Tuesday, April 25, 2023

E.J. Copperman

E.J. Copperman’s new novel is Ukulele of Death, first in the Fran and Ken Stein Mystery series. Copperman also writes the Jersey Girl Legal Mystery series, currently represented by And Justice For Mall and soon to be joined by My Cousin Skinny. When not otherwise occupied, Copperman lives in New Jersey.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Well, Ukulele of Death was such a catchy little title we couldn’t possibly have passed it up. I actually wanted to give the reader a slight inkling of the rather unusual protagonists for the story, but the series name A Fran and Ken Stein Mystery should clue in all but the least observant readers. The ukulele mentioned in the title is the McGuffin of the story; it is the object everyone’s looking for and therefore the impetus for the plot. Hitchcock said the McGuffin is “the thing all the characters on the screen are chasing and the audience doesn’t care about.” So I’ll leave it at that.

What's in a name?

The names were pretty much the jumping off point. When I knew that I wanted to do another sort-of-paranormal series (after the Haunted Guesthouse books), my first thought was that Frankenstein, Detective would be fun. But I didn’t want it to be just one person. Two manufactured-ish people, who start an investigation agency to help people find their birth parents because the investigators themselves never had birth parents, seemed like a good vein to mine. And the names just had to be.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

My teenage reader self probably wouldn’t have noticed; he was so busy training to write screenplays that movies were all he thought mattered. He read, but not very selectively. Mostly books about movies. I think he’s be surprised that the story isn’t grimmer. I had more of a stomach for the gruesome in my younger days. Now I feel like if you’re not laughing on every page I missed an opportunity.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I find middles far harder to write than beginnings or endings. I’m a “pantser,” so I’m constantly making it up as I go. But I start with a premise (because if you don’t have that you’ve got nothing) and that’s the beginning. I have a general idea of where I want the characters to end up, so that’s a vague idea of an end. The middle? Your guess is as good as mine until it’s written. I like to write myself into a corner and then see how I can get out —when I can get out. Endings get changed a lot because of all the stuff I made up in the middle. And who the murderous culprit is going to be changes three or four times per book. I’ve literally come to the page with the reveal and had to think it through.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Well, they have a snarky sense of humor most of the time and you’ll be shocked, but so do I. Other than that, each character has to have of life of their own. If I can’t tell you what the character does in the parts of their life between chapters, I don’t have a firm enough grasp of who I’m writing. And they do all spring from my mind, so there has to be some of me in there. Is any one character exactly like me? No, not even the most obvious example in the (long-ago) Aaron Tucker series. I believe in don’t write what you know. Find out about it and then write it.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

First it was movies. I didn’t even realize that someone wrote the stories on the screen until Star Trek and North By Northwest, and then that was all I wanted to do. When I found out about the writers room at Your Show of Shows, with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart, Lucille Kallen, Neil Simon and (sometimes) Woody Allen, among many others, I wished I had been born earlier. I don’t wish that anymore. I don’t think there were any authors that particularly influenced me, but I did appreciate how Robert B. Parker got right to the story and didn’t mess around. I try to do that.
Visit E. J. Copperman's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: The Thrill of the Haunt.

The Page 69 Test: The Thrill of the Haunt.

My Book, The Movie: Ukulele of Death.

The Page 69 Test: Ukulele of Death.

--Marshal Zeringue