Jeff was kind enough to submit to a bit of gentle questioning about his reading and writing habits.....
What’s your typical writing schedule?
I don't have a typical schedule. Writing is an ongoing thing for me. If I'm not working a job, chances are I'm either writing or reading something.
When you have an idea and you sit down to construct your story – do you know what the end result is roughly going to look like? Are you a plotter, or do you make it up as you go along?
I'm definitely a plotter. I do an outline so that I know where I'm going and want to end up, but I allow for flexibility so that if a better idea comes along, or if I can expand the scope of a particular character or angle, I can fit that idea into the context of the original outline or change the outline if necessary.
Are there any subjects off limits?
There are subjects that I won't write about because they don't fit the genre or my particular style of storytelling, but as long as the subject can be done well and fits with the story I'm telling, probably not. After all, I write about criminals. To quote Dr. Dre, "You are not now in the presence of nice guys."
I do try not to include too many pop-culture or other references that will date the story. I want people to read this in ten years and understand everything that's going on, not to take themselves out of the story and ask, "Who the f&^k is Meek Mill?"
I’ve enjoyed Burn One Down recently, how long from conception to completion did it take?
A little over a year. I can usually bang out a first draft in two months. The rest of the time is spent questioning, second-guessing, cursing, re-writing and editing everything I wrote up to that point, then returning back to the original idea that I had in the first place. Yes, it's annoying.
Was it a smooth process or were there many bumps in the road along the way?
I understand my writing process, so even with all the creative back and forth, I'm aware that's how I do things. I love the process. I love trying to figure it all out, wondering how I'm going to get from A to B, and how I'm going to write engaging characters and tell a story that's funny and compelling. It's my jam.
Without any spoilers, the conclusion left plenty of scope for further adventures with Jack Apple, where are you with a follow up?
Yes, there are further adventures of Jack and Diane in what I'm calling the "Bad Apples" series. I have four more books plotted out and am currently writing the follow-up to "Burn One Down", which will be ready to go sometime in 2019.
Burn One Down was your second novel after How to Steal a Truck Full of Nickels was it an easier book to write than your debut?
I knew that I could get the book written despite whatever struggles I might be having, and that knowledge helped push me forward on "Burn". Progress might go slow, but as long as I was moving the ball downfield, that was enough to keep me going.
There seems to be a common theme running through your work – criminality, thievery, hustling – are these works semi-autobiographical in any way? What makes you want to write about criminals as opposed to cops?
Criminals are interesting. I know why people want to fight crime. But what makes someone put their lives, their personal freedom, and their well-being at stake by breaking the law? Is it money? Arrogance? Greed? Revenge? Sex? Stupidity? That's interesting to me. Not on a personal level, of course. I don't know any criminals (I mean, as far as I know), nor do I want people like this in my everyday life, but I'm fascinated as to why they do it.
You can't have great heroes without great bad guys (or girls). Imagine "The Dark Knight" battling Victor Buono's version of "King Tut"? Not so good.
Do you favour one of your books over than the other? Which would you press into the hands of a new reader?
They're like your kids, aren't they? The first one never calls and the second one always wants money. I don't favor one over the other. They're both funny, well-crafted stories according to the reviews I've received (including you, thank you very much), and that makes me happy. That was the idea. They have good hooks, so I'd press whichever one they responded to since I keep copies of both in the boot of my car. At least these kids won't get anyone pregnant.
What’s been the most satisfying moment of your writing career so far?
Every day that I don't have to do something else.
Any unpublished gems in your bottom drawer?
Of course. But why would I unleash that Pulitzer-Prize winning, worldwide bestseller that would make me a beloved literary icon who would be known throughout the ages and whose movies get made into three-hour, special effects-laden extravaganzas starring Tom Cruise or (my luck) Jimmy Carr? Obscurity and financial insolvency are so much more attractive, am I right?
Any advice for prospective authors out there?
All writing competitions are shit. Don't take advice from anyone as successful, or less successful, than you are.
What’s the best thing about writing?
You know the feeling you get when you walk away from a situation and that's when you think of the perfect thing that you should have said when you were in the middle of that situation? That's my job. On the page, I'm that guy: smooth, charismatic, daring, dangerous, sophisticated. Real life? Eh, not so much.
Trying to get your work noticed. It's not like there's a shortage of middle-aged white guys writing books these days. Maybe I'll publish my next book using the name Mongo Santamaria. I mean, he's not using it anymore.
What are the last five books you’ve read?
