I recently had the pleasure of interviewing JB Coffman about her recently released book Dead Club: The Case of the Sad Girl. This book is a delightful mixture of crime thriller, mystery, paranormal, romance and suspense. It offers a nice balance of humor and horror. Read below to learn what she had to say about her writing journey with this book.
Congrats on the recent release of Dead Club: The Case of the Sad Girl. What challenges did you face with writing this book that you didn’t experience with Roote 66?
“Plot (laughs). I needed one for this book. Roote 66 is more of a character driven story. Plot was not a big deal. It was more of the people discovering each other. The first book that I wrote when I came home from Ireland was the same way. This one, being a murder mystery, I needed more of a plot. I went through so many different variations trying to find my plot that made sense. So, that was the hardest part for me. With plot, you have to keep going back and making sure that you’re foreshadowing and that things are making sense and that you haven’t left any holes when you change something. That was harder for me. The character parts were easier. The actual plotting was harder. This book went through incarnations before it got to where it is. I started writing it maybe four years ago. I didn’t like it. Things weren’t working. But the kids were all working fine for me and they’re all the same as they were. DJ…I couldn’t quite get a handle on him: What kind of a guy was he? What was his story? Without him being good and solid; the story just wasn’t working. I couldn’t come up with the bad guy and I dropped the book for a really long time. That’s where Supernatural comes in. When I first started watching Supernatural, I realized that it could be that way. The story didn’t have to fit into a really narrow box. I could have D.J.’s story be more adult and still have it gel with the kids. Once I kinda had a handle on him and his background and how he felt about the kids and his emotional distance that he thought he had to keep, it worked alot better.”
How did you conceive of Dead Club: The Case of the Sad Girl?
“From that television show. I think it’s called Psychic Kids. It’s kinda of a documentary show. It’s about kids who supposedly see ghosts and have visions. I watched a couple of shows. I like those shows where they go ghost hunting. I’m really interested in that kind of stuff. These kids were traumatized. They were upset and depressed and I thought to myself: Why would they fake this? I don’t know if I one hundred percent believe it, but I couldn’t see why they would fake it. So I thought that was interesting. I thought to myself: What would this be like? How would you cope? There was a guy who was a psychic helping the kids and a lady psychiatrist so I got the idea from that. I also wanted to write something about my neighborhood. I thought it would be interesting because my neighborhood is kinda quiet. I thought to myself: What if something exciting and sinister happened in the past.”
Which character in Dead Club: The Case of the Sad Girl was the most difficult character to write?
“For a long time D.J. was. It is easier for me to write a character if I have a mental picture of them. D.J. was fuzzy and faceless for a long time. I had a basic description of D.J. He was really tall. He had the long hair. I wanted D.J. to be really big because I thought that the juxtaposition of this big guy. Especially with children. Are the children scared of him? Because he’s so big and he has big hands and probably a loud voice like big guys do. I went through about six seasons of Supernatural before I dawned on me that D.J. looks like Jared Padalecki. But even before Jared I knew in my mind that D.J. was a big guy. I thought to myself that this guy would have to work all the time to make himself not scary to little kids. His voice would have to be softer and he would have to be kinder and more gentle as not to scare all of the kids that he’s working with. When I got the face, and the eyes…the sensitivity, it kinda clicked. But I think that the long term, hardest one for me to write was Jack because I didn’t want to make him robotic. I think Jack probably is autistic. I have a thing with autistic people. I’ve always had a connection. I’ve always been able to talk with autistic people even when some of them don’t really talk to other people. I just wanted to represent that. They’re just people who may think and act a little differently. They may not always have the emotional connections that we do, but they still have those feelings. I hope I represented it well. But then again, not all autistic people are the same. Jack is just one and he’s got all of this other stuff going on too. I wanted him to be that calm, rational, stabilizing kinda force yet not may him robotic or unsympathetic.”
What are some of the themes of Dead Club: The Case of the Sad Girl?
“Like I said, people who are different can come together, understand each other and get along to work through a problem. Also, that being different isn’t a bad thing. Being different and considered weird, can be a good thing. You can make it work for you. So you’re not like everyone else, so what? You can find your place and what you’re good at and what makes you happy. Forgiveness is also a big theme. Forgive yourself so you can forgive other people.”
Why should people read Dead Club: The Case of the Sad Girl?
“I wanted to make it a very small story mostly set in Norwood Park because I think it’s interesting to learn about those tiny places. You can learn about Chicago, but specifically Norwood Park. I think that the characters are interesting, all the different ways they deal with their abilities. I think it’s scary, if you like scary stories. But I don’t think it’s too scary. It’s kinda of a balance. I think it’s funny. There’s something for everyone. You go from laughing to being scared to being sad. I think that’s good for a story.”
Have you considered turning your books into audio books?
“I haven’t really. It’s something to think about. I don’t know if I have a big enough audience for the print or ebooks yet to worry about audio books, but it’s something to think about for the future. It’s maybe a little bit more complicated than I want to do right now.”