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Writing duo share thoughts on careers, life in the spotlight

By Staff | Mar 27, 2014

Jeff Lindsay and Hilary Hemingway may be the most famous Cape Coral couple you don’t know.

Lindsay authored the “Dexter” book series. He’s finishing another book for release this year. His books developed into a successful television show about a serial killer, Dexter Morgan. Lindsay has written screenplays, other books co-authored with his wife. He worked at a dozen professions before turning to full-time novelist.

Hilary Hemingway is also a successful writer, but her professional work includes wildlife artwork and other endeavors. She wrote and produced a public broadcast documentary about her famous uncle Ernest, for instance. Jeff is the documentary’s narrator. She has written books about Ernest Hemingway, whom she is quick to note having never met. Her father is the famous author’s younger brother (Leicester). Hilary Hemingway is also part of a major film project scheduled to shoot later this year in the Dominican Republic. It will star her friend Andy Garcia.

But Lindsay and Hemingway are also married for nearly 30 years. Both were raised in Miami, worked in California before settling in Cape Coral 20 years ago. They wanted a safe and upbeat home in Florida to raise children, both say.

The big difference between them and us is that Jeff Lindsay and Hilary Hemingway are at the odd crossroads of fame and anonymity, as in shopping unnoticed at the local grocery, yet entirely recognizable in celebrity circles, and in the strange underworld of cult followers. Lindsay says the notoriety linked to his “Dexter” books, for instance, gave a strange entitlement to a man knocking at their Cape home, unwelcomed, entering the home and announcing he would make them money. Uh, OK. It was also a reminder that in America there’s a cost to fame, Jeff said. The family now closely guards its privacy. Ask Jeff where in his bag of fictional tricks he discovered serial killer Dexter Morgan, without hesitation he says a composite of “blowhards” he observed at a public event – couldn’t draft ideas fast enough on his luncheon napkin, he says. The five-book “Dexter” series has sold some 1.7 million copies.

Hilary Hemingway is a gifted communicator. Her ability was on display at a recent Cape Coral Historical Society lecture. The topic was Uncle Ernest Hemingway. The packed house at the Cape lecture seemed at first skeptical. On stage in jeans and sneakers, she shared details about the characters fictionalized his books, no gossip, and a few minutes of the excellent public broadcasting documentary on her uncle’s writing career. She nailed the lecture crowd to its seats. The topic is interesting enough, but her honesty and detailed research led to the audience embracing and peppering her with questions following the lecture’s ending.

Hilary Hemingway is immersed in her family’s history, has pored through mountains of documents and private papers. She has donated records, photos and manuscripts. She is also a regular guest at the Cuban house Uncle Ernest purchased in the 1930s, which today is maintained (with private U.S. donations) by the Cuban government. She has extensive writing on her famous uncle.

The proximity to fame also placed her in unusual places, vacationing as a child in Hemingway’s Key West home, the one with the six-toed cats (none of which, by the way, belonged to the great writer). That proximity, unfortunately, also gave her glimpses into the famous writer’s darker side: Ernest Hemingway trashed a family biography written by his younger brother. Retelling that story about her father, Hilary Hemingway almost shares less flattering stories about her uncle and his fourth wife, Mary. These are anecdotes the public would gobble up. But she refuses, partly in honor of the family name, but also because it is beneath her scope as a biographer/historian, she says.

Jeff Lindsay and Hilary Hemingway talked with The Breeze.

Jeff is completing a “Dexter” novel. Hilary is preparing for the film in the Dominican Republic.

Breeze/Jeff: Talk about your writing process, what your day is like.

Jeff Lindsay: I do my best work when I’m not therewhen I wake up and am sleepy, it really comes easy. If I’m fully awake, I write the word “The” and stop. Being half asleep usually helps a lot.

Breeze: Stephen King says he will write, write, write, put it way for a while, revisit it days, even weeks later. How do you work?

Jeff: No. I write it and don’t even remember it. People will come up to me, say this and that happened. For me, it’s gone. I have to move on.

Breeze: A 300-hundred page book, how long does it take you to write one?

Jeff: Every one is different. I have written a book in three or four weeks. But it can also take up to 18 months.

Breeze: You’ve said you’ve had several dozen careers before hitting on novelist. Talk about that.

Jeff: I’ve been a welder, sailing instructorgardener, screenwriter, lounge singer, actor, director, comedian. If I sit down and think, I’ll come up with some more. It was stuff I thought I might be good at, enjoying.

Breeze: You seem like a really cool guy.

Jeff: It’s true

Breeze/Hilary Hemingway: Wanted to ask you about Andy Garcia, the movie about Ernest Hemingway you are involved in with him.

HH: Far as I know, it’s a go. We start shooting in September. We went through a rough patch when Anthony Hopkins dropped out (Aug. 2013) And then in December, Andy said we got Jon Voight.

Breeze: Anthony Hopkins would have been great.

HH: He would have been wonderful. But I’m sure Jon Voight will be just as wonderful.

Breeze: Can you explain what it’s like to have the name? Are there benefits?

HH: Sure, in English class. But not really, no.

Breeze: You did an interview for a book fair in Miami. The interviewer was kind of snarky with you, apparently because your name is Hemingway. And she came away from the interview differently. People see you really do know your history.

HH: I grew up with hearing my father do interviews. It was him relating to his brother as a brother. Put his pants on one leg at a time. He (Ernest Hemingway) was human. Yes, he had some extraordinary qualities. But towards the end of his life, he was a very difficult person. I take this work very seriously.

Breeze: You could live anywhere. Why Cape Coral?

HH: That’s an interesting question. We like it because it has a good hospital, good schools. And back then there were no extremes of rich and poor. When you come from Miami – or Los Angeles -the first thing you do is open the crime section, see what’s happening. You don’t need to do that here.

Breeze: (Miami) is built up, too.

HH: I go back there now, I get lost.

Breeze: Your marine (acrylic) artwork is popular.

HH: I sold one (for charity) for the Galisano in Naples. I was pretty surprised. It is very relaxing.