Saturday, February 23, 2013

Author Interview: Jeff LaFerney, Author of Bulletproof

I think I might be getting my taste back for crime novels.   First Nina D'Angelo with her awesome novel, Nowhere to Run, and now, Jeff LaFerney with Bulletproof.

I haven't read any of his books yet but after reading about Bulletproof and having interviewed him, I am seriously thinking about topping up my kindle with some. 

Loved this interview, the anecdotes about students and hey, you can't go wrong with a fellow Princess Bride fan. 

Tell me about your latest book: Clay and Tanner Thomas have a medically diagnosed and explained alteration to their brains that gives them parapsychological abilities. In Bulletproof, during a brain cancer surgery, a surgeon creates the same alteration to another character who begins using the abilities to pull off various crimes. Clay and his father are accused of an armed robbery, so while his father is hospitalized, Clay and his son, Tanner, begin investigating. In the process, Clay meets a ghost who claims to have been murdered eleven years before, so the father and son team begin the adventure to solve both mysteries, with a surprising result for each.

What inspired you to write this story? Tanner goes to college in Ann Arbor, Michigan, while Clay lives in Flint. Fenton is about halfway between the cities, so I decided to have a mystery in Fenton where I learned of the belief that the Fenton Hotel is haunted. I’d already decided I wanted a character with mind-control abilities to run amok in Bulletproof, but the ghost gave my story more potential, so I ran with it and solved two mysteries instead of just one.

Tell me a little about your Works in Progress:  I have an idea for another Clay and Tanner mystery but first I wanted to write a time-travel story that was obsessing me. In my story, three angels (principalities) put into motion a plan to alter the political make-up of the Middle East. They choose a girl to gain possession of the Staff of Moses and a time-traveling teleporter to protect her until she’s ready to meet the King of Jordan. As the duo go farther and farther back in time, they continue to experience events that the King has already experienced and they keep running into a grizzly bear that is determined to be the girl’s pet. There is a lot of action, humor, and suspense and an interesting mystery concerning the time-traveller’s past. It should be published by the end of March.

For any new readers who would like to read your work, please tell me a little about your past books.  The Clay and Tanner Thomas books are stand-alone suspense/mysteries. The father and son have differing parapsychological abilities which they use to help solve crimes. Tanner is a happy-go-lucky star athlete, and Clay is a kind-hearted man who struggles with the morality of using his gifts. In Loving the Rain, they fight off a criminal, who is a rival from Clay’s past and is seeking revenge. Clay must deal with personal and family issues as he watches his son develop his own abilities. In Skeleton Key they solve a seven-year-old mystery of a disappearance of a man from a train wreck. When they find his body buried along the tracks, they proceed to solve the mystery of his death. The less-than-cooperative ghost of the wicked dead man give clues to the solution, while the readers learn that nearly everyone has a motive to kill him.

Do you have a favourite writing snack?  I love chips and salsa, chips and cheese, buttery popcorn with seasonings (yes this includes cheddar and white cheese), muenster cheese, Pringles multi-grain cheddar cheese chips…okay, I sound like a snackaholic who might just as well simply spray cheese whiz down my throat.  You’re thinking I must have high blood pressure and a pot belly, but I don’t. I just don’t have a “favourite” snack.

You’re a full-time 8th grade English teacher. Do you have a story or two to share? I had a girl in class one time who was using a round pencil. My desks slant several degrees from top to bottom, but the girl was determined to place her pencil horizontally on her desk. She set it there and it rolled off the desk. She picked it up and tried again with the same result (I mean the pencil actually ended up on the floor). On the third try, she literally pushed her pencil forcefully into the desk as if it might sink in and stay, but it just rolled off the desk again. Finally, I walked over, grabbed the pencil from the floor, and placed it on her desk vertically, and lo and behold, it didn’t roll off. The girl said, “Oh! That was a good idea!” Another girl’s story is my best, however. I’ll call her Suzy Hill. We were going into the writing lab to take a required technology test. I was preparing them, telling them how to log on. When logging in, they were to type just the first four letters of their last names. Suzy Hill’s hand flew into the air. She asked, “What if a person only has three letters in their last name?” I told her that the person would probably only type in his or her three letters but that it didn’t matter because I didn’t have any students with only three letters in their name. She said, “Uh huh!” She held up her hand and started counting with her fingers. “H…I…L…oh, I have four letters.” Needless to say, neither of these two young ladies will be publishing a book soon.

Do you have a character you’ve enjoyed writing the most? I love Jasper Bugner. He’s a midget attorney from Skeleton Key and Bulletproof. He has a temper, a smart mouth, and gets into all kinds of mischief from being sprayed by a skunk and ending up naked in his unattached garage, to climbing a tree to get an umbrella before falling INTO a tree house, to getting into fights with much bigger men and getting impaled in a bush like a lawn dart, to nearly being in contempt of court for his courtroom antics, to being afraid of ghosts, to flipping over the handlebars of his children’s bike, to great feats of gymnastics, to rock throwing contests, to a three-legged race with the 6’3” Tanner, to jumping into a beautiful woman’s lap on purpose.  He’s a riot.

