Hey there everyone.
I’ve got something to help with the Monday Blues and fire us all up for the week ahead of us.
For today’s Author Interview series segment, may I introduce you all to author Jeff Lee, as he kindly talks about his writing inspirations and the engaging antics of his stories, along with sharing his own writing advice.
Thanks for reading and have a great evening.
Hi there Jeff, fantastic to have you here, so we can find out more about you and your work.
Let’s start with your novels themselves. Can you tell us a bit more about each of them, along with their story arcs and conflicts that need to be resolved, what genres they all fall into and what their overall themes are across the course of their respective journeys.
Happy to. The name of the series is “Adventures in La-La Land”, and it pokes a ton of satirical fun at life in L.A., crime, murder, sex and the entertainment industry. My main characters are a trio of heavily tattooed, Harley-riding bounty hunters and repo men, named Fish, Kenny and Einstein. Each of the books is fast-paced and uproariously funny. A sort-of “Guy Ritchie in Hollywood” kind of vibe.
The first book in the series, THE LADIES TEMPERANCE CLUB’S FAREWELL TOUR, centers on three middle-age women. The best way to describe the story arc and conflicts here, would be to show you the book’s back cover copy.
“Vonda Mae Ables could never hurt a soul. Now she’s on the lam in a huge RV, with her best friends, gallons of Chardonnay and a stiff in her freezer.
Vonda has suffered her alcoholic boyfriend’s abuse for twenty years. But when she finally stands up for herself, she overdoes it and crushes his skull with a football trophy. Rather than turn herself in, she enlists her friends to help ditch the body. They stash the boyfriend in the freezer of his humongous RV and take off for Arizona, planning a quiet desert burial. Unfortunately, the plan goes more sideways with every mile. Vonda finally finds a likely place to plant the dead SOB, but now he’s frozen solid and stuck in the freezer.
Exhausted from their day of digging and unsuccessfully trying to extricate him, the women stop at a local cafe. While they’re drinking dinner, a gang of Harley-riding repo guys makes off with the RV and a Good Samaritan reports the theft. Vonda panics when the police arrive to investigate, knowing that if the cops recover the RV and discover what’s in the freezer, she might have to turn that old trophy on herself.
Imagine THELMA AND LOUISE on the road with Lucy & Ethel.
It’s about good friends, good wine, manslaughter and the crazy lengths we’ll go for those we care about.”
The next book in the series is CHUMP CHANGE, a fast paced, hysterical crime & murder story about a gang of idiots who steal an armored car holding $300,000 worth of quarters, and the crazed chase that ensues after the loot.
Here’s the back cover copy to give you a better idea of the story, character conflicts and who the ‘bad guys’ really are.
“You think being the Bounty Hunter and Repo Guy to the Stars is easy? Just talk to “Fish” Fishbein. If he isn’t trying to round up a heavily lubricated ex-rocker, he’s flying down the freeway in a repoed Wiener Mobile, chased by the pistol-packing deadbeat who owns it.
A bail bondsman hires him to track down a crew of unwise guys who blew off their court date to snatch the city of L.A.’s monthly parking meter take – 300 grand in quarters. Then they start dropping like flies. And Fish has to catch the killer.
Maybe it’s the city’s armed and dangerous Parking Meter Czar. Or his brother-in-law, a corrupt televangelist who needs some serious coin to bankroll his foray into Bible-based porn. Or the Rev’s wife and co-minister, who’s bat-shit crazy about winning toddler beauty pageants. Or, it just might be the defrocked talent agent who’s dying to make Fish a reality TV star.
With more than seven tons of quarters at stake, bodies are dropping faster than turn-downs on America’s Got Talent. And if Fish and his hog-riding buds, Kenny and Einstein, don’t nab the killer in a hurry, they could get eliminated themselves.”
Now, I just finished writing and editing the last book, HURRICANE KRETSCHMA, so it hasn’t been published yet. But here’s a peek at the back cover copy, so you can see what Fish, Kenny and Einstein are in for.
