Sunday, April 8, 2012

Interview with Jeff Shelby

Tell us about you.
I've written three books in the Noah Braddock series (Killer Swell, Wicked Break, Liquid Smoke), one in the Deuce Winters series (Stay At Home Dead, written under the name Jeff Shelby) and my newest book is a standalone, Thread of Hope.  I'm a high school English teacher and basketball coach in the suburbs of Dallas, where I live with my eight year old daughter.  I like sandwiches.

Tell us about your book.
Thread of Hope is about a former cop whose daughter was abducted and never found.  Now, he looks for other people's children.  He's back in his hometown of San Diego, trying to help an old friend whose been accused of assaulting a teenager.  When the teenager goes missing,  Joe Tyler attempts to locate her while wrestling with the memories of his missing daughter and the hope that she might still be alive. 

What inspired you to write this particular story?
I wanted to set another series in San Diego and I was doing a lot of reading about missing children and what happens to their parents in the aftermath.  I wanted to challenge myself and write about something I didn't know much about.

What can readers expect when they open your book? Give us something that isn't on the book blurb.
I think they'll really get a feel for the city of San Diego, the pain that the parent of a missing child must endure and hopefully the compulsion to keep turning the pages.

How old were you when you started writing?
3rd Grade.  I wrote a story about Snoopy winning a tennis match.  My talent was clearly visible in that two paragraph masterpiece.

Do you stick with one genre, or have you branched out to others? Which ones?
One genre - mystery/suspense.  I've branched out to another sub-genre - the cozy - with Stay At Home Dead - which is just a silly, goofy small-town cozy mystery.

Do you think you would ever branch out into another genre? If so which one(s).
Yes.  I'm going to write a romance.  I can't believe I just publicly admitted that.  But I'm going to.  I promise.

Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere.  The news, my students, my friends, the television, the people in Wal-Mart. 

Who is your greatest inspiration?
My daughter, Hannah.  Everything is a heckuva lot more fun with her around.

What are you reading right now?
A lot of Walt Whitman.  (I'm teaching it to my eleventh grade students.)  John Feinstein's One on One.  And I've got about thirty books on my Kindle that I haven't gotten to yet.  But I will.

Who are your favorite authors?
Oh, gosh.  It's a long list - Pat Conroy, Dennis Lehane, Harlan Coben, Victor Gischler, Lori Armstrong, Karen Olson, Alison Gaylin, Neil Smith, Mario Acevedo, Jeanne Stein, James O. Born - I could go on and on.

What is your current project?
I have three current projects - the next Joe Tyler book, which is set in Minnesota; the fourth in the Noah Braddock series; and the second book in the Deuce Winters series.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?
Getting published.  It's hard.  It's not fun.  But the payoff is fantastic.

Have you experienced any setbacks for your writing along the way? If so, will you share with us.
Yes.  I signed a big fat contract with Dutton/NAL for the first two Braddock books.  They came out to rave reviews...and didn't really sell very well.  I was dropped.  It hurt.  Wasn't fun and my ego was definitely damaged.

How did you overcome these setbacks?
I kept writing.  I cried.  I whined to my friends.  I ate a lot.  And I kept writing.  You have to believe in yourself.

Do you believe in writer's block?
No.   When someone tells me they'll pay me to write something, I can't afford to have writer's block.

What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
I've received great advice from a lot of people, but the best for me was when it was suggested that I join a writers group.  I did and I learned how to really write a book.

What is the best advice you have for other writers?
Read.  Learn how to tell a story by reading ones that you like.

What is more important to you, plot or character?
Character.  Plots rarely stick with me after reading or writing a book, but characters always do.

Are you a panster or a plotter?
Pantser.  Takes me a long time to get where I want to go because it's not efficient, but I'm not sure I could do it any other way.

Tell us 5 random things about you the person, not the author
1. : I don't eat vegetables.
2. : I know more about The Brady Bunch than any other living human being.
3. : I went to 7 colleges before finally getting a degree.  Really.
4. : I would love to never wear socks again.
5. : I'm terrified of the dentist.

Where to connect online
Twitter : @jeffshelby

What format does your book(s) come in?
Thread of Hope is only available as an ebook.  Stay At Home Dead is a mass market pb.  The three Braddock books are available in both hardcover and paperback.

Where to buy