Interview with Biff Mitchell
Author of Boston Jonson in Murder by Coffee
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How would you describe 'Murder by Coffee' to a new reader?
- When a nasty plague of people turning into stone in coffee shops around the city threatens the bottom line of the Coffee Cartels and their highly addictive designer coffees, investigative consultant, Boston Jonson, is tossed into a world where everyone is out to either admire him or kill him, a world of annoying weirdoes who are probably better off turned into stone.
What was the inspiration behind 'Murder by Coffee' ?
- I do all my writing in coffee shops. One evening it occurred to me that I should start murdering off the most irritating regular customers in a Boston Jonson mystery. And it worked.
Which authors do you admire? How have they influenced your writing style?
- I like the Beat writers, including my favorite (who for some reason is rarely associated with the Beat Movement and more so with the Hippie Movement). That would be Richard Brautigan. Everyone should read “In Watermelon Sugar” once a year for their entire lives. I also read Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, Hemingway, Tim Dorsey, Dashiell Hammet, Chuck Palahniuk, Dan Simmons and any writer who breaks away from the norm in storytelling.
I think most of these writers have given me direction in writing humor that has no interest in political correctness and stories that go beyond anything that can be termed ‘normal.’
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
- Murder by Coffee is set in coffee shops around the downtown area of a medium size city called Fredericton. This place actually exists somewhere north of everything. I've written in every one of these places.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- Don’t even think about being published. If you do, you’ll be writing for your audience and not for yourself. It’ll be similar to butt-kissing in the corporate world. Always write for yourself and write every day.
Don’t ever think that anything you’ve written is anywhere near finished until you’ve revised and re-written at least half a dozen times.
Don’t sleep. Ever.
What's your writing process?
- I get an idea. I fill a hard cover notebook (that I carry everywhere along with pens) with everything I can think about the story for a few months (I called this the story dump).
Then I create a story board on my living room wall with cards for every scene.
This gives me a chance to see the whole picture at a glance and identify those areas that need more writing and those that can be dropped or merged with other scenes.
I don’t write the first word of the first paragraph until I’ve completed all the character studies and have a fairly stable story board.
When the first draft is finished, I put it away for a few months before I start the re-writing and editing.
Which character in 'insert title' has had the greatest impact on readers?
- Boston Jonson of course. He's a Zen-infused crime consultant who solves murder mysteries with large doses of insults and Zen. He wears obnoxious hula-hula shirts.
If 'insert title' were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye when you wrote him/her?
- Johnny Depp for sure.
How have readers responded to 'Murder by Coffee'?
- This seemed to be everyone's favorite Boston Jonson mystery. maybe because it short, being a novella and all.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- I have three more novels on the go along with a weekly serialized story called 'The Existential Adventures of Crazy Man and the Dog Sidestepper.' (crazymanadventures.com)
When a nasty little plague of people turning into stone in coffee shops around the city threatens the bottom line of the Coffee Cartels and their highly addictive designer coffees, investigative consultant, Boston Jonson, is tossed into a world where everyone is out to either admire him or kill him, a world of annoying weirdoes who are probably better off turned into stone.