“All wisecracking, Harley-riding Repo Man and Bounty Hunter to the Stars Fish Fishbein wants is a cool vacation. It’s just him and his three best buds, potato-potato-potatoing down the highway — along with a force of nature named Shawna Kretschman, a bad-ass blonde with her own full-race hog. Not to mention a short fuse, some serious fighting skills and an outfit that leaves zippo to the imagination. All lickety-splitting their way to Sturgis, South Dakota to link up with better than a million hard-drinking, harder partying Harley owners at the town’s annual Motor Cycle Rally.
But a high-powered real estate developer wants all the bikers gone, so he can sell the area as a family-oriented resort town. And he’ll stop at nothing – including murder – to get it. Bikers and locals suddenly start dropping like road racers on a rain-slick GP course. And Fish, his friends and his big mouth are all in the developer’s crosshairs.
They’re on a hysterical collision course that includes manscaping and bar fights, pepper spray-laced paint balls, phony cops, a no-holds-barred wrestling match in a ring full of chocolate pudding and getting adopted by the entire Sioux nation.
The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally might be an 80 year-old tradition. But it’s going to take all of Fish’s brains and a ton of luck to keep himself and his buds alive long enough to enjoy a few more seasons.”
You mentioned before about your writer voice and how it has been shaped by the course of your experiences/career. This is very intriguing, please elaborate on this further, as it is very important for writers to find the true voice in their written works, in order to write in the most compelling way they possibly can.
The short version? I’ve been writing professionally since before disco. The longer version? I retired a few years ago from a career as an advertising copywriter and creative director in Los Angeles. One of the most important things I learned writing Ad and Broadcast copy was to write for the ear. Because none of us speak or think in grammatically precise English. When speaking, we don’t take the time or effort to make sure every sentence has a subject, verb and predicate. We ALL speak in sentence fragments. And one-word paragraphs.
I let that observation form the base for my writer’s voice. I write in conversational English. I write for the ear, NOT for the grammar textbook.
Which makes my work easier to read.
And easier to hear spoken.
True, it gives high school English teachers fits.
But it makes for a novel that moves briskly.
Keeps the reader engaged.
And doesn’t bog anyone down with complex sentences that take three full pages to wade through.
If any of your novels were to be made into films (or even a TV series), who would you cast in the lead roles?
Interesting question, since I like to cast my books before I write them.
That gives me a better handle on my characters.
What they look like.
How they behave.
And what they even might say.
As far as my main character goes, I modelled Fish on two separate actors: John Goodman (Raising Arizona, the Roseanne TV Series). And Bruce Willis. Fish is an inveterate wise-ass, and either could carry off that aspect of his personality brilliantly. And, since Fish is also a biker, I’m pretty sure both could handle that, as well.
What do you find the most difficult thing about writing? And what do you find the easiest?
For me, the most difficult part of writing is what follows after the book is finished. All the marketing, and promoting and pimping. Like a lot of writers, I’d MUCH rather be writing my next book.
Who are some of the authors and historical figures that inspire you?
LOL! I don’t know if there’s enough space, but I’ll try.
William Goldman HAS to be my favorite writer. The man is a literary icon, responsible for The Princess Bride, Magic, No Way to Treat a Lady, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Harper, Soldier in the Rain, the script to A Bridge Too Far…and rumored to have script doctored Goodwill Hunting. (I also know I’ve left out a lot of his works.) I’m also a huge fan of Elmore Leonard, Leon Uris, James Clavell, Fannie Flagg, Joseph Heller, Ludlum, Trevanian, J. K. Rowling, and Janet Evanovich, to name a few.
What sort of research do you do to write your books?
A lot of that is going to depend on the needs of the story I’m trying to tell.
I’m a little bit of a gearhead, and I spent a few years supervising the creation of all the advertising for a large Japanese motorcycle manufacturer. So, I’m already pretty conversant with the engineering, technologies and culture that revolves around bikes. Which comes in handy when writing a squad of main characters who live to ride and ride to live.
