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A Conversation With Jeffrey Leever Author of Dark Friday

                                             

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor and Publisher of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Jeffrey Leever author of Dark Friday.

Good day, Jeffrey and thanks for participating in our interview.

Jeffrey:

Thanks to Bookpleasures for taking the time.

Norm:

When did your passion for writing begin? What keeps you going?

Jeffrey:

I have no choice but to keep going—I feel like I’m just getting started in many ways. I work a day job for a pretty good advertising agency, and I have the chance to write a lot of shorter pieces there. I’d like to think those projects help me stay sharp to some degree. I do probably benefit from the variety.

My writing passion all began in my late teens. I had this assignment for a writing class, and I wrote it without reading the teacher’s directions. Later, my teacher told me I’d included everything the assignment called for, whereas most of my classmates hadn’t. I’d just written the piece the way I thought it should sound. That’s when I first realized, “Hey, there might be something here.” I wrote more and more things, and continued to enjoy it each time out. I’m just a fiction fan at heart who loves suspenseful stories.

Norm:

In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?

Jeffrey:

I think if you’re going to tell someone that a STOP sign is pink, for instance—something where the overwhelming majority of readers are going to know you’re blatantly changing known facts—you might be in some trouble. I try to stick to the basic facts as much as possible. Obviously, character names, places, and actions are made up, but with other stuff I stick closely to the truth. Everyone has their own biases and knowledge bases so “too much” will often be in the eye of the beholder. Interestingly, I’ve found that some readers will think you’re taking liberties with material even when you aren’t!

Norm:

Do you feel that writers, regardless of genre owe something to readers, if not, why not, if so, why and what would that be?

Jeffrey:

Oh, heck yeah. We’re supposed to deliver worthwhile entertainment. If someone is going to buy a book in today’s DVD/iPod-saturated culture, they deserve a worthy ride. If you can make some sort of statement within the context of entertaining, so be it. But above all, readers should want to finish and not feel like they’d have been better off with a trip to the video store. At least that’s the standard I try to hold myself to when I put my name on something that costs people money to buy and read.

Norm:

Do you agree that to have good drama there must be an emotional charge that usually comes from the individual squaring off against antagonists either out in the world or within himself or herself? If so, please elaborate and how does it fit into Dark Friday?

Jeffrey:

My feeling would be that good drama doesn’t have to necessarily come from that, yet it is important to my particular storyline. In Dark Friday, you have one main character, Casey Wood, squaring off against the book’s biggest antagonist while also having to “square off” with himself. There is a deep, soul-searching element to it. A couple of other key characters team up to square off with another co-antagonist. I don’t know any mystery/suspense novelist who doesn’t love having a good showdown scene. I pretty much have two toward the conclusion of my novel. One scene is more confrontational, the other a little more low-key and introspective.

Norm:

What kind of research did you do to write Dark Friday? How did you come up with ideas for Dark Friday? What methods do you use to flesh out your idea to determine if it’s salable?

Jeffrey:

I spent a good amount of time visiting the place in Indiana where my novel is set, both interviewing and visiting various scene locations, plus researching things online and at the library. I took photos, shot some camcorder footage, and used a digital recorder for notes. There are a lot of references to horror films in my book. For better or for worse, I watched many of them. I have a lot of teen characters in this particular book, and, unfortunately, I’m just old enough to be out of the loop. (Okay, maybe I’ve been out of the loop for awhile.) I spent time people-watching at malls and also eavesdropping on conversations, just to get a feel for some of the banter and dialog. Thankfully, these people didn’t know they were being listened to. I also read a lot of investigative crime articles.

I came up with the main plot idea for Dark Friday on an airplane, actually. Then, more ideas came to me when I visited Jasonville, Indiana, and talked to the people. I discovered that the geography of the area could offer my tale some good, creepy atmospherics. For me, characters start to come alive after awhile and take the story in new directions, which is a cool process I enjoy.

As far as methods to determine salability, I went to a good number of writer’s conferences and also ran the book through the gauntlet of a pretty solid critique group with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Originally, there was a literary agent involved with this book as well.

Norm: 

You include some very detailed dialogue in Dark Friday. Where did that dialogue come from?

Jeffrey:

The kinds of things I think about when I should be falling asleep at night. Some people think about warm beaches or hot members of the opposite sex. I think about character dialog and various other story elements.

With some of my younger characters, I actually gained a lot of “the meter and rhyme” of the dialog from having my ankle in a cast for what felt like forever after a sports injury. Somehow, walking around with a brace led to various teens wanting to strike up a conversation. Often I’ll read dialog into a recorder and play it back to see if it rings true. A lot of the scenes in Dark Friday depend heavily on dialog. The right, tense lines up the suspense ante, so I’m always looking for them.

Norm:

What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing Dark Friday? How did you overcome these challenges?

Jeffrey:

I was in a pretty serious car accident where I did a face-plant into my car’s airbag when I was in the final month of my original manuscript deadline. Then, the first of the three publishers who ultimately offered me a contract on the book got a new editor and bailed on me at the eleventh hour. Plus, I parted ways with my agent of record for the first contract. Other than that, it was a totally smooth process.

All along, though, I knew I had something worthwhile. And key people kept telling me as much, so that was reassuring and helped me overcome all the slings and arrows. I know I’m still young (34) and there are worse things in the world than a book not coming out when you want. It’s easy to lose perspective. Some writers are so dang serious. I care about my craft and the net result, but at the end of the day, I try to remember that I live in America and have freedom and opportunity—I lead a pretty charmed existence compared to a lot of people in the world. Having a cold Coca-Cola and a Mac laptop around helps a lot, too.

Capital Crime Press, my publisher for Dark Friday, is an exceptional independent press and their books are on a roll. So I was grateful to land there. 

Norm:

Can you tell us how you found representation for your book? Did you pitch it to an agent, or query publishers who would most likely publish this type of book? Any rejections?

Jeffrey:

I’d already had an agent who was shopping other projects of mine. Then I met an editor, one who was really into the suspense/mystery/thriller side of things, at a writer’s conference and he ultimately bought the book. Like most newer writers, I got what feels like hordes of rejections. I did find that most places I sent the partial manuscript to ended up requesting the whole thing. And I’d never really experienced that before.

Norm:

What's your advice to achieve success as a writer?

Jeffrey:

Be willing to “bleed” and suffer for the sake of your writing. Some all-nighters might be necessary and many revisions. Read On Writing and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Try to get in a good critique group with other writers who care about you but are not impressed by you.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered and what is next for Jeffrey Leever?

Jeffrey:

Norm, I really enjoy places like Bookpleasures that still care about the printed word and put good content out there on the web for the book-loving world. My immediate future plans are to promote the heck out of Dark Friday with signings and conventions, launch a new website at www.jeffreyleever.com, and finish up my next suspense/mystery novel. I’ll be at Bouchercon in Alaska in September and a number of other mystery conventions in the months that follow. I’m looking forward to meeting some of your readers.

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.

The above interview was conducted by:  NORM GOLDMAN:  Retired Title Attorney: Editor & Publisher of Bookpleasures.      

To read Norm's Review of Dark Friday CLICK HERE  

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