Author’s Bio: Jeffrey Westhoff has served as a film critic, feature writer, reporter, and copy editor in his career as a journalist. Jeffrey wrote his first novel, The Boy Who Knew Too Much, while working as a freelance writer. He grew up in Erie, Pa., where he spent his Saturday mornings at the library and his Saturday nights at the movies. At age 13, he fell in love with James Bond movies when he watched The Spy Who Loved Me on HBO one afternoon. Jeffrey studied journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee and worked as a film critic for 25 years. He lives in Chicago’s northwest suburbs with his wife, Jeanette.
What inspired you to write your book?
It was sort of an accident. While I was still a full-time feature writer at a newspaper in the Chicago suburbs, I was working on a story about teen spy novels (Alex Rider, Young Bond, etc.) I attended a book signing by my friend Laura Caldwell one evening and, looking for sources, I asked her if she knew anyone writing a teen spy novel. She misunderstood me and said, “You’re writing a teen spy novel?” I told her I wasn’t, and she said, “You should!” I replied, “You’re right, I should!” And that’s how I got started.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
The book that had the biggest influence on me growing up was Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. That’s the book that made me want to become a writer, and I pay tribute to it in my book. The three authors who most influenced The Boy Who Knew Too Much are Robert Louis Stevenson, Elleston Trevor (who wrote the Quiller spy novels under the name Adam Hall) and especially Ian Fleming.
Is this your first book? How long did it take to start and finish your book?
Yes. It took nearly 10 years from start to finish, but that included several long periods of self-doubt when I didn’t work on the book.
Do you write with an outline, or just let it flow organically?
I plotted out the book on notecards. A few things changed along the way (I decided I couldn’t bear to kill off one character) but overall the story is the same as originally plotted.
Do you listen to music when you write? If yes, is there a theme song for this book?
I listened to James Bond soundtracks as I wrote, particularly “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” and an Internet radio channel called Secret Agent Radio. If the book has a theme song, it’s a little-known but terrific Smokey Robinson track called “Come Spy With Me,” which comes from a spy movie that probably deserves to remain obscure.
What are the keys to success in getting your book out to the public?
I wish I knew, though I keep plugging away on Twitter and Facebook and making appearances when I can.
What advice would you give to new authors?
Don’t give up. And work up the courage to do pitch sessions at writers’ conferences. That’s how I found my publisher.
How about sharing an excerpt from The Boy Who Knew Too Much?
An excerpt from Chapter 10, “Stairs”
Exhausted from two getaways in one morning, Brian fell asleep as soon as the train left the station. He awoke six hours later in time to watch the sun sink into the Mediterranean, a circle of orange melting into wine-red ripples. He went into the bathroom and changed into a pair of olive drab cargo shorts and a black polo shirt. His left shoulder was still a deep purple, but with fewer black highlights. Brian returned to his seat and spent the remaining two hours of the trip reading about Toulouse and studying the maps.
By the time he arrived in Toulouse, Brian had learned that its train station was separated from the central city by the Canal du Midi, the manmade waterway that connected the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. Stepping outside the station, Brian saw the downtown lights half a mile away. He took the nearest bridge over the canal and then spent the next fifteen minutes crisscrossing streets and doubling back on himself to make sure he hadn’t picked up another tail. Satisfied no one was following, Brian hailed a taxi in front of a hotel and showed DeJonge’s address to the driver.
The cab headed south, which didn’t surprise Brian. Université Paul Sabatier was south of the city. As the cab entered residential neighborhoods, Brian hoped his ordeal would be ending soon, that he would reach Eduoard DeJonge in time and that the professor would arrange for his protection. The driver told him they had reached DeJonge’s street. Several vehicles were parked along the curb, including a dark red van. Brian imagined he saw the orange pinprick of a lit cigarette glow briefly behind the van’s windshield. The cab pulled up outside a small two-story house on a street crowded with similar homes. Brian looked at his Batman watch as the cab pulled away. It was 9:27. “Gotham Standard Time,” he murmured to himself.
Brian doubted the professor typically received foreign visitors this late, but what could he do about it now? He rang the bell, hoping the door led to his safety.
The door opened, and there, wearing blue jeans and a Ramones T-shirt, was the most beautiful girl Brian had ever seen.
What’s next for you?
I have a short spy story in the anthology “Young Adventurers,” also from Intrigue Publishing. I am close to finishing a short story featuring Foster Blake, who is the James Bond-like agent idolized by the hero of The Boy Who Knew Too Much. Then I will start working on my next novel, which is also a spy story, though aimed at a younger audience.
Where can readers find out more about you and your book(s)?
- Website: www.jeffreywesthoff.com
- Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-Westhoff/e/B00TT2J49I/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorJeffreyWesthoff
- Twitter: @JeffreyWesthoff and @Knew_Too_Much
- Blog: culturespy.tumblr.com
- Instagram: @jeffwesthoff