What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?  I think by giving an example of something that I thought was “fun,” I’ll share an insight into my personality. I was with a group doing a high ropes course (that’s fun). A leader pointed to a telephone pole near a hanging bar and said something along the lines of “only our best participants can climb that pole and jump from it to that bar.” That was all I needed…a challenge. I climbed the pole, which was strenuous but not difficult. But getting my feet onto the top of that wobbly pole? Well, that was no ordinary endeavour. On my first attempt, I fell. So I climbed back up. On my second attempt, I made it to the top, but when I jumped, I was nowhere near the bar and fell a second time. By then, everyone was ready to leave, but I wasn’t to be denied. Tired now, I climbed for the third time, made the jump, and succeeded. That’s the kind of thing that’s fun for me.

What sort of books do you like to read?  I read books in hardcover, paperback, on my Kindle, and on my phone. You didn’t mean that, did you? I knew that, but I wanted to get across that I like any good book, in whatever form it’s written. Mystery and suspense are my favorites. I like literary fiction quite a bit and enjoy a good fantasy book too. Mostly I love books with good characters. If I like the characters, I probably am a fan of the book.

Novel writing seems like serious business. What do you write for fun? Many years ago, for the English standardized tests, the students had a writing prompt that we would prepare them to do by giving them practice prompts. Then we would get together as a staff and grade them with the rubric the state used. I would generally write two of my own and insert them into the pile and then wait with baited breath to see what would happen when they would be graded. A “4” was the highest score, and I was probably 10 for 10 in getting 4’s. It was a great confidence builder, listening to people say things like, “Finally, here’s a good one.” And then they’d pass it around the group. That was fun--even disguising my handwriting was fun. Now, I use my blog (The Red Pen: to write schizophrenic ramblings. I write in the first person, so the voice is quite different from my novels. I usually teach something with my entries, but they’re usually humorous and I think as much fun to read as to write.  

What parts of the writing process do you love and hate the most? Okay, maybe this is weird (maybe not) but I’ve written things that make me laugh right out loud and I’ve written several scenes that have made me cry. I think (and I hope really, really hard) that if my characters are so real to me that I laugh at them and cry with and for them, then just maybe my readers will feel the same way. I love that about the writing process. What I hate the most are typos and errors, especially in the published product but even in the writing process. I’m kind of anal about errors. I simply don’t want any. I cringe when I find one…and I’m certain, by the way, that literary text is alive and those errors grow and develop all by themselves just to torment me. I mean, they didn’t used to be there, so where did they come from if they didn’t sprout on the page of their own accord? (You have my permission, by the way, to remove and/or repair all typos in my responses).
(Leigh says: Nope, not going to! Gonna make you sweat *evil laugh)

Anything else you would like to add? I’m a big The Princess Bride fan. In it was this conversation between Fred Savage (the grandson) and Peter Falk (the grandpa). 
The Grandson:  A book?
Grandpa:  That's right. When I was your age, television was called books. And this is a special book. It was the book my father used to read to me when I was sick, and I used to read it to your father. And today I'm gonna read it to you.
The Grandson:  Has it got any sports in it?
Grandpa:  Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...
The Grandson:  Doesn't sound too bad. I'll try to stay awake.
Grandpa:  Oh, well, thank you very much, very nice of you. Your vote of confidence is overwhelming.

When I encourage others to read my books, I tell them…They’ve got mystery, suspense, drama, deception, parapsychology, revenge, murder, ghosts, sports, humorous dialogue, physical humor, action, true love, twists, surprise endings, giants, midgets, trials, tears…That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? They’re easy, fun reads for middle grades to senior saints. And each book can stand alone, so my readers can pick the story that appeals to them most. Check out the Clay and Tanner books, and in less than two months, watch for my time-traveller. He’s a great character in an action-filled, fun book.

“Thank you very much” Leigh, for the opportunity to share. It was “very nice of you” and “your vote of confidence” is appreciated. I can only hope your readers “stay[ed] awake.”

(Leigh says: Thanks for joining me!  This was an incredibly entertaining interview!  Off to go and watch The Princess Bride again... again. And grab your books!)

Summary of Bulletproof:

After a devastating injury to his father, Clay Thomas is abandoned by two of the people closest to him while being pursued by the local police chief for crimes he didn't commit. He is determined to find the culprit of a series of local robberies while fulfilling a promise to a ghost to solve his eleven-year-old murder. Clay and his son, Tanner, incorporate their unique mind-control abilities to solve the crimes, restoring broken relationships in the process. Bulletproof, a stand-alone novel, is the third exciting installment in the Clay and Tanner Thomas mystery/suspense series.

Amazon link:

Facebook author page link:

Blog page link:

Jeff LaFerney has been an English teacher for more than twenty-five years. He and Jennifer, his wife of twenty-six years, live in Davison, Michigan. Torey and Teryn are their two children. Loving the Rain, Skeleton Key, and Bulletproof are his three stand-alone suspense and mystery novels in the Clay and Tanner Thomas series.  While writing the first book in his upcoming time travelers’ series, he has also been professionally editing books. He loves competing at sports, connecting to good books, and creating words that entertain others. 

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