WATERLOO — Kelly Neff, Cruisin’ KCFI Radio’s Saturday oldies show host, and his wife, Mary, took some creative license in their new book, “A Perfect Match.” The main characters, Kevin and Maggie, are loosely based on themselves.
“Very loosely,” said Neff. “Once we sat down and started writing, we embellished. We beefed it up with some crime investigation, a little action. We spent many a night haggling over what we were going to do with the characters. It was fun writing. There’s romance, humor, mystery, and we think it’s a pretty good story.”
Kelly Neff, 69, formerly of Waterloo, and Mary now live in Coralville.
The novel centers on 18-year-old Kevin Knapp, who moves to Austin, Minn., to begin a career in broadcasting. He meets Maggie McGovern, who is still in high school. She graduates and eventually becomes a newspaper reporter. They fall in love and marry. After their honeymoon, the couple returns home and find themselves involved in a criminal investigation in the midst of a major snowstorm.
In real life, Neff left Waterloo after graduating from Columbus High School in 1967. He moved to Austin, Minn., where he was the 6 p.m. to midnight DJ at an Austin radio station. He then served in the U.S. Navy, where he met Mary. Neff has worked at 13 different radio stations in his 51-year career.
He previously worked at KCFI from 1979-1994 doing a daily music show and play-by-play announcing for local high school sports and broadcasting Waterloo Diamonds games. He spent seven years doing play-by-play of UNI football and basketball games.
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The couple married eight years ago and lived in Florida for about several years before returning to Iowa. Neff did the play-by-play announcing for the University of Iowa softball and volleyball teams, and several music tribute shows for various radio stations, including KCFI. Mary works for Wellcare.
The book idea came out of Neff’s reminiscing with Mary about how he got into broadcasting. “Kevin’s career basically mirrors mine. But in the book, Kevin and Maggie meet not long after he gets to Austin. Mary and I didn’t meet until the early 1970’s. Maggie is patterned after Mary, but I made Maggie five years older than Mary,” Neff said.
“I had to — really. Kevin was 18, and if we made Maggie the same age as Mary when we met, Maggie would have been 10 years old when she and Kevin met and started dating.”
Neff recalled living in Minnesota with affection and credits Mary for exhaustive research into Austin landmarks and locations. “She found the names of businesses, the jewelry store where the engagement ring is bought by Kevin, the church that is still there,” he explained, adding to the novel’s realism.
The story also is grounded in Christianity and Midwestern values, which appealed to Christian Faith Publishing in Meadville, Pa. “We sent our manuscript to them, and they loved it. They’ve been great through the whole process,” Neff said.
“It’s been pretty exciting to see the book published. Everybody who has read it says it’s a good read. Now we’re waiting for the first people we don’t know to buy the book,” he added, laughing.