All I can say is, however much research you think you need, it’s VITAL that you appear to be at least familiar with what you’re describing. DON’T be that writer, who, in describing what goes on in a nuclear sub preparing to dive, leaves the reader with something like, “He grabbed onto the handle of that thingie that told the sub to either go up or down, and made it descend.” Please, don’t.
Why do you write? What inspired you to become a writer?
Like most writers, I have a head that’s chock full of situations, conversations, characters and strange, yet loony scenes. I live to make sense of all that, get it down on paper and entertain readers with it.
And, hopefully, make them laugh out loud as they go.
And I almost can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. In school, I used to get reasonably abysmal grades on a lot of my assignments, because I would substitute my own short stories for the actual assignments.
What keeps you motivated during creative slumps? How do you deal with Writers Block?
Writing is definitely not a sprint. It’s more of a marathon. There will be times when whole chapters just erupt out of your brain. On the other hand, you will also have occasions when your thought engine does nothing but sputter and misfire. The trick is to understand the nature of the beast and not let it throw you. Because the minute you get all tense because a chapter isn’t flowing well, you’re going to get tied up in knots.
Just relax. Take a walk. Grab a caffeinated beverage. Play a videogame. Whatever it takes to take your mind off the problem, so your subconscious can work it out. You’ll be surprised at just how creative and talented that subconscious can be.
You have access to a time machine. What advice would you give to your younger self?
The only thing I can really think of would be to NOT take up smoking. I can easily accept and live with everything else I’ve done. But that has to be the singularly most stupid decision I have ever made.
How do you spend your free time when you are not writing?
Reading the news online – you never know where that next story idea is going to come from. I also watch a lot of documentaries, because I like to learn about things. I don’t have the patience anymore to be taught; I’d rather pick up the knowledge from watching.
Tell us more about your upcoming projects. Are you working on anything specific or have plans in the pipeline?
I have one more book in the series. It’s titled HAIR OF THE DOG, and it revolves around stolen diamonds, a wanna-be starlet and her pampered little lap pooch. I had a publisher a few years ago, who brought out the book for me. Unfortunately, they closed their doors, and with that went my Amazon and Goodreads pages for the book. I have regained the rights, gotten a new cover designed and will be self-publishing the book, probably in the next month or two.
I would also like to take some time and convert a couple of my novels into screenplays.
Finally, are there any nuggets of wisdom that you can impart to other aspiring writers?
Just one, really. Like every other form of creative expression, writing is a very subjective art form. What one reader loves, another will absolutely hate. DO NOT allow yourself to get upset at negative comments and reviews. They’re all part of the process. If you get one, shrug it off.
Or go kick a tree.
Or expose yourself to passing trains.
Anything to blow off a little steam.
Because the LAST thing you ever want to do is get into a shouting match with a reader who posted a review you didn’t think your work deserved.
All that’s going to do is implode any reputation you might have.
Don’t be the writer we’ve all read about and snickered at. The one who picked a fight with a reviewer over a nasty review.
Just borrow a page from John, Paul, George and Ringo, and “Let it be”.
And that’s a wrap! Thank you for all of your wonderful and incredibly useful advice Jeff, we look forward to checking out all of your books 🙂
Born in New York State, Jeff Lee was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and has spent his entire writing career in Los Angeles.
For more than thirty years he has been a copywriter and creative director for some of the advertising industry’s most recognizable agencies, winning numerous awards for his creativity. None of those ad agencies are still in business, but Jeff appears to have a solid alibi.
Trained as a cook in the Army, he still enjoys being creative in the kitchen and admits that few things in life compare with the thrill of discovering you have just given a nasty case of food poisoning to 140 heavily armed men.
Jeff lives about halfway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, in a house he shares with his two sons and a cat that’s part golden retriever.
You can connect with him on the following Social Media channels:-
Facebook:- Jeff Lee – Author (FB)
Twitter:- @jfredlee (Twitter)
Website:- The Website of Jeff Lee, Writer
You can buy Jeff’s books here:-
If you too would like to be interviewed on my blog at TooFullToWrite and you have a book or a series of books that you would like us to chat about then fill out the Contact Me form here with your details and we can arrange a future interview slot.