a time, as well as trekked through Europe and the Middle East where she indulged in a deep love of Egyptology and archaeology.

“I have lived a wonderful life. I’ve done everything I wanted, and I’ve lived in different places around the world,” says May, 60. “If I felt like doing something, I did it because it was just me and my cat.”

It’s been more than 10 years since May has published a novel, but she recently jumped back into the writing game with fervor: Four of her books are being published within a span of eight months. Three of them are fictional tales — romantic thrillers and murder mysteries along the same vein of the novels she published years ago.

But “Land of Heart’s Delight,” which comes out this month and is May’s third novel to be released this year, is a nonfiction book paying homage to her mother, the late Aletha Barrett whom May describes as “the woman who exuded elegance.”

“‘Land of Heart’s Delight’ is a collection of my mother’s stories back when she was a county home demonstration agent in the early 1940s,” May says. “It’s the book of her memoirs that is closest to my heart right now.”

May admits the memoirs are totally different from what she is accustomed to writing about.

“For starters, it’s nonfiction. There is nothing even remotely made up,” May says. “All of my other books — I made them up in my head. But there are real people in ‘Land of Heart’s Delight.’ It’s just two totally different disciplines.”

Her new time-travel mystery, “Lost in Egypt,” pulls heavily from her travels in the Middle East and derives from her love of all things Egypt-related. (May is also a longtime publisher and editor of the North Texas Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt newsletter, distributed to, arguably, the largest association of working Egyptologists in the world.) And her murder mystery, “Dark Music,” May’s first book to come out since her 10-year hiatus, sounds sinister but employs quite a bit of humor. Having worked with May only on this novel, Vintage Romance Publishing editor-in-chief Dawn Carrington says she was very pleased with her work ethic.

“She has a way of drawing the reader in and making you laugh along with the book,” Carrington says.

May’s passion for writing coupled with the encouragement of her husband of six years, naval reserve Captain Hiram Patterson, is how this neighborhood novelist managed to churn out four books so quickly. And it doesn’t hurt, May adds, that she wrote her first book at age 4 and comes from a long line of family writers.

“I can’t imagine life without writing,” she says.

FOR INFORMATION: To learn more about Janis Susan May and her books, visit janissusanmay.com.


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