Many of us are driven to write through experiences born from pain, generating a need to uniquely express our own inner turmoil. Light-hearted inspiration is certainly an enviable reason to tap into one’s creative juices, but those feelings don’t stimulate the kinds of thoughts that lodge within me and grow in complexity. I can pinpoint a tragic, life-changing event occurring in my mid-teens that transformed me into a writer, and it seems that the weightier side of life continues to be my motivation.
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You Say Goodbyeby Keith SteinbaumPublish: Feb 23, 2019Crime Fiction Suspense Mysteries
The Poe Consequenceby Keith SteinbaumCrime Fiction Thrillers Supernatural Suspense
Admittedly, my story as a child growing up isn’t one that would bring any kind of compassion when contrasted to challenging childhood situations we’ve read about from other people. I had no dysfunctional family interactions or financial struggles to provide food and clothes for my two sisters and brother. My father worked his butt off to provide for us, and as his son, I was the beneficiary of his long hours and high intelligence as a businessman. From a Russian immigrant grandfather who came through Ellis Island with twelve dollars in his pocket and no knowledge of English, my father eventually started working for him after graduating college. By the time I was two-years-old, my family was able to move into a very nice home in a neighborhood that was safe and a school district that afforded me a good education. As for when I was bitten by the writing bug, I’ll answer and expound on that in question #2.What inspired you to start writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
When you ask about what inspired me to start writing, perhaps you’re referring to novel writing, but as a creative writer it didn’t start with that thought at all. Something happened in my sophomore year in high school that was of such a tragic nature I needed an emotional release strong enough to help me. That’s when I started writing poetry – my first foray into creative writing of any kind. After several years of poetry, while in college my creative writing transformed into writing song lyrics. I’d take songs by artists I liked and write my own words to their melodies. After graduating, I tried hard to be a successful song lyricist, and although I had songs cut, mostly overseas, I realized about ten years later that it just wasn’t going to happen for me as a career. Fast forward to about twenty-years later after working in the landscape industry from the time I stopped writing lyrics, I eventually got the desire to write a novel due to an internal unhappiness with my life that I didn’t recognize until I started writing what turned out to be my first novel, The Poe Consequence. That story was inspired by the many Section 8 low- income housing projects I worked at that had their share of neighborhood gang problems and my fictional novel is directly related to that.How do you use your imaginative thinking and creative flair to bring your stories to life in engaging and entertaining ways?
For me, it’s a movie in my mind approach. And as the inventor of every character and environment in which they’re placed, I use my mind’s eye to visually let the scenes play out. The same methodology also applies for dialogue. I’ve found that this is a good way to keep things realistic based on how I believed things would be portrayed in those situations. This also leaves the door wide open for possible changes in those scenes because as writers of fiction it would be counterproductive to limit yourself to an initial idea when real life offers more than one possibility for a particular setting. It’s analogous to what directors of movies do, making changes in action or dialogue once the first ‘take’ is viewed and a realization that it could be better ensues.What makes a book ‘Publish worthy’?
By ‘publish worthy’ I’ll go on the assumption that you mean a book that’s offered a contract by a publisher rather than self-published. Book publishers are businesses, and like any business that’s successful, your product needs to be something that is desirable to the public you’re targeting. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean that a published book will be one of high literary standards, but we as readers are individually objective so what’s well written to me might not be to you. I was a professional song lyricist for over ten years and I can compare this idea to the music business. How many times have I heard a song that I thought was at best, fair, and at worst, pure garbage? Yet there it is playing on the radio, meaning that the artist got a deal. But, of course, there are books, like there are songs, which are real turn-ons and make me aspire to produce such great work. So while ‘publish worthy’ is an open-ended concept, my ideal for what that means as it pertains to books is something that is well written, engaging, and a page-turner that stays in your mind not only while you’re reading it, but after you finish it as well.How do you think your books have helped young readers spark their imagination?
Both of my novels are adult fiction and therefore not intended for young readers. But that said, it’s probable that the most important authors of all are those that do ‘spark the imagination’ of young readers by gearing their stories to that age group. In this time we live in with smart phones, video games, and all the other audio and visual distractions dominating the attention of young people, those highly valuable imaginations are being held back in my opinion. As a young child, from books such as The Phantom Tollbooth to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to my later teen years reading classics such as Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation Trilogy and Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, certain literary experiences affected me in a positive way and this I hope will happen for many young people.Have you ever been a part of any book clubs? How do you facilitate a book club discussion?
I’ve never been in a book club but have had the pleasure of speaking to three of them about my first book, The Poe Consequence. As the author, what better audience could there be than to have discussions about my book with passionate readers who read my story and came with questions and follow-up comments not only about the book itself but the real life social aspects of ideas that were presented through my fictional characters and events. I live in Los Angeles, so I’ve tried to contact book clubs in the city through the MeetUp App but due to understandable security reasons, I was eventually shut down and shut out from getting through to anybody even though my intentions were obviously innocent. Of course I had potential sales in mind, but I was simply attempting to see if there’d be any interest in a club reading my book and meeting with the author for a Q & A. On the chance that anyone reading this lives in L.A. and is part of a book club, I can be contacted at email@example.com. How’s that for a shameless plug?How do you deal with the emotional impact of a book on yourself as you are writing the story?
