Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to a funny, funny author. Jeff Lee is the author of The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, Hair of the Dog, Chump Change and Bird Boy. Each of these books debuted to rave reviews, garnering all 4 and 5-star reviews. He has a knack for writing hilarious stories and all from the female viewpoint. The best part is that he’s accurate in his portrayal of the female point of view. I swear, he must’ve been a woman in a past life. Anyway, he agree to sit down with me for an interview. If you like comedy/humor, you’re in for a treat. Take it away, Jeff!
What book do you wish you could have written?
That’s a tough one, because there are so damn many of them. But ones that instantly come to mind are: Get Shorty; Fried Green Tomatoes at the Spitfire Grill; Shogun; anything by William Goldman (the man is a god); Even Cowgirls Get The Blues; Baja Oklahoma; Catch 22; The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight; The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe; anything by James Michener; The Hunt for Red October; anything by Carl Hiaasen. Yeah, it’s a pretty eclectic mix. But I’m an eclectic kind of guy. I do confess to a love of humor and satire.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Interesting question, since I usually cast my books before I sit down to write them. It helps me get a better handle on each character if I can picture someone actually playing them. That said, The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour would have an interesting cast, including: Vonda – could be Goldie Hawn, Susan Sarandon or Meryl Streep. Kay – could be a made down Michelle Pfeiffer. Francine would HAVE to be either Kathy Bates or Conchatta Ferrell. Bruce Willis would make a Hell of a “Fish” (so would John Goodman). And Bob, the former green beret turned large animal vet? Sam Elliott, hands down.
Have you always liked to write?
Pretty much. I’ve been writing, either as an amateur or professional for more than 50 years. First, as a student substituting my own short stories for actual class assignments. Then, spending more than 35 years as an advertising copywriter and creative director.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Write. The more you practice your craft, the better you’ll get at it. And get involved with a writers’ group or beta readers you trust for honest feedback. But the most important advice I can give is this: some times, you’ll have to kill some of your little darlings. Word are just that; they’re not little bonbons that fall from the heavens. If a word doesn’t serve to advance your plot or character arc, get rid of it. There will be others. Trust me.
If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living?
I’m retired now, so the question’s a little moot. But if I wasn’t writing books, I’d probably still be writing ads & commercials. The money is great, and you can’t beat the turn-around on an ad for instant gratification.
Are you a plotter or a pantster?
I’m a modified panster. I don’t usually plot out more than the initial concept of the book. But I do spend a huge amount of time getting to know my characters. When I did The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, by the time I fired up my word processor, I knew Vonda, Kay and Francine so well they actually wrote the book for me.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Look, any writer who tells you they never read their reviews is either lying or too pretentious for words. We ALL do it. The trick is NOT to respond, to ANY of them – good or bad. If you get a bad review, fight hard to resist the temptation to open that pie hole or fire off a broadside from behind your keyboard. Yeah, you might defend your position, but it will cost you the whole damn war.
What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
In a word, rejection. I’ve been writing novels – damn good and funny ones – for about 15 years. And so far, I’ve amassed a collection of at least 400 rejection letters. From literary agents who loved my work but had no idea how to sell it; to others who worried that, since no one had ever written with a writer’s voice like mine, there would be no other writers to compare me to. And, in a lot of cases, it was just resounding silence coming back to me from the mailbox. That’s why I got into self-publishing. And the difference is like night & day.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
I’ve actually written four novels : The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, plus two sequels, Hair of the Dog and Chump Change. The last two sequels are based on a trio of secondary characters I fell in love with – three wise cracking, heavily tatted, Harley riding bounty hunters and repo men. The fourth, titled Bird Boy, is a cautionary tale about extreme teenage bullying and where it could lead.
What is your next project?
Taking Hair of the Dog and Bird Boy and re-publishing them myself, since the small indie publisher that released them went out of business. After that, I’m seriously considering writing a screenplay based on Farewell Tour.
Do you write naked?
All right, which one of you big-mouths spilled the legumes? Truth is, sometimes. But almost never on days when I decide to write at Starbucks. And…not the full monty, either. I’ve usually got on a watch, reading glasses and my lucky sock.
What is the biggest fib you’ve ever told?
When I was in Basic Training in the Army, I invented two Jewish holidays. I actually got a day off from training for the day Moses parted the Red Sea, and one for Abraham’s birthday.
Have you ever been in trouble with the law?
Once, during a National Guard two-week summer camp back in the 70’s. I won’t go into much detail, other than to say the infraction involved guard duty and a host of violations that included drinking on guard duty, ingesting banned recreational substances while on guard duty, drunk driving, being out of uniform, performing one’s duties in an un-military manner, destruction of government property and attempting to murder a second lieutenant with a five-ton truck. Had we been under a declared state of war, I they could have gone all “Execution of Private Eddie Slovack” on my ass. As it turned out, I got a terrifically funny short story out of it.
Characters often find themselves in situations they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
Getting arrested for a capital crime while at National Guard summer camp definitely qualifies. Fortunately, I had some friends in the headquarters company, who saw to it that all the paperwork from my arrest got “misplaced”.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
“See other side”. And I want the same inscription chiseled on the reverse. I figure it ought to keep some of my relatives busy for hours.
What literary character is most like you?
