Interview with Pfoxmoor Publishing author Jeff Lee
Honestly, this must be the first time I’m hosting a truly funny writer. I know very little about Jeff as a person, so he could well be the world’s sourest, meanest human being -which I’m sure he ISN’T - but his writing is so funny that even when you’re in a dire situation as I currently am due to a severe illness in my family, Jeff’s writing is sure to lift your spirits! I’ve just spent a couple of fine hours sitting in the sunshine with my Kindle and Jeff’s hilarious stories developing before my eyes. Before I say anything else about his writing, I want to say that this is so, so, so Beverly Hills, at least IMHO. Jeff knows that world inside out and his characters display all the over-the-top eccentricity and West Coast mentality that he paints in metaculous detail. We simply have to love the characters in both his books The Lady Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour and Hair of the Dog . We instantly see Vonda, Francine, Kay, Fish come alive before our eyes. Even Jeff’s visual style of writing is a reminder of his closeness to the largest film industry in the world.
But next to excellent characterisation, Jeff is a master in story-telling. His stories develop at the right pace, not too fast, not too slow before gradually picking up steam. As a reader you immediately feel that here a pro is at work and you can relax into the story knowing you’re in for a pleasant, funny, even instructive ride. Instructive I mean for all ignoramuses like me outside the Los Angeles zone.
Jeff has an eye for original detail and a swift and very humorous pen. Seemingly effortlessly, he taps into the huge source of inspiration made available by his illustrious predecessors; those who laid down the foundations of good storytelling. With all this in his back pocket, it’s clear we’ve got a sure winner here. And well-deserved! Chapeau, Jeff!
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
I live in a small, outlying suburb of Los Angeles called Simi Valley, about halfway between L.A. and Santa Barbara. Which isn’t entirely correct, since, by the time this gets posted, I will have relocated to the Las Vegas area. What can I say? Must be all that glitter, glitz and the fact that Vegas is the only place on Earth where it’s still legal to wear a leisure suit.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
I pretty much like all types of food. OK, except maybe for vegan and Glatt Kosher (so Kosher you shouldn’t want to know from it). I’m a self-confessed damn good cook – must be a holdover from my Army training; culinary was how they trained me to be a dangerous individual. But it’s not that food is the end-all and be-all for me. I really enjoy playing in the kitchen, though. For me, it’s another form of creativity.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
I love to watch baseball during post-season play. That’s about it for sports. Exercise, for me, usually means walking to the gym and working out for a couple of hours. Problem is, I got sidetracked a year ago and haven’t been there since. I do plan to resume soon, since I’ve gotten a bit more aerodynamic than I used to be.
Do you have kids/grandkids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
I’ve got two sons, both in their 20′s. One is living in St. Louis and the other lives with me.
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
What I enjoy about travelling is seeing interesting new places & meeting new people. A couple of them have actually made their way into my books. Don’t worry - the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
Funny, I’m a writer in my other job, as well. Spent the past 30+ years writing humorous ads and commercials and it’s been a great discipline for the kind of writing I do now.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
OK, a few of my relatives are still wondering when I’m going to grow up and get a real job. But everyone else is incredibly supportive. Some have even bought my books; a few have liked them and one former employer tried to hire me back.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
Very much so. I think people are the greatest show on Earth (probably a result of having spent my entire high school as an observer).
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
I have a laptop, so I write just about anywhere – on my bed; in the car; at Starbucks; at the library. You get the idea. The only place I can think of where I haven’t written might be in the shower. OK, also maybe in jail. All right, I’ll also confess to having never written in New Jersey. But that’s it.
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
Maybe a good, strong cup of coffee.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
I tend to write crime, commercial fiction, women’s fiction, etc. But I also possess a terribly active and dominant comedy gene, so even though I have one women’s fiction/crime story about a woman who kills her emotionally abusive boyfriend and then flees in a huge recreational vehicle, the whole thing reads like Thelma and Louise, on the road with Lucy & Ethel. First and foremost, I love to make people laugh. At just about anything.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel? Have you published more than one book?
My first book, The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, was published this time last year. That puppy was self-published, but since then, I’ve been signed by Pfoxmoor Publishing (a great group of folks, by the way). We’re getting ready to publish the sequel, Hair of the Dog, which has become available on Amazon and all the usual places on March 15.
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
While writing The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, I fell so in love with three of the secondary characters – a trio of heavily tattooed, graduate degree-sporting bikers – that I knew I had to give them a book (and hopefully, a series) of their own. Fold in the silliness of Beverly Hills and the movie biz and the whole thing just took on a life of its own.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
I try to be disciplined about my writing, but to support myself, I also work as a freelance ad writer. So, there are times when I’m so buried in keeping my clients happy that I don’t have time to work on my own projects. Hopefully, that’s going to change. Sooner rather than later.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
William Goldman, hands down. For me, the man is an icon of 20th century fiction. Among other books, he’s responsible for Marathon Man, No Way to Treat a Lady, Magic, Harper, The Princess Bride, Boys and Girls Together, Soldier in the Rain and a raft of other books my flagging memory is misfiring trying to recall. Name the genre and he’s pretty much a master of it. You like noir, check out Harper. Your taste runs to historicals with a wide vein of wit and humor, try to get through Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid without blasting out a good guffaw from time to time. Into suspense and thrillers? I’ve got 2 words for you: Marathon and Man. And you say your fave genre is belly laugh inducing fantasy? Go ahead and try to get through The Princess Bride without having to reach for a fresh Depends. Oh, and did I mention he also wrote the scripts for all these, along with the screenplays for dozens of other movies, including A Bridge Too Far, and rumor has it he also script doctored Goodwill Hunting. The man is a gigantic talent; his characters jump off the page; his dialogue is both witty and it rings true; and his plots are loaded with more twists and turns than an amusement park thrill ride. Compare him to any other 20th century novelist and you can easily see who’s the real deal.
Who is your agent and/or publishing company? What do they mean to you?
Agent? I don’t got to show you no stinking literary agent! (With apologies to The Treasure of Sierra Madre.) After a decade of querying and thrilling to more than 400 rejections, I’m not too convinced of my need for an agent. But I am with a wonderful publisher, Pfoxmoor. They’re small and independent, so they can move faster than and more decisively than any of the usual suspects. I also enjoy the way they really care and expend a ton of worry and thought on behalf of each of their family of writers. In fact, Pfoxmoor has just published my second book with them, Hair of the Dog, a fast-paced and funny Hollywood & Beverly Hills-based mystery. It is now available on Amazon and in all the usual formats, and I like to think William Goldman would get a chuckle or two out of it.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
With a longer list of published books – and a shorter waistline. (Been away from the gym for a year now, and feeling a little too aerodynamic.)
Before I go, I want to say thanks to Hannah for making this interview possible. I’ve had a ton of fun with it. And I hope you all have, too.
Hannah’s answer: Thank you, Jeff! Love having you here and feel truly honoured!
Links to Jeff’s work:
The Lady Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour: http://www.amazon.com/Ladies-Temperance-Clubs-Farewell-ebook/dp/B004TNI8BM/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1332345764&sr=1-3