Official Interview: Keith Steinbaum (You Say Goodbye)

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Official Interview: Keith Steinbaum (You Say Goodbye)

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Today's Chat with Sarah features Keith Steinbaum author of You Say Goodbye.

Official Review 1

Official Review 2

Purchase on Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited)

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1. What does your schedule look like when you're writing?

Different books, different schedules. When I wrote my first novel, THE POE CONSEQUENCE, my landscape job required many hours on the road and behind a computer. I had to find whatever hours of the day I could to make it work, despite the responsibilities and fatigue that came with the job. So, from inside the dark of an office garage on my laptop for an hour in the morning before going to the office, to driving into a park between visits to properties and sitting in the parking lot, to middle of the night runs to my computer when an idea hit me that couldn’t wait, to weekends in my backyard with my dog at my feet working for a few hours, I was emotionally driven/obsessed to write and complete that first novel.

My second novel, YOU SAY GOODBYE, was a complete change in terms of a writing schedule. By this time I was now Director of Operations and my increased workload didn’t allow for those workday moments of free time I found with my previous book. From Monday through Friday the hours and fatigue left me drained and unable to feel energetically creative. Saturdays were a day for personal fun and time with my wife. So that left Sundays, again with my dog at my feet (different dog at that point), working in my backyard. I tell people that I wrote 90% of the novel on one day of the week, and in a way, I’m surprised that I pulled it off. But I was committed and able to pick up where I left off while maintaining the flow of the storyline and chemistry between the characters.

I recently finished the first draft of my third book, and now that I’m retired, I was able to work on it each day. What a pleasure it was to be able to do that without the distraction of work. Whether I hit or miss on novel # 3, or how many books future books I produce, now that I’m retired, I now refer to myself as an author and nothing else, and that pleases me a lot.

2. How do you start your books? Characters? An outline? A setting?

THE POE CONSEQUENCE was a buildup of some characters in particular settings and as the story evolved, more characters came in to play demanding other settings. The outline was a liquid-type thing that didn’t necessarily stay as one solid idea from beginning to end, but at times, yes, an outline was followed. Outlines are an author’s GPS – sometimes a different route is chosen but it still keeps me going toward my desired destination.

YOU SAY GOODBYE was the one novel of my three where the characters played a prominent part in the inspiration that drove the story along. The outline and settings played off of my two main characters and, eventually, other characters that were introduced.

My third novel, (title to remain unnamed), is an equal combination of character and setting because they depend on each other, perhaps more than THE POE CONSEQUENCE, to strengthen and carry the storyline.

3. Let's discuss your book You Say Goodbye. Can you give us a short synopsis?

After a temperamental meltdown on stage, Sean Hightower, a regretful and resentful “one-hit wonder” rock musician hoping for a comeback, returns to his girlfriend’s condo seeking comfort from the woman he loves. But after letting himself in, he discovers her naked body on the bed, murdered from a bullet to the head. When the police detective arrives and sees the two taped pieces of paper on the wall with the word, “hello,” on one and “goodbye,” on the other, he realizes that the renowned serial killer, The Beatles Song Murderer, has struck again. In the days that follow, he reaches another conclusion—the Beatles Song Murderer is probably somebody Sean knows. Now the detective needs Sean’s help to find the killer.

4. What was the inspiration for the novel?

With fate coming my way, on a particular summer day in 2004, I scanned the obituary section of the Los Angeles Times, something I only do once in a while. Unbeknownst to me, the genesis for You Say Goodbye was about to occur.

A photo taking up nearly half the page showed a sweet-looking little girl sitting at a table under a large hand-painted banner reading, ‘Alex’s Lemonade Stand.’ The unusual sight of a child highlighted in the obit section immediately drew my attention, and as I read the article my emotions fluctuated from interest to amazement, all the while permeated with a profound sense of sadness.

Alexandra Scott suffered from a form of cancer, and starting at the age of four she decided she wanted to sell lemonade to raise money for childhood cancer research. Starting with that one front yard lemonade stand at her home in a Philadelphia suburb, Alex’s Lemonade Stands grew to be located in all fifty states, Canada, and parts of Europe. She died at eight years old.

I hadn’t heard of this charity, so her life story was new to me. I cut the photo out of the paper and taped it on my office wall as a reminder that whatever bad days I think I’m having, in comparison, well, I don’t have to state the obvious. I’d often look at her photo and sometimes found myself talking to it/her. Fast forward several months later that I started to piece the idea of a story together knowing that I wanted a starring little girl character patterned after Alexandra Scott. But how?

I eventually decided that the best way to utilize her inspiration was to contrast her courage and appreciation for life with an adult who complained a lot and felt his best days were behind him. So while searching for that adult character, I looked at my own life, at my own occasional complaints, and thought back to my days as a song lyricist when frustration often left me feeling bitter about the state of things. And that’s how my down-on-life-one-hit-wonder-ex-rock-n’-roll-star was born.