Although I’ve only written two novels, I’m absolute in my conviction that emotions have been and always will be the gasoline that powers my engine for storyline ideas and inspiration. But for me, those emotions must be centered on the characters. I’ve constructed my two stories around people who I want to be memorable both good and bad, so if I’ve succeeded that will mean that the situations in which they’re placed will be alluring for the reader because they’ll either be cheering them on or rooting against them. Now we come to the heart of your question – the emotional impact that this has on me as the creator of all of this. As I mentioned in an earlier question, I write to the movie in my mind, and as we can be affected by movies we watch, whether we tear up or get angry, so, too, can this happen for the author. For people reading this, thinking that I’m somehow exaggerating the effect that a character of my own creation can affect me emotionally like this, it may not happen at the moment the words are written, but after you remove yourself from the pages and re-read it later, it can seem as if another person wrote that scene and the objectivity of an emotional response occurs more readily.What sparked the idea for You Say Goodbye? How did you come up with the book title?
This is an easy one to answer, as it’s a true anecdote that comes from the heart. There’s a young girl with cancer in my story whose name is Kayleigh Michaels. Kayleigh was patterned after a story I came across in the obituary section of the Los Angeles Times about Alexandra Scott from the Alex’s Lemonade Foundation – a charity to raise money for childhood cancer awareness and treatment. She started selling lemonade at the age of four after being diagnosed with cancer, and by the time she died at the age of eight, Alex’s Lemonade stands were in all 50 states, in much of Canada, and parts of Europe. The story both fascinated and moved me to a point where I cut out her photo and taped it to my office wall. After a number of months, I started developing a character to play off of someone like her, so young and fighting for her life. And that’s how my protagonist, Sean Hightower, was born – a selfish, grumpy fifty-year-old ex-rock star who feels his best days are behind him and that life is a bitch (something he utters often). Eventually, after a couple of short story versions focusing on these two characters, I decided to write a murder mystery with these two highly dissimilar people playing prominent roles. Because the story involves a serial killer who leaves Beatles song titles behind as his ‘calling card,’ one of their many popular hits, Hello Goodbye, seemed to be the appropriate choice because of the line, ‘I say hello, and you say goodbye.’ That line, ‘you say goodbye’ was an a-ha moment in deciding what would be an intriguing title related to the story.Who inspired the character of Sean Hightower?
I was a professional song lyricist many years ago, but I only use the word ‘professional’ because I did have songs recorded. However, I made very little money while receiving many rejections so the frustration and disappointment is something I’ll always remember. Sean Hightower isn’t based on my personal failed attempt at a songwriting career, but I did use that memory of my frustration and disappointment in developing a character that was on top of the world for a magical year before crashing down into the land of one-hit wonders. Never able to recover, he wound up a resentful and regretful man.How difficult it is to write a book full of twists, turns, and unexpected suspense?
Writing a whodunit mystery was a big challenge that I didn’t know would work until I presented the completed story to an editor before attempting to get it published. It was during a phone conversation I had with her, when she told me that she was focused on a particular character as the one she believed was the killer, only to realize as she got to the last quarter of the book that he was now only one of several possibilities, that I knew I’d succeeded. You’d know how relieved and gratified I was if you saw my fist pump after she said that. I had to have an open mind as to different directions the story could go and I would have been doing myself a disservice by limiting it to a narrow street of only one or two options. Even I wasn’t sure at first who I wanted the killer to be, concentrating instead on developing the personalities of the characters that would and could make any of them suspects. So one of the biggest difficulties in writing this book was to not only make an interesting read that keeps the momentum going, but also working those characters into that storyline while simultaneously keeping them all relevant and dubious.When you're not reading or writing a book, what are some other things that you love to do?
I learned to play tennis as a kid and still play singles twice a week. I like to play songs on the piano and now I’m up to about twelve or thirteen that I’ve learned with hopefully more to go. Travelling with my wife is something that I hope to do for a lot more years. I went to a lot of rock concerts in the past and still attend an occasional one, but now my taste for live shows has moved toward jazz. Listening to a group of expert musicians each working off of each other to bring it all together puts me in a great frame of mind every time. Going to restaurants with family or friends for good food and drinks will always be something that brings me joy as well.What is the one advice you would like to give to young writers in the world?
Please allow me to give two, not one, for any young writers of creative fiction. a) It’s a long and often lonely period of time working on a book, so your commitment to the task will be tested and re-tested. But if you have a passion driven by your heart and thoughts, you’ll make it. b) Writing is an empowering way to keep those inner demons at bay.What does your family think of your books?
They’re very complimentary, encouraging and have seen what it’s done for my self-esteem. It’s certainly nice to receive their kudos for my work, but let’s face it, most family members aren’t going to be objective critics. But I’ve been fortunate to receive a number of acknowledgements for both of my novels from online sites and book bloggers, so perhaps that outside recognition gives them a heartfelt reason to encourage me to continue.Tell us something about the book that you are currently working on. How are the characters in this book different from your other characters?
I’m not currently working on anything new as I still seek something to inspire me. However, The Poe Consequence, originally self-published and written before You Say Goodbye, was signed to a contract with Black Opal Books and will be re-released in March of 2020. The two books are quite different from each other. You Say Goodbye is a Beatles themed whodunit murder mystery featuring a little white girl and a white fifty-year-old man as the two main characters. The Poe Consequence is a modern day supernatural thriller with six main characters, three of whom are white, and three who are Latino. Here’s the premise of the story:
After the death of an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting, the two rival Latino street gangs responsible for his murder soon face an Edgar Allan Poe inspired vow of revenge from beyond the grave.How long have you been associated with AllAuthor? How has your experience been?
AllAuthor is a new addition to my writing career and I’m very pleased with their professionalism. They keep me updated on promotions, continue to provide mock banners for my book, follow through on the daily Twitter announcements from the deal that was offered, (and which has been better than expected), and even gave me this forum to answer questions that aren’t just throw-away formulaic ones but questions that, to me, are asked from thoughtful and experienced literary viewpoints.
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