Continuing my recent focus on great whodunnit mysteries, I’m excited about tonight’s interview. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog post these last few weeks, you’ve seen a couple of my reviews for Jeffrey Cohen, author of the Comedy Tonight Mystery series. But Jeff is also known as E.J. Copperman, the author of the fantastic Haunted Guesthouse and the Mysterious Detective series as well.
I have to tell you, Jeff has quickly become one of my favorite mystery writers. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but because I do what I do for a living (forensic death investigator for the medical examiner’s office), I’m pretty fickle about my mysteries. Murder and death are gruesome. They’re depressing. And like most readers, I read to escape my day to day life. At the same time, I love…nay, crave!…a good mystery to sink my literary teeth into. And there’s the rub. The only mysteries I truly care to read are light, breezy whodunnits with a few laughs thrown here and there and where the reality of murder is airbrushed away to a four-color piece of art on a book cover.
With Jeff Cohen/E.J. Copperman, I not only get great twisty mysteries to help job the ol’ noggin’, but I get tons of laughs to boot. I’m serious. This guy is hilarious. I often laugh out loud as I read his books. And here’s another thing…very very little cursing. Like, it’s almost non-existent and even when it is, it’s easily soft PG-rated. These are books that every member of the family can read and enjoy without those awkward moments of embarrassment. Those are the kind of books I like to write and they’re the kind of books I like to read as well.
Now, before we get started, I thought I’d share Jeff’s most recent book (as E.J. Copperman), The Hostess with the Ghostess (A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery). Here’s the book description for your consideration:
Solving a murder way too close to home, Alison Kerby can’t catch a break.
If Alison Kerby really wanted peace and quiet, she never should have opened the Haunted Guesthouse. The Jersey Shore lodge’s latest polter-guest is Richard Harrison, the recently murdered brother of long-time resident ghost PI Paul Harrison.
Alas, a beyond-the-grave brotherly reunion is nowhere in the foreseeable future―phantasmal Paul left the guesthouse months ago for parts unknown, and for all her ghost-whispering prowess, Alison has no idea how to find him. And she’s going to need Paul, because Richard’s isn’t the only murder still unsolved.
Richard, a lawyer in life, tells Alison that he had been working the case of a woman accused of murdering her stepfather. When Richard got too close to the truth, he was permanently silenced. Now, as Alison searches for Paul, she gets a creeping sensation that the murderer doesn’t appreciate her snooping around. If she doesn’t succeed in her hunt, she has the feeling that she’ll be the next to haunt the house.
Raise your spirits with The Hostess With the Ghostess, the latest installment of Barry Award-winning author E. J. Copperman’s national bestselling Haunted Guesthouse mysteries.
You can pick up a copy of The Hostess with the Ghostess HERE.
Now, recently, Jeff was gracious enough to offer some time for a little interview where I asked him about his books, writing in general, and a few other fun tidbits. Here’s what he had to say:
1) I’m currently reading through your Haunted Guesthouse series under your nom de plum E.J. Copperman. Can you tell us a little about this series? The characters?
First, thanks for thinking of me for an interview; I’m very flattered!
The Haunted Guesthouse series concerns itself with Alison Kerby, a divorced mother of one (Melissa) who buys a huge Victorian house in the town where she grew up to turn into a Jersey Shore guesthouse. Her luck, there are two ghosts in residence, which Alison discovers after she’s hit on the head with a heavy object. Now through a series of circumstances she’s taken on a private investigator’s license that she hopes not to use while running her inn, and trying to deal with Paul and Maxie, the two spirits inhabiting her home. Ghosts can be such a drain on the energy.
2) Now the Haunted Guesthouse series is a little different from your Comedy Tonight mystery series in that, while definitely a whodunnit mystery series, has elements of the supernatural in the form of two ghosts who live in the house along with the sleuth and her daughter. My own readers know I love a good paranormal story (even done quite a bit of ghost hunting in my time). So, I have to ask, was there any particular inspiration in moving toward a more paranormal mystery style? Have you ever been in a haunted house?
The only reason I have ghosts in the series is that I think they can be funny. My aim is always to make the reader laugh, so I won’t add anything I think I can’t get laughs out of; that’s the ghost stuff. I might very well have been in a haunted house but nobody ever told me about it.
3) I mentioned the Comedy Tonight series in the last question, which was my first encounter with your books and made me a huge fan. Could you tell me readers a little about this series? Who is Elliot Freed? His employees and partners in solving crime?
Elliot was a guy who wrote one novel that was bought by a movie producer and made into what he thinks is a lousy film. He uses the Hollywood money to buy a one-screen movie house that shows only comedies, one classic and one contemporary. And somehow I managed to find three reasons for him to investigate murders.
4) In the Comedy Tonight series, one can’t help but wonder if you are a movie buff like Elliot…with a particular love for older classic movies over the cookie cutter stuff Hollywood’s regurgitating today. The books make it seem like you have almost an encyclopedic knowledge of old movies. How much of that is you? How much do you research in regards to these movies?
Most of that (aside from the facts at the back of the book) are off the top of my head. I’m a comedy nerd. I was very specific about the movies Elliot would show because I didn’t want to have to learn anything new.
5) You have a couple of other series that I haven’t gotten to yet, but are definitely on my to-be-read list. One of them is exceptionally intriguing in the fact that the protagonist appears to have Asperger’s. Please take a few minutes to tell us about this series and it’s origins (from what I’ve seen, it’s rather inspirational and I love the idea of an unusual sleuth). Also, I’d love to hear about some of your other series, including the Mysterious Detective as well.
The Asperger’s mystery series, in which I collaborate with myself (E.J. Copperman and Jeff Cohen are listed as authors) is about Samuel Hoenig, a man with an autism-spectrum disorder (which he would consider personality traits and not a disorder) who opens a business called Questions Answered, which is exactly what it sounds like. He and his associate Janet Washburn occasionally become involved in investigating crimes.
The Agent to the Paws series centers on Kay Powell, a showbiz kid who grew up entertaining with her parents in a Catskills hotel and hated it, so she is now a theatrical agent whose clients are all animals. She is fiercely protective of her clients and they always seem to get wrapped up in crimes. Go figure.
The Mysterious Detective series starts with a midlist mystery author, Rachel Goldman, who writes the Duffy Madison series about an investigator for a New Jersey county prosecutor who specializes in missing person cases. So she’s a little disconcerted when she’s confronted by a man who says he’s an investigator for a county prosecutor who specializes in missing person cases. His name? Duffy Madison.
6) When you’re not writing hilarious (and yes, Mr. Cohen, you are very funny) and plotting twisting mysteries, what are the things you like to do in your spare time? Hobbies? Interests?
Hobbies? What are these “hobbies” you speak of? I play a little bad acoustic guitar and watch a lot of baseball and then I visit with my wife and children. But I write 1000 words a day, every day. No breaks.
7) It’s something I ask all my guests on this blog for the final question: If you could only offer just one piece of advice to aspiring writers out there, what would it be?
Quit. I’m serious. If you can be talked out of doing this, you shouldn’t do it. If it’s not something you absolutely can’t live without doing, find a way to make an actual living. Plumbing, brain surgery, accounting, you name it. It’s too hard to make it as a writer without a day job.
Once again, I want to thank Jeff for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions. Keep writing ’em, Jeff, and I’ll definitely keep reading them!
If you, my friends and readers are interested in learning more about Jeffrey Cohen, check out his website HERE. You can also learn more about his alter-ego, E.J. Copperman HERE. And of course, links to his actual books can be found in the “Books” sections of his websites! Enjoy!