After a number of years devoted to poetry, followed by a decade and a few recorded songs as a professional song lyricist, Keith eventually developed a strong desire to write a novel, culminating in the completion of The Poe Consequence, a modern day supernatural thriller/human drama. The first version was self-published and released in 2012. That year it was awarded Supernatural Thriller of the Year by Books-and-Authors.net, an online literary website. In 2015, after switching to another Indie book publisher, Kirkus Reviews selected it as one of its top books of the year in its year end issue, and in 2017, while still with the same publisher, it received a Finalist placing in the international Book Excellence Awards competition.
Last June, 2018, The Poe Consequence was signed by Black Opal Books and will be re-released through them later this year. Although not currently available in book form, the audio book is obtainable through Amazon.com or Audible.com.
His second novel, a Beatles-themed whodunit murder mystery titled, You Say Goodbye, also published by Black Opal Books, was released on February 23rd. For those who plan to read the book, Keith likes to tell them to be prepared to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes to see if you can figure out who committed the crime.
Question: What is the title and genre of your novel? Why did you select them?
Answer: My novel is titled, You Say Goodbye, and I refer to it as a Beatles themed whodunit murder mystery. For those who are familiar with Beatles songs, ‘Hello Goodbye’ plays an important role in the story and my title is a line from the song. As to why I chose to write a murder mystery, I decided that my original short story concept built around the relationship between two highly diverse characters needed a more ‘meat on the bones’ approach that could offer the murder mystery stimulation while also providing a story within a story about the evolution of the relationship between the two main characters.
Question: What inspired this novel? How did it come about?
Answer: As with water not immediately coming to a boil after the flame is lit, the inspiration for my novel took a long time to develop, but I can definitely tell you what started the flame. I like to scan the obituary section of the paper once in a while because there are people who lived fascinating lives and I like to read about them. As fate would have it, on one of those particular days I chose to review that section, the birth of You Say Goodbye was about to occur.
A photo taking up nearly half the page showed a sweet looking little round faced girl sitting at a table under a large hand painted banner reading, ‘Alex’s Lemonade Stand.’ The unusual sight of a child immediately drew my attention, and as I read the article my emotions fluctuated from interest to amazement, all the while permeated with a profound sense of sadness.
Alexandra Scott suffered from a form of cancer, and starting at the age of four she decided she wanted to sell lemonade to raise money for childhood cancer research. Starting with that one front yard lemonade stand at her home in a
suburb, Alex’s Lemonade Stands grew
to be located in all fifty states, Philadelphia , and parts of Canada Europe. She died at eight years old.
I hadn’t heard of this charity, so her life story was new to me. I cut the photo out of the paper and taped it on my office wall as a perspective reminder. I’d look at her photo often, sometimes talking to it as a source of strength. And it was months later that I started to piece the idea of a story together knowing that I wanted a starring character patterned after Alexandra Scott.
I eventually decided that the best way to utilize her inspiration was to contrast her courage and appreciation for life with an adult who complained a lot and felt his best days were behind him. So while searching for that adult character, I looked at my own life, at my own occasional complaints, and thought back to my days as a song lyricist when frustration often left me feeling bitter about the state of things. And that’s how my down-on-life-one-hit-wonder-ex-rock-n’-roll-star was born.
Eventually realizing that the story needed something more than the effect of two dissimilar characters on each other’s lives, a murder mystery started coming into focus. It took some time to figure out how fit the pieces but once I developed the characters around the protagonist I found my way.
Question: Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?
Answer: Have you ever heard the expression, generally found in humor, where the person’s answer to a question is “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you?” Well, I’m not threatening anybody’s life here, but if I were to tell you that answer for a whodunit murder mystery, that would be giving too much away.
Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?
Answer: I’ve written one other novel, a supernatural thriller titled, The Poe Consequence with the following as its premise: After the death of an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting, the two rival street gangs responsible for his murder face an Edgar Allan Poe inspired vow of revenge from beyond the grave. The book was originally self-published but I signed a contract with Black Opal Books for it to be re-released probably near the end of this year. As for what other published works I have, before I wrote The Poe Consequence, I was a professional song lyricist for over a decade with some recordings but not enough to ever consider it a career possibility. Before that I wrote a lot of poetry, so creative writing has been a passion of mine for most of my life.
Question: What are you working on now?
Answer: I wish I could present you with some unique and appealing concept for an answer, but while the radar is always on the lookout for something to move me emotionally enough to spark an idea, which is what it will take, right now my ocean brain waves are flat awaiting the next call for surf’s up.
Question: What made you start writing?
Answer: Without going into specifics because of the personal nature of the situation, I experienced a tragic event in my mid-teens that created an urgent need for a release of some kind. I turned to writing poetry, which eventually evolved into lyric writing, and then, years later, the desire to write a novel.
Question: What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?
Answer: I’ll be sixty-five in June, and having written creatively since the age of fifteen, I’ll be ‘celebrating’ my fiftieth anniversary in a few months. So with the many thousands of hours devoted to the combination of poetry, song lyrics, and two novels, I do feel that I’ve learned a thing or two. That said, here are two of three key suggestions from me that might help, with the third one coming from author Anne Lamott from her ‘Bird by Bird’ book on writing that will help maintain a writer’s sanity.
1. Be patient with yourself. Let your creative right brain side and your logical left brain side work as a team. It’s amazing how just ten minutes away from what you think is the final version of something will often take on a different perspective when you return to re-read it. It’s when you return again, and then again, and don’t feel you can say it any better, that you can finally claim you found the buried treasure. A creative writing teacher I had told the class that Proust recommended keeping your manuscript in a drawer for seven years before looking at it again. I don’t think we need to go to that extreme but any time away will provide the objectivity you need to properly judge your own work.
2. This advice won’t apply to genres such as comedy or non-fiction, but for me and the genres I seek, if you want your reader’s heart to be moved, then you as the writer need to write from the heart. The creativity from your brain will follow along accordingly.
3. For novelists who find themselves on a never ending merry go round of finding something to change again and again, and again, wondering if they’ll ever finish, Anne Lamott’s octopus analogy is brilliant. When you finish your book but still wonder if there’s more you can do to improve it, it’s analogous to putting an octopus to bed. You tuck it in and walk back to turn out the light but notice a tentacle has flopped out from the sheet. You go back, tuck in that tentacle, and start to walk out again. When you look back, now another tentacle has flopped out. After tucking that one in, when you turn back again before turning out the light and see that another one has flopped out, at a certain point you just have to tell yourself that the octopus will probably keep having tentacles flop out no matter how many times you tuck them in so just turn out the darn light because you gave it all you had.
Question: Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?
Answer: The book was released on February 23rd. Here are the online retail sites with links included, starting with the publisher, Black Opal Books:
Barnes and Noble
The Poe Consequence won’t be available in print again until the Black Opal Books release, but the audio book version can be found through the Audible link:
For more information on Keith and both of his novels, go to www.keithsteinbaum.com. You can also visit his Facebook page by typing Keith Steinbaum-Author.
Comments and questions for Keith welcome here!