Eventually realizing that the story needed something more than the effect of two diverse characters on each other’s lives, a murder mystery started coming into focus. After all, the more meat-on-the-bones material an author provides the better the chance for an intriguing story. It was at this stage that I alternated for over a year between a full novel, to a novella, (working title, Mr. Music and the 14th Laker) to another novella (same title) back to the desire to write a full novel again, titled, YOU SAY GOODBYE.

5. Which of the characters do you relate most to and why?

Sean Hightower, the protagonist, is a bitter ex-rock ‘n roll star who feels his best days are behind him. I am neither an ex-rock ‘n roll star nor do I necessarily feel my best days are behind me. So in that regard, Sean and I are quite different. However, I was a professional song lyricist for about a dozen years and although I only had a few songs recorded, the music business was a big part of my life for those years. I also tend to be cynical at times, as he does, about certain aspects of life.

In the story, Sean experiences events that bring to mind lyrics he’s written in the past that pertain to that particular event. Those lyrics he recites and reflects on in his thoughts were written by me, they aren’t lyrics from professional artists we know. Because I became so closely involved with his emotions, what came out of me in those lyrics are a reflection of Sean and his beliefs. So in that regard, we are very much alike.

6. In your last book, The Poe Consequence, you tied in Edgar Allen Poe. This book has a Beatles tie-in. Where did this come from?

In writing a murder mystery, I wanted to develop the idea for a unique concept that would apply to a serial killer. The protagonist is an ex-rock star, so music was always going to play a crucial part of the plot. The Beatles are a group with a history that most people on this planet over the age of 40 are familiar with. It struck me that I could take the most popular group ever and turn the tables by bringing that popularity to a dark place. So by showing the serial killer to be a fan of the Beatles, just like so many of us, that provided the twist I sought. I showed this by having him leave Beatles song titles written down near the victim as his calling card after his murders. I’m sixty-eight and grew up a huge Beatles fan like most people of my generation, so I’m familiar with just about every one of their songs. Their song, Hello, Goodbye, came to me quickly as the right song to highlight because of the chorus line, ‘You say goodbye, and I say hello.’ The title of my novel, You Say Goodbye, is my way of representing the serial killer’s final symbolic remark about the victim in Chapter One.

7. Has writing this book changed you in any way?

Based on my original aforementioned inspiration for the story, I was emotionally driven with a true passion for making sure that the cancer victim in the book, Kayleigh Michaels, was treated with much care and dignity in how I portrayed her. I’ve only finished the first draft of my third book so I’m a far cry from authors with much greater experience, but I can safely say that any author of fiction does become one with the characters they create, and I feel that Kayleigh, through Alexandra, changed me for the better. I now think more about the blessings in my life and the importance of compassion for those less fortunate, especially kids with illnesses such as cancer who display incredible bravery in their young lives by fighting the good fight.

8. In the period of time since the novel was released, have there been any interesting developments that have occurred to you as the author of You Say Goodbye?

YOU SAY GOODBYE was released in February 2019. In December of each year, I donate money to specific charities, and in December 2019, it occurred to me that I had not donated to the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation during those years I worked on the story, despite the fact of having been originally inspired for the idea by the article I read in the obituary section about Alexandra Scott.

After submitting money on their website, I saw at the bottom of the home page a notification that if anyone would like to send a message to the founder, Liz Scott, an email address was provided. Liz Scott is Alexandra’s mother. I had a decision to make. Do I write a message to her, explaining that I’m an author who wrote a novel originally inspired by her daughter’s life, or would that be in poor taste, writing to a mother who lost her daughter in a tragic way simply because I’m an author with a main character based on that inspiration?

I decided to write to Liz, making the message brief and to the point. Not knowing what kind of reaction, if any, would ensue, I also said that if she wanted a copy of the book to let me know. About three weeks later, I received a reply from her that was enthusiastic and kind, saying how wonderful she thought it was that her daughter inspired me to write the story, and yes, she’s fan of murder mysteries so send the book, which of course I did.

Fast forward to September 2019, about seven months later, when the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation held a large charity event at U.C.L.A. (I live in Los Angeles). It was there that I met Liz Scott, who couldn’t have been more gracious. This oh-so surreal experience is something I’ll always remember. From fatefully reading the obituary section that day in 2004, to fifteen years later meeting Alexandra’s mother, makes me feel that however many sales I accrue, good or bad, this literary journey and unforeseeable experience of actually meeting Liz makes it all worthwhile.

*As a side note, here, I never asked Liz if she read the book and I don’t plan to, either.

I like to end with fun questions.

