Monday, November 26, 2007

Down the Shore with...Chris Grabenstein

Who better to interview for the "Down the Shore with Series..." than Chris Grabenstein? His John Ceepak Mystery Series takes place in Sea Haven, which is a mash up of a few Jersey Shore towns. This one-time ad agenecy writer has written three seaside mysteries so far, with #4 coming at you this summer. What better becah reading could you ask for?

1. What do you consider "your" shore town? Why?
My shore town is definitely Beach Haven on LBI. We go down there with friends every summer to do, uh, research. Much of the research involves Corona Beer and Hint Of Lime Doritos. We stay on the same block off the beach every year. Our friends go when their whole family is in residence and we get to become adopted members for the week. I have learned how to boogie board and snarf down oysters.

2. Most people go down the shore to eat. Any favorite places you like to go?

One of the people in our extended family is a gourmet chef, so we usually eat one place fancy every summer. My favorite spot is Skipper Dipper's ice cream. I think we go over there every night. I love standing in line, watching all the kids scooping and squirting ice cream. "Next group!" I always go for the chocolate dipped soft serve cone so I can watch it drip all over my hand and make a mess. I also love the Chowda at the Chowda Pot. Who would've thought hot soup would be so refreshing in August? Oh, and Pinky's Shrimp. Love getting a pound or two of cooked shrimp, some cocktail sauce, and lemon wedges and taking it back to the house. Goes well with those Coronas I mentioned earlier.

3. Tell us a little bit about the series.
The John Ceepak mysteries include the Anthony Award winning Tilt a Whirl, Mad Mouse, and Whack a Mole. Book #4, Hell Hole, will be published next August.

John Ceepak is a former MP just back from Iraq who lives his life by a strict moral code: he will not lie, cheat, or steal nor tolerate those who do. He is teamed up with a 20-something part-time summer cop named Danny Boyle who, basically, took the job because, as he puts it "chicks dig the cop cap." What makes the series so powerful is the growth in the two characters across the books. I think that's why they've been on several Best Mysteries Of The Year lists. At first, the only thing that the two guys have in common is a love for the Boss. Bruce Springsteen. Here's what Booklist says: "Grabenstein has done his homework. His portrait of summer on the Jersey shore, replete with tacky boardwalk arcades, kitschy souvenir and T-shirt shops, manic city folk who bring their attytood on vacation, and hordes of young people awash in hormones, is virtually note-perfect."

4. How did Beach Haven and Seaside Heights become Sea Haven?
Well, I wanted the family-beach scene from Beach Haven but I also wanted my fictional town to have a tacky boardwalk. So, I put the two together. I once filmed a Dr Pepper commercial on the Boardwalk in Seaside and, after three days of shooting there, the images were indelibly etched in my imagination. I also added in a little of Cape May and Spring Lake and Wildwood. In fact, my Sea Haven is the whole Jersey Shore crowded onto one eighteen mile long barrier island.

5. What's this about you and the Cheetah Girls? Did you have anything to do with their concert in Wildwood this summer? ;-)
Well, this is funny. My brother called to say he saw the Cheetah Girls posing with a copy of Whack a Mole, Ceepak mystery #3, in one of the celebrity magazines. Not People, one of the others. Anyway, it showed the girls relaxing at home. And there was Whack a Mole sitting on the coffee table. It has a purple cover. One of the Cheetahs is wearing purple pajamas. Coincidence or a photographer's art direction? The photo is on my web site!

6. How long have you been writing?
I have been writing since fifth grade. I have been getting paid for writing for about 25 years, having spent a great many years writing commercials for ad agencies up and down Madison Avenue.

7. Why did you pick the Jersey Shore as the setting for your novels?
I thought it would make a great setting and allow me to have all sorts of people drifting in and out, bringing their troubles and passions with them. I didn't want to do a mystery series where the friends and neighbors of the sleuths kept getting bumped off -- although, sometimes, that happens in Sea Haven, too!

8. We're big dog lovers here at Down the Shore With Jen. Who is that handsome pup you your site? And does he like the beach, too?

That's Fred! Fred was a rescue from up in the Bronx. He was saved from the gas chamber by famed animal trainer Bill Berloni who put him into the Broadway cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. When the show closed, Fred was available for adoption and we were the lucky ones to take him home. He and I go running together -- about four or five miles. He also takes me for long, contemplative walks where I can dream up what happens next in my mysteries. We've never taken him to the beach. I'll bet he'd love it. But, he'd want to lick every face on every beach blanket.


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1 comment:

scott neumyer said...

excellent interview! it just encouraged me to go pick up his books. :)