“Fish” Fishbein, the heavily tattooed, Harley-riding, wise-cracking repo man, bounty hunter and sometime attorney from my Adventures in La-La Land series.
What secret talents do you have?
I’m a damn good cook, and I can say “supercallifragilisticexpialidocious” backwards.
Do you have any scars? What are they from?
Just one, really. The one EVERY Jewish male has to schlep around, where, one night and without his approval, a rabbi barges into the house and forcibly removes the little turtleneck dickie he’s wearing around his hangey-down part.
Title — The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour
Author – Jeff Lee
Genre — Women’s Fiction; Chick Lit; Crime; Murder; Humor; Comedy; Satire
Book Blurb —
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.
Exclusive Excerpt –
“Walking back out into the afternoon heat, she looked over to the pump island and noticed the motor coach was no longer sitting where she left it.
Now it was parked all by itself—which wasn’t that hard to do, considering it was about the only vehicle in all of Quartzsite at the moment.
It was all the way down at the far end of the truck stop, sitting beneath a large faded sign reading, “DUMP STATION.” One of the lower baggage compartment doors was open, and Vonda was struggling to show a large and extremely stubborn section of plastic hose just who was calling the shots here.
“Goddammit, get in there!”
The hose was about three or four inches in diameter, bright blue in color and covered from end to end with hundreds of ribs molded around its circumference, like an azure version of the business end of some incredibly foul smelling vacuum cleaner. One end was connected to a large plumbing fitting mounted inside the baggage compartment, while the other end steadfastly resisted all of Vonda’s efforts to cram it into an opening in what looked like a manhole cover.
“Stinkin’ piece of—GET IN THERE!”
“Good Lord, what a stench, Vonda.”
“You know, you could give me a hand here…”
Just then, the hose saw the error of its ways and decided to cooperate, sliding smoothly into the hole in the manhole cover.
“Why? Looks like you’ve got the whole thing under control, babe.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re getting so much enjoyment from this, Francine.”
Vonda stomped back to the coach, grabbed a small lever on the plumbing valve connected to the length of blue tubing and shoved it in the direction labeled “DISCHARGE”. The hose immediately started to twitch and dance and the air was filled with sucking and gurgling sounds, not to mention an even more vile odor, as the contents of the toilet’s holding tank began to drain into the manhole cover.
“Because next time, it’s your turn.”
“Whatever you say.” Francine answered as she disappeared around the front of the motor home, headed for the door. Unable to resist the impulse, she loudly called out, “Shit, but that stinks, girl!”
“Very funny, Francine…”
This was probably not the best time to be having a few yocks at Vonda’s expense. Now that she’d managed to get the toilet tank drained, the hose rediscovered its independent spirit, becoming jammed in the plumbing fitting underneath the motor coach. And Vonda wasn’t in any mood to let an inanimate hunk of polyvinylchloride try much more of her patience, so she gave the valve a good swift kick.
Followed by another.
The retaining ring holding the blue hose in place finally spun, freeing the tubing, but in the process a small plastic tab broke off from its end, which landed unnoticed on the basement floor of the coach.
Bounding up the steps from the front door, Francine almost collided with Kay, who was using a piece of double-sided adhesive tape to attach a small ceramic figure to the dashboard.
Apparently, fruit, nuts and natural sources of dietary fiber weren’t the only things she purchased at Hadley’s Nut House, back in Cabazon.
She also picked up a small planter, a little ceramic hombre in a sombrero, who was fated to spend eternity looking down and contemplating whatever ended up getting planted in the large pocket molded into the front of his pants. In this case, it was a five-inch long, needle-studded shaft of cactus.
Which made Kay’s souvenir planter look like a very happy little figurine, indeed.
“Kay, honey, what the hell is that?”
“I’m sor—“ Kay suddenly remembered how both she and Francine had grown tired of her constantly apologizing for every little thing in life. “It’s a freakin’ planter, Francine. Excuse me for trying to brighten the place up a little.”
“Well, I think it’s kinda cute, y’know?”
“Really?” Kay instantly bounced back from her mildly irritated mood. “You really like it?”
“Yeah,” Francine nodded. “Hey, take away all those needles and sharp things stickin’ out … and your little guy here could be in for one hell of a social life.”
Kay looked blankly from Francine to the little planter a couple of times, not getting it.
Her friend’s meaning finally sunk in.
“What is it with you, Francine? Why does everything have to be about sex?”
“Oh, lighten up.” Francine gave her a quick hug. “I was just givin’ you a little shit. Besides, I really do like your little guy.”
“I’ll tell you one thing, though.” She moved in for a closer look at the length of cactus sprouting from the figurine’s trousers. “Your little amigo here? Well, it’s a pretty safe bet he ain’t Jewish.”
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Author Biography –
Born near New York City and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jeff Lee has spent his entire writing career in Los Angeles. For more than 35 years, he has been a copywriter, producer and creative director for some of the advertising industry’s most recognizable agencies, winning numerous awards for his creativity and wise-ass sense of humor. Typical for his industry, none of those ad agencies are still in business, but Jeff appears to have pretty solid alibis for the deaths of each one.
Jeff now spends his time on his own writing, having produced four novels – The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour, Hair of the Dog, Chump Change and Bird Boy. Each of these books debuted to rave reviews, garnering all 4 and 5-star reviews.
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’ve just given a nasty case of food poisoning to 140 heavily-armed troops.
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