Interview with Joe Clifford on his new Jay Porter novel, writing, and inspirations. | More2Read
 

Interview with Joe Clifford on his new Jay Porter novel, writing, and inspirations.



After spending the 1990s as a homeless heroin addict in San Francisco, Joe Clifford got off the streets and turned his life around. He earned his MFA from Florida International University in 2008, before returning to the Bay Area, where he currently lives with his wife and two sons. His autobiographical novel, Junkie Love, chronicles his battle with drugs and was published by Battered Suitcase (2010). He now uses the backdrop of his own extreme experience to shine a light on the misunderstood and marginalized. No one can write with the authority of Joe Clifford when describing the reality of alcohol and drug abuse. Rag and Bone is the fifth novel in his award-winning Jay Porter series.

Joe Clifford is acquisitions editor for Gutter Books and producer of Lip Service West, a “gritty, real, raw” reading series in Oakland, CA. His bestselling Jay Porter Thriller Series (Oceanview Publishing) has received rave reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among many others. Joe is also editor of Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Stories Based on the Songs of Bruce Springsteen and the forthcoming Just to Watch Him Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Johnny Cash. Currently Joe teaches online writing courses for LitReactor and around the country at various conferences and retreats.



The Interview


Lou Pendergrast

Welcome and great to have a peak into your writing life 

 

Joe Clifford

Thanks for having me!


Lou Pendergrast

You have new novel out now, just off from having new episode in Jay Porter series Broken Ground released, both good reads, and you have another out June 2019, Rag and Bone. You’ve been busy.

 

Joe Clifford

The life of a writer is strange. At least as it pertains to time management. I don’t know many writers who don’t feel like they should be doing more. I’ve averaged two books a year for a while now, most published or about to be, and still I feel like I’m incredibly lazy. I want to be writing 24/7. But the mind needs time to recharge. That’s the thing with the craft. Even when you’re not writing, you’re … writing. Ideas, running through plot points, characters. Just life is plugging in.


 

LP

Tell me about the seed and inspiration behind The One That Got Away and Rag and Bone.

 

JC

Rag and Bone is the fifth and final Porter novel. It continues Jay’s story, concluding his personal war with the Lombardi brothers, whom he blames for the death of his brother Chris (with I hope a surprising ending). In a lot of ways a series is easy because you are continuing what you’ve already started. The One That Got Away is my new standalone, the first of a 3-book deal with Down & Out. A totally different world than Porter. Although it’s still a “Joe Clifford” book. There’s wretchedness and destitution and small-town secrets. The story centers around an abduction survivor, Alex Salerno, who returns to her hometown many years later when another girl goes missing. It’s based on a true story, far more gruesome and horrific than the fictional version I rendered.


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LP

In the fiction world, not that any reader would want it and hate to mention it, you create a new character to take over after Jay Porter’s death, what would his obituary read?

 

JC

If Jay Porter were to die? He’d be a victim of seeking revenge at all costs. But for Jay an obit would probably be snarkier, because Jay is a snarkier guy. Something like, “No good deed goes unpunished.”


LP

The themes you write with what are they about?

 

JC

Everything I write is a variation on Rocky. You don’t have to have talent or win. You just have to be standing on your feet when that final bell rings. You take your beating, you keep moving forward.



LP

Awesome words! Keep moving forward, love that and Rocky.
Lifetime and progressively, what do you hope to achieve with your writings?

 

JC

Depends on the day? Ha! I don’t know, man. Writing, as a profession, can drive you nuts. There are so many ups and downs, but mostly downs. This is a job defined by degrees of rejection. No matter how successful, a writer still fails a lot. And he/she takes the hits harder. It’s how one writes, by being sensitive, aware, open to however you define this life’s offerings. Which means, yeah, you’re like one giant exposed nerve sometimes. Or maybe I’m projecting? What do I want? In the words of the Boss: everything.


LP

When, where, and with what do you write?

 

JC

I write in my downstairs office, mostly. I work best in the mornings and at night. Afternoons I am worthless. I write everything on the computer. I can barely sign my name anymore. Part of me thinks it’s because I type so much. But I also did a lot of drug and fell off my motorcycle without a helmet, so maybe I have brain damage.


LP

What essential advice would you give to the writer trying to write their first novel?

 

JC

Don’t. And I’m not kidding. Writing is sort of a colossal waste of time. It’s very hard to carve out a living, and when it becomes a job, the part of writing that is “fun,” the expression of feelings and crap, that’s the first thing to go. Now you have to work within the confines and demands of the craft, genre, editor, publisher. And most books, even if you get them traditionally published, you aren’t making money. Now if the writer is still here, even after all that? In the immortal words of Gary Larson: Welcome to hell, here’s your accordion.


LP

Story mechanics, do you outline a plot? Any advice on outlines?

 

JC

I’m not much of an outliner. Feels too much like high school. In the beginning, development was tougher. After a dozen novels, you sorta get the hang of it; it becomes second nature. I’m mentally outlining, picturing, arranging as I write. And even when I’m not.


LP

Which stories and characters from fiction do you revisit?

 

JC

Holden Caulfield, Billy Pilgrim. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights are my favorite characters. Oh, and Batman and Rocky Balboa. Amy Dunne (Gone Girl) is my dream girl.



LP

Villains on the page who is up there in you top 3? Maybe good, bad, and the ugly.

 

JC

The most interesting characters, to me, are the ones that skirt the line. So a guy like Heathcliff is both good and bad. Even Batman is a sorta a nut. Hannibal Lector is fun. But I like the asshole characters who think they are right or are doing the best they can with what they have, even when their best isn’t very good and they don’t have much. Right now I’m reading Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl. And her kidnapper Colin is a wonderful example of this. Bad guy, but you can’t help but root for him. Hard to pull off. Mary is as good as they come.



LP

Which authors are your motivation and inspiration in becoming a novelist?

 

JC

I get this question enough that I have a standard answer: I named my first son “Holden” and my second “Jackson Kerouac.” So that answers that!



LP

Which books are your recommended reads?

 

JC

Right now, all I read are women writing domestic psychological thrillers. So … Mary Kubica, Emily Carpenter, Shannon Kirk, Jennifer Hillier, Wendy Walker, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins. Those are the authors I buy whatever they’ve written, no questions asked.


LP

Thanks for the chat 

JC

Thank you!


Order:

Rag and Bone

the fifth novel in his award-winning Jay Porter series

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org



 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 01 March 2019