The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis
Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
Who do you read and enjoy?
I enjoy great storytelling, regardless of genre. Off the top of my head...
Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, Richard Matheson, Patricia Highsmith, Carl Hiaasen, Raymond Carver, Kazuo Ishiguro, Paul Beatty, P.D. James, Jeffrey Eugenides, Dorothy Parker, Stephen King, John Irving, Marlon James, Flannery O'Connor. There are many others I'm forgetting.
Is there any one book you wish you had written?
Not a book, per se, but there is a single paragraph near the end of Jeffrey Eugenides "Middlesex" where our narrator Cal describes using men's restrooms for the first time in his unpredictable and very confused life. It is one of the funniest, most real descriptions in any book I've ever read. I recall the passage every time I'm in a public restroom and it makes me giggle, which has led to many awkward stares. That's the kind of book I strive to write.
Favourite activity when not working or writing?
Hanging out and exploring Los Angeles with my family. The city isn't as vapid and culture-deprived as it's made out to be.
What’s the last film you watched that rocked you?
Avengers: Infinity War. From a storytelling standpoint, what Marvel has done over the past ten years (and in over twenty films and counting) that culminates with this two-part finale is staggering. With the goldfish-like attention spans of today's audiences, that Marvel has successfully threaded this compelling narrative through all of these different characters, subplots and worlds is nothing short of miraculous. They'll be writing books about this era for years.
TV addict or not? What’s the must watch show in the Cooper household?
Unquestionably. I love TV, and as far as I'm concerned, this is a golden age. There has never been a greater selection of terrific shows and great writing. It used to be that the big talent went to features, but now everyone's on television because it's the most interesting work.
As far as favorite shows, it depends on who you ask. My New Zealand born wife watches British TV, which we get on an app called AcornTV. My daughter is a freak about Anime. I like watching crime shows since it gives me wonderful ideas for people that I'd prefer not to meet in real life.
In a couple of years’ time.....
I'll be three books into the "Bad Apples" series. The feature script that I keep optioning will finally get made. The TV show will sell. I will still have hair on my head and not on my back, and I haven't gotten too terribly fat or uninteresting.
Many thanks to Jeff for his time. You can catch up with him at his following haunts....
Billy Bonus time - a giveaway (digital).
Jeff has kindly made available several copies of both of his novels to interested readers.
Feeling lucky? Leave a comment below or email me - col2910 (at) gmail.com for a chance to enjoy
Here's a bit about both......
Burn One Down
A career thief named Jack Apple is offered a low-risk, six-figure payout to heist a medical marijuana dispensary from the feisty and impetuous Diane Thomas after Diane steals the robbery plans from her shady ex-husband Alvin, hoping to beat him to the score.
Diane promises to stay out of Jack’s way but can’t help interfering, forcing them to take hostages inside the dispensary when the robbery is interrupted by law enforcement, inciting a media circus that deteriorates into a full-on urban riot.
Everyone sees a chance to benefit from the crime. Street vendors and local businesses. The Sheriff running a tight re-election campaign and hoping to boost his chances with the voters. A political activist looking to raise his public profile and private agenda. The news media that speculates and manipulates the story. Hostages who see a chance to settle old scores and create new opportunities for themselves.
To escape, Jack and Diane must negotiate the hostages, their agendas, law enforcement, the news media, shady deals, corrupt politicians, rioters, opportunists, Diane’s shady ex-husband Alvin, the business partners they didn’t know were involved, and their growing attraction to each other.
How to Steal a Truck Full of Nickels
"How to Steal a Truck Full of Nickels" is a fast-paced, contemporary crime fiction caper.
A small-time hustler and con-man named Reuben Nash heists a U.S. Mint shipment driven by his older brother Rico to resolve a long-standing debt to a loan shark with big-time muscle named Jimmy Friday.
Unfortunately for them, once Reuben and Rico pull off the caper they realize they’ve stolen less money than they need to pay out to satisfy the debt to Jimmy. They need to figure out how to discretely cash in seven million nickels and get safely out of the country before they're arrested or killed.
Everyone wants a piece of them. They're being chased by cops, criminals, and a jilted ex-girlfriend who has her own plans for the truck full of nickels.
Can these two brothers pull off this fast-paced caper without being arrested or killed? Can they do it without killing each other?
Here’s what they’re saying:
“If you enjoy Carl Hiaasen, or Elmore Leonard, you’ll find this a quick and very funny read…”
“The writing is so well-paced and crisp…”