Thursday, September 27, 2018 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Keith Steinbaum Shares Inspiration for You Say Goodbye

The Write Way Café welcomes author Keith Steinbaum, who shares his interesting inspiration for You Say Goodbye.

In author interviews I’ve read, one particular topic that usually gets mentioned is the origin of the idea behind their story.  As a reader I value this starting line information as it provides me a greater appreciation for development of theme, characters, and plot.  From something as common as a remark on the radio or observing people waiting for a bus, to something greater in complexity such as the sights and sounds of a foreign country, something ignited that creative circuitry for a story.  For me, learning about that is akin to being privy to a secret.

I’ve written two novels, The Poe Consequence and You Say Goodbye, and although there’s a definite building block history with The Poe Consequence that I’d like to share one day, because of the earlier timetable for its release with Black Opal Books, I’ll describe the origins of You Say Goodbye, starting with an intended cursory glance at the obituary section of the Los Angeles Times.

Other than with the passing of a family member, friend, or, perhaps a celebrity, I wouldn’t think most newspaper readers care to look at this section.  Back when I subscribed to the Times for daily delivery I occasionally perused the obits because sometimes I’d discover lives that were not only interesting, but downright fascinating.  And as fate would have it, on a particular summer day in 2004, I decided to scan the obituary section.  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 round faced girl sitting at a table under a large hand painted banner reading, ‘Alex’s Lemonade Stand.’  The unusual sight of a child 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, they aren’t really all that bad are they?  I’d look at her photo often, sometimes talking to it as a source of strength.  And it was months later that I started to piece the idea of a story together knowing that I wanted a starring 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.  That’s my beef with adults I observe sometimes, bitching about things that in the big picture are petty; the slow line in a bank or supermarket, the summer heat, slow internet service, etc. in comparison to things that are truly important – like one’s health!  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.  Books of this genre that I’ve enjoyed reading definitely went into influencing my thinking such as Dennis Lehane’s series of Kenzie/Gennaro PI stories, and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  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 see-sawed from a years long back and forth 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. 

As with The Poe Consequence, I write with the intent of offering more than just a one-dimensional angle.  With the element of a unique and consequential human interaction between two vastly different individuals, a story within a story, my goal was to give the reader more than the entertaining challenge of a whodunit murder mystery.  For those who read You Say Goodbye, they’ll know if I succeeded.

About Keith:

After graduating college from UCSB, I set my sights on becoming a professional song lyricist after many years of writing poetry. Had I known through the haze of my naiveté and post college optimism what a difficult task this was to accomplish as a career goal, I would have focused on my other alternative of disc jockeying somewhere. I spent a couple years doing middle of the night work at the college station playing rock ‘n roll for those few listeners either partying or working night shifts, and I had about a hundred resume cassette tapes ready to send. I’ve occasionally wondered where this would have led me had I decided on this course for my career, but as it turns out, although I did have song on a popular album in America, and other songs recorded in a number of foreign markets, I wasn’t able to make a living as a lyricist and moved on into the field of landscape. But my creative writing flame continued to burn. Understanding that idea took time to realize through initial bouts of unhappiness lasting several years. But once I started focusing on poetry again, that’s where I rediscovered the untethered freedom and joy of writing without monetary goals.

Fast forward to an eventual desire to write a novel, culminating in the completion of The Poe Consequence. As a buildup to the idea for the book, my landscape job entailed years of working in many low-income housing projects throughout Southern California, and, consequently, many neighborhoods with gang problems. This experience played a major role in formulating the concept for my story. Originally self-published, this past June I signed a contract with Black Opal Books for it’s re-release next summer. In the future I’d like the opportunity to delve further into all the ingredients that factored into the creation of the book but I’m certainly gratified for receiving valued blogger reviews on sites such as Amazon and Goodreads, as well as other accolades.

Winner of’s Book of the Year in the Supernatural Thriller genre, the novel also made the 2015 Kirkus Reviews Books of the Year issue. And in 2017, it received a Finalist placing in the international Book Excellence Awards competition.

I’ve also signed a publishing deal with Black Opal Books for my second novel entitled, You Say Goodbye, a Beatles themed whodunit murder mystery revolving around the search for a renowned serial killer. Although it’s my second novel, the book will be my first with Black Opal Books, and will be ready for release in the early part of 2019. The story prominently features a one-hit wonder ex-rock star and a little girl with cancer who's a big fan of the L.A. Lakers. The child's character was inspired by the life, and unfortunate death, of Alexandra Scott from the Alex's Lemonade foundation. The release date has yet to be determined, but most likely in early 2019.

I can be found online at:   Facebook        Twitter 

Here are my personal website links: 


Lynn said...

Thank you for being on our blog! Your post is very interesting and I enjoyed learning about your process.

Zari Reede said...

I think it’s wonderful that you used a real story for inspiration and also to remind yourself of the gifts you have in this life. I remind myself often that there are people who struggle and suffer with greater ailments than our own. Great inspiration!

HiDee said...

Thanks for sharing your process. I think You Say Goodbye sounds very interesting and I look forward to checking it out.

Angela Adams said...

Thank you for sharing this heart-warming post. Best wishes with your novel, and I look forward to seeing it in print.

June Trop said...

I too look forward to the publication of your book, YOU SAY GOODBYE. It's clear to me that you have a creative mind and an original story. As for inspiration, you point out to me that the events in our lives are all a potential source of a story.

Saralyn said...

Best of luck with your upcoming release and your continued writing career. It's clear that your writing adds value to the lives of readers, and that's what it's all about.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi Keith,

This sounds like a wonderful book. The best ideas come from real life.

Keith Steinbaum said...

To Lynn, Zari, HiDee, Angela, June, Saralyn, and Jacqueline, I am genuinely touched by your comments. For you all to express yourselves in the various ways about the sense that my story offers traits such as inspiration, positive human value, and creativity for a heart warming journey is more than I believed I'd receive from reviews of the interview. Again, thank you all for your own inspiration that you offer me.

btw I will also post this on the BOB author community page to make sure my fellow BOB authors who are listed here see this.

Keith Steinbaum

Kathy said...

I actually saw a news piece on Alexandra, and she touched my heart too. I just ordered your book and can't wait to open, sniff and read. And the Beatles connection is super groovy!

Keith Steinbaum said...

Kathy, I've enjoyed our back and forth today and look forward to our future communications about the book when you finish reading it. If I'm able to do two things by the time you finish then I'll consider it a success: Tell me that I had you guessing up until the end and that I also touched your heart.