It’s August. It’s hot. Perhaps you’ve already got kids back in school. Perhaps you’re still at the beach. Whatever you’re doing, it’s still officially summer, which means you’re entitled to enjoy a frothy, kicky, beach-appropriate book whether you’re seaside or stuck at work. Andrew Schaffer’s latest adventure, Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery, checks all those requirements with equal parts bromance, action thriller, and detective mystery.
After having spent a lifetime serving the people, former vice-president Joe Biden is lonely and lost. Puttering around his Wilmington, Delaware home while wife Jill is off teaching, Joe misses his good pal Barack, who’s living his best life ever, which involves kitesurfing, base-jumping, and hanging out with A-list celebrities. Then, one day, Barack shows up with news that Joe’s friend, an Amtrak conductor, was found dead, struck by a speeding Acela. Something smells fishy to Joe, but as a private citizen, there’s little he can do–at least, until he ropes a cigarette-smoking, sawed-off-shotgun-toting POTUS 44 into uncovering the truth. Their sleuthing leads to run-ins with dangerous biker gangs, strange women, and drug runners lurking in the dark underbelly of Wilmington. Hope Never Dies may star two famous Democrats, but the political barbs are sure to entertain folks on both sides of the aisle.
We spoke earlier this summer with Hope author Andrew Schaffer and asked why he felt the time was right for a Biden-driven action-mystery, how he knows he’s struck the right comedic tone, and what’s up next for this crime-fighting duo.
What inspired this book? Why now?
I’d toyed with the idea of a Biden mystery novel for years, but it finally picked up steam when the bromance memes started being shared during Obama and Biden’s final months in office. It started off as a parody of classic noir novels. After a few pages, however, I could already see that it was going to have more heart than my other parodies. The message—that “hope never dies”—isn’t a joke. It’s a message that I think many of us need to hear right now.
Are you planning a Hope sequel or series?
There will, at the very least, be a sequel—Hope Rides Again, on sale next summer from Quirk Books. It will be set in Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago. Expect more malarkey.
Do you lean in a particular political direction? This book doesn’t make any major political statements other than taking jabs at the current administration, but you’ve also written The Day of the Donald: Trump Trumps America. Are all political figures fair game?
The Day of the Donald was a satire about a reality-TV show host becoming president of the United States. We released it during the Republican primaries in 2016. I voted for the Obama/Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012, so you can probably guess which way my politics lean. When it comes to satire, though, all politicians are fair game. There were jabs at both Trump and Hillary Clinton in the book. The shots at Bill Clinton in The Day of the Donald were just vicious. It did decent numbers, but I hadn’t realized while writing it just how partisan politics had become in this country. I don’t see Hope Never Dies as a satire—it’s a mystery that happens to star two well-known public personas.
When did you realize you had a knack for writing humor?
I wrote and illustrated humorous comics in grade school, which would get passed around in the back of class. They were a little on the bawdy side. I was never the class clown, but I realized early on that I could make people laugh through my writing. It occasionally got me into trouble, which only furthered my belief that words had value.
How do you know when you’ve struck the right (funny) tone? What’s your process?
I’m in a local writing group, so I will sometimes read pieces out loud to see what kind of reaction they get. I’ve also read new material at book tour events. A live audience will let you know very quickly if you’re on the right track. There’s nothing more sobering than silence. Other than that, I rely on my editor and a few other early readers.
Your wife, Tiffany Reisz, is also a writer. Do you bounce ideas off each other?
Tiffany writes erotica, romance, and gothic fiction, but her stuff can be very, very funny. She will occasionally punch up jokes in my books—the “POTUS, SCOTUS, or FLOTUS” game in Hope Never Dies was all her. I wish I could say I punch up her sex scenes, but my contributions are more along the lines of copy editing.
Do you think you’ll ever try your hand at other genres?
In addition to mystery, I’ve written parody, satire, romance, science fiction, and horror. I might be running out of other genres to write in! I plan to stick with mysteries for now. At least until something else catches my eye.