9. What's the most memorable review or comment you've received about one of your stories?


I have been very fortunate, and honored, to have received reviews for both of my novels that thrilled me with their enthusiastic comments. Several of those have been through reviewers of Online Book Club. A particular one that I’ll always cherish was from Ms.Elendu Ekechukwu for my book, THE POE CONSEQUENCE. Here’s a brief portion from her review:

“To be honest, I was awed by this book. I couldn’t take my eyes off the book. I am going to share this book with my friends. It is not something to be read alone. The book made me sad, happy, angry, and emotional.”

As an author, to know that I reached inside a reader to such a degree that I made them “sad, happy, angry, and emotional,” means the world to me. It shows that the heart that I put into the book found its way into Ms. Ekechukwu’s heart, and the creation of that bridge is how I view the key to success or failure.

Another OBC reviewer, Ms. Andrea Fernandez, opened with a line that is another one I’ll always cherish:

“Once in a while, a truly exceptional book comes along in OBC. The Poe Consequence by Keith Steinbaum is such a book.”

One more review that I’d like to highlight is for YOU SAY GOODBYE, written by Mr. Donald Richard from TopShelf Reviews:

“One of the most touching and inspiring crime thrillers you’ll ever read.”

As with Elendu Ekechukwu’s aforementioned review, to know that a story I’ve written touched someone as much as Mr. Richard, tells me that I succeeded in what I set out to do—create a story that fully engages a reader from beginning to end and leaves them affected by the experience.

10. What one person—living or dead—would you want to have a meal with and why?

My answer would be Jesus, for the obvious reason that he’s the most influential person to ever walk the Earth. Who wouldn’t want to have a meal with him?!

One question remains: Will the required translators also attend?

11. Cats? Dogs? Neither?

Definitely dogs. I’ve had ‘man’s best friend’ as a companion my entire life. The cliché about always offering you unconditional love, no matter what, has always held true. Through good times and bad, my dogs were always there for me, as is my current ‘best friend,’ Ollie, my Goldendoodle.

12. What's your favorite season?

Autumn. As a school kid it was summer, of course. But now that I’m an adult, living in the increasing temperatures of the scorched and water-evaporating West Coast, I’ve come to hate the heat of summer and look forward to the cooling weather of October. I also enjoy the period of Thanksgiving through Christmas, and Autumn’s arrival is the first indicator that the holiday season is around the corner.
A book is a dream you hold in your hands.
—Neil Gaiman
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Post by Kutty_03 »

You say goodbye is nice novel.
Once in a while, a truly exceptional book comes along in OBC. The Poe Consequence by Keith Steinbaum is such a book.”
“One of the most touching and inspiring crime thrillers you’ll ever read.”
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Post by Titus Fuller »

Loved the discussion it was very informative, to discover how an author lives and what inspires them to right masterful work of literature, helps me as a reviewer to get into the mind of the writer. Kieth seems like an exceptional writer, I would love to read one of his books.
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Post by Mehak_mattoo6 »

A rare combination of sadnesss and crime thriller.
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Post by Agbata precious »

It was a combination of crime and sadness
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Post by Donna Ruch »

Very informative interview. Great questions, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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Post by julietmumbua23 »

An insightful and well-done interview.
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Post by Thakgatso Moela »

Autumn. As a school kid it was summer, of course. But now that I’m an adult, living in the increasing temperatures of the scorched and water-evaporating West Coast, I’ve come to hate the heat of summer and look forward to the cooling weather of October. I also enjoy the period of Thanksgiving through Christmas, and Autumn’s arrival is the first indicator that the holiday season is around the corner.
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Post by BrayoMninja »

Thank you
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Post by Victoria Ukamaka »

This interview is inspiring. Working on your even when you had a job draining you physically is an energy I'd like to acquire.
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Post by Victoria Ukamaka »

Titus Fuller wrote: 26 Jun 2022, 10:00 Loved the discussion it was very informative, to discover how an author lives and what inspires them to right masterful work of literature, helps me as a reviewer to get into the mind of the writer. Kieth seems like an exceptional writer, I would love to read one of his books.
I always imagined writers to have only writing as their jobs. I imagine them locking themselves in a room or study and getting their imaginations down in black and white. Maybe because as a reader, I tend to do that sometimes.

However, these interviews are opening my eyes to the daily lives of an average author. I enjoy reading them.
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Post by Ramon Scott »

This was a great interview. It's interesting and informative. It's always good to hear what goes on behind the scenes and how the books we read are actually written. I also got to know a few personal stuff about the author, which was also great.
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Post by Dennis Ndeti »

Nice book guys
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Post by Rinalyn Escala »

The story is super scare to serial keller
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Post by Rinalyn Escala »

Nice story, , , super beutiful..but sometimes im sad
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