Today I'm fortunate to have with me Mike Befeler, author of the Paul Jacobson mystery series: Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living With Your Kids Is Murder, Senior Moments Are Murder.
1. Once again Paul Jacobson in Senior Moments are Murder has caught a gaggle of killers. What inspired you to set this latest mystery in Venice, California and feature the art world and the homeless? Also, Paul gets married in this offering, why did you get the old geezer hitched?
Bob, you're full of good questions. Our daughter lives in Venice Beach, California, so we have been out on numerous trips to visit her. We stayed several times at a motel with a room overlooking the Venice Beach plaza, and I spent hours watching all the people in every imaginable costume walk by. If you've never been to Venice Beach, it's something that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. I was inspired by the beach scene, the mix of people including a lot of street and homeless people and the active art community. There is one street, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, that is lined with art dealers. And then there are the canals which cover a small four block section. All of these came together as a perfect setting for a murder mystery. Paul proposed to Marion in book two so this is the next step in their relationship. The wedding also provides a great situation for Paul to get in trouble.
2. Tell us about Paul Jacobson, your geriatric sleuth?
Paul is in his mid-eighties and has short-term memory loss. In spite of not being able to remember the day before he becomes an amateur sleuth and even has a romance with a young chick in her seventies. His form of short-term memory loss is very specific: he still retains a photographic memory during the day, but overnight everything that's happened to him in the recent past goes poof. He doesn't have Alzheimer's but vascular dementia. Other than this one little problem, Paul is an active and vital senior. He takes a walk almost every day, has a great sense of humor and loves his family and friends. He is a dead body magnet, so to avoid the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome, I more him around to different locations so he doesn't decimate the population in any one locale.
3. Besides Paul, who do you consider your most memorable/unusual character?
Paul's granddaughter Jennifer is a key member of the supporting cast and helps Paul solve mysteries. One of my favorite reviews is from Kirkus Review who states, "It's hard to beat a team that includes a wisecracking old fart and a straight-talking young sprout." That's Paul and Jennifer. Marion, his romantic interest, and then wife is key. A character that reappears in some of the series is Henry Palmer. Henry has Asperger's, insults Paul all the time and provides a foil for Paul to play against.
4. Can you tell your readers a little about Mike Befeler and why he became a mystery writer?
At the age of 56 I made a conscious decision that I wanted to pursue fiction writing as something creative to retire into. Six years later after the publication of my first Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery, I was able to retire into fiction writing. I spent 39 years in the computer hi-tech world and now am a speaker and writer. When I started, I wrote short stories and then bridged into novel length material. Mysteries intrigue me because I like the aspect of posing a puzzle and then solving it. My first published novel, Retirement Homes Are Murder, didn't even start as a mystery. It was going to be a relationship story about three men and three women in a retirement community. At the same time I was writing a collection of short stories that had either the victim or the perpetrator being an older person. The two ideas merged, and Retirement Homes Are Murder was born.
5. What are you working on right now?
Write now I'm in edit mode on my first historical mystery. With a group of friends I hike in the summer and snowshoe in the winter, and we have covered nearly all the publicly available sections of the Switzerland Trail, a railroad that ran in the foothills above Boulder at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. I've done a lot of research on the history of the railroad and have set a mystery in 1919 titled, Murder on the Switzerland Trail.
6. What writers have influenced (or are influencing) your writing?
John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday have been a major influence. Although not mysteries, I love the quirky characters in Monterrey, California, right before and right after WWII. That has inspired me to write quirky characters.
7. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Yes. Two things are required: start and keep going. I meet so many people who tell me they have an idea for a novel. Ideas are great but they don't mean anything until you start writing them down. In the writing world perserverance is a must. Very few authors are successful at the outset. And writing is full of rejection. You have to keep at it no matter what. When I started, I sent short stories to magazines and anthologies, and I'm happy to report that on my 112th submission, I sold my first short story. My experience isn't that unusual. James Lee Burke's The Lost Get-Back Boogie tied me at 111 rejections. The year it was finally published, it was short-listed for the Pulitzer Prize, which was won by Larry McMurtey for Lonesome Dove. Famous western author Louis L'Amour received over 350 rejections for over 200 stories before he sold his first and then went on to sell tens of millions of copies of his books. So don't give up. Keep going.
8. Where can we get you books (Retirement Homes Are Murder, Living With You Children Is Murder, Senior Moments Are Murder)?
They are available through Amazon.com, bn.com, or can be ordered through most book stores. The first two are available in hardcover, large print, audio book and e-book editions, and Senior Moments Are Murder is currently available in hardcover and large print.
9. Please list your website, Facebook Page, Twitter Address, and any blogs you want us to know about.