Interview with Jeffrey Perren, author of Death Is Overrated

Publisher: ClioStory

Publication Date: August 3, 2013

Book Links:  Amazon

Synopsis: Professor Thomas Payne didn't intend to wind up dead on his caving vacation to Wales, and in truth he wasn't the victim. But proving his identity to the police becomes tricky after they pull his passport off the body and conclude the deceased is Dr. Payne, no doubt.

Things go from bogus to baffling when a mysterious phone call at the crime scene leads to the arrest of the young scientist. His fate seems sealed when the victim's fingerprints match the professor's work visa and his employment records disappear altogether.

A tart-tongued American with no identity looks like a pretty good patsy to the detectives eager to close the case. Being accused of killing himself presents the brooding inventor with an interesting puzzle, but taking time to solve it from jail will threaten his deadline to file a patent worth millions.

Intervention by the smitten police captain's sculptress daughter frees Thomas to search for clues to prove his innocence before his invention goes up for grabs. So, it's off around the UK with Terri, one jump ahead of the authorities — and his estranged sociopathic father, a lapsed Quaker who may be the real killer. One slip and claustrophobia will be the least of his problems.

Thomas' journey soon becomes as much about healing his troubled past as recovering his present self. Along the way, he'll battle betrayals by his envious staff, romance the rebellious artist, and suffer harrowing misadventures at historic sites in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.

Travel — even to find yourself — was never so perilous.

Interview: Q. Please tell us about the inspiration for your current release.

There were several but one of the chief influences on “Death Is Overrated” was an old film called DOA in which the protagonist is poisoned and has 48 hours before dying to discover who gave him the fatal dose. (Yes, implausible that it should be so slow-acting but that’s Hollywood!)

I spun that idea into a scientist on a caving vacation who is accused – through mistaken identity – of killing himself. He has to prove he’s neither the victim nor the murderer. That combined with my insatiable travel bug led to the characters and plot of this romantic mystery story.

Q. How did writing this book affect you?

That’s an interesting question. My goal in writing is to affect others, but no doubt every creative project affects the writer as well.

In the case of Death Is Overrated I had a vicarious opportunity to visit a number of fascinating travel sites in the UK — the Dan-y-Ogof Caves in Wales, the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, and others.

Also, I wanted to explore how an independent-minded sculptress, who happens to be the daughter of the local Chief Inspector, might help this young man in trouble with the law. That young man had himself a troubled growing up thanks to sociopathic parents. Those situations had traditional aspects of father-daughter/father-son conflict combined with some more contemporary themes — dealing with childhood trauma, for example — that interested me.

Naturally, you always come out at the other end with a bit more perspective on the topics yourself.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Devising an engaging plot from scratch, from a blank sheet of paper, so to speak. I struggle mightily with that — to keep the story interesting in every scene, to build a progression of greater and greater obstacles that are, nonetheless, still plausible-seeming to the reader. It helps to start with characters that one finds interesting, but letting them be the drivers through events that keep the reader engaged from the first page to last is a tremendous challenge. Tremendous, but very satisfying when done well.

One always hopes, of course, that the readers find the journey equally interesting.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

The word “interesting” is just ambiguous enough that any of several answers might serve. I’ll skip revealing what is (to me) my most irritating quirk... :)

Interesting to the reader... well it might be better to ask them. Here’s what one said in a recent review:

“Perren writes in a style that conveys topics from the humorous to the philosophical with great clarity, accessibility and pacing.”

I don’t know if that qualifies as a quirk but it’s certainly nice to hear.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

Oh my, yes! I have a third – Clonmac’s Bridge, a history-mystery about an ancient bridge recovered near a medieval monastery found intact after 1200 years underwater — due out in a few months.

Next up, I have a 19th century medical drama of a young Irish woman who emigrates to America to become a physician, something very difficult to do at the time.

I have a trilogy planned which is set in the Age of Discovery – that period when seafaring European explorers were just learning how to navigate to India, South America, and elsewhere. It will cover first the Venetians, then the Portuguese, and finally the Dutch — all through the adventures of the distaff half of three generations of merchants.

And I have a half-dozen others already written that need some editing work before being released — a mixture of mysteries, dramatic love stories, and others.

I plan to put out a new novel about every six months for at least the next 10 years. By then I’ll no doubt have other stories on tap.

Q. What are you currently reading?

Now that’s a tougher question than it might sound at first blush. Like most writers I’m a voracious reader and I’ve always got a half-dozen things in progress with bookmarks placed at various points.

I’ve been reading Thomas Madden’s Venice (a straight history). I’m also plowing through a lot of Delderfield still, having recently finished his Swann saga. The first volume of “A Horseman Riding By” is next on the list. I take ‛breaks’ by reading a chapter of Thomas Costain’s “The Black Rose” from time to time, along with a few others.

I confess I limit my pleasure reading these days. Most of my non-writing time is focused on research for my future novels. That runs the gamut from the interactions of 14th century Venice with the Levantine to 16th century Portuguese sailing technology to late 19th century medical practices.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).

I’ve recently had a delightful radio interview with CL Gammon. Anyone interested can listen here. He’s a terrific radio host and we had a great time talking about a lot of different subjects as well as Death Is Overrated.

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

Hmm... I suppose “fun” is in the eye of the beholder. I was in a PhD program in Physics for a few years. During that time I was teaching a class about empirically showing the odds of a coin landing on heads or tails. So, I tossed it the first time and — of course — it landed right on the edge!

But I’ve also performed on the off-Broadway stage in New York and even in a jeans commercial shot on the Statue of Liberty.

None of those might seem fun by itself, I suppose, but putting them together strikes me, at least, as quirky.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Yes. I’d like to say a very heartfelt thank you, especially those that took the time to write reviews. Writing fiction is a good deal more satisfying when you know there are people out there who get from it both entertainment and food for thought.

That’s what I try to achieve in every novel and I’m blessed that there are readers who see that. It’s fine when they simply say they got some enjoyment from your book. That’s their primary purpose. But also I like to picture them smiling when they put down the book and head out to face the world, maybe with a little more strength to meet it as a result.

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  1. I've read Cossacks In Paris and Death Is Overrated, both of them are very enjoyable!

    I agree with reader who wrote

    “Perren writes in a style that conveys topics from the humorous to the philosophical with great clarity, accessibility and pacing.”

    No doubt I will read his next novel.

  2. I've read Cossacks In Paris and Death Is Overrated, both of them are very enjoyable!

    I agree with reader who wrote

    “Perren writes in a style that conveys topics from the humorous to the philosophical with great clarity, accessibility and pacing.”

    No doubt I will read his next novel.


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