Joan Hess is a fifth-generation resident of Fayetteville, Arkansas (think bicycles, Girl Scouts, touch football with the guys, walking to and from school, tennis in the park, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates in junior high--all that stuff).
She received a B.A. in art from the University of Arkansas in 1971 and a M.A. in education from Long Island University in 1974. After a few false starts, she managed to combine the degrees and for several years taught art to three and four year-olds in a private preschool (where she found her level of expertise in the art world).
Ms. Hess began writing in 1984 (although, technically, she began in 1982 and wrote ten--yes, ten--unpublishable romance novels). Her first mystery, STRANGLED PROSE, came out in 1986 (yes!!!), and since then she has written twenty-one more mystery novels.
She also has written three young adult mysteries, short stories for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Sisters in Crime 2 & 4, Cat Crimes I & II, Under the Gun, Invitation to Murder, Malice Domestic I & II, Deadly Allies II (and a whole bunch more), and articles for various professional magazines, including Fiction Writer and Clues: A Journal of Detection (but damn few of these).
STRANGLED PROSE was chosen as best first novel in the 1986 Drood Review Readers Poll and was nominated for an Anthony Award. MISCHIEF IN MAGGODY was nominated for an Agatha Award for best novel of 1988 at the Malice Domestic convention in Washington, D.C. A DIET TO DIE FOR won the American Mystery Award for best traditional novel of 1989. "Too Much to Bare," a short story, won the Agatha Award in April 1991, and also the McCavity Award from Mystery Readers International.
Another short story, "The Last To Know," was nominated for the Agatha and McCavity Awards in 1993. O LITTLE TOWN OF MAGGODY was nominated for the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award for best novel of 1993.
Joan in Razorback Red Ms. Hess was a member of the Board of Directors of the Mystery Writers of America and chairperson of the 1992 Edgar Best Novel committee (and two terms on the short story committee--can you say "slow learner?"). She is a former president of the American Crime Writers League and president for life of the Arkansas Mystery Writers Alliance (since she organized it and recruited all three other members), as well as a member of Sisters in Crime, Authors Guild, and a columnist for Mystery Scene Magazine.
She serves as the executive vice-president of the Whimsey Foundation, an organization that honors significant achievement in comedic mystery fiction.
She has been a guest lecturer at Southwest Missouri State University, Xavier University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Missouri (KC), Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and Rice University in Houston.
She is a full-time writer and the mother of two. She has no discernible Southern accent. Her hair is not natural.