It’s an honor to welcome Joe clifford to the site today. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the crime fiction community has known about Clifford’s work for quite some time. From getting short stories published places like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, and A Twist of Noir, to working as the editor of the The Flash Fiction Offensive, to his first two novels Wake the Undertaker and Junkie Love, Clifford has been a mainstay in the crime fiction community. He took things to the next level, however, with the release of the first book in his Jay Porter series, Lamentation, in late 2014. Lamentation was well received by readers and critics alike, garnering a starred review from Publishers Weekly and earning an Anthony Award nomination for Best Mystery Novel. Now, with the second Jay Porter book, December Boys, about to drop and the writing of the third already under his belt, Clifford has stopped by to talk about what it’s like to settle in to writing a series.
A Lot of the Story Left to Tell
A week from today, December Boys, my second book in the Jay Porter thriller series, comes out with Oceanview Publishing. I won’t say I almost forgot about it because that sounds terribly disingenuous and ungrateful, neither of which I am. But the release did creep up on me a bit, only because since writing DB, I’ve completed two more novels, including the follow-up, Cold, Cold Hills (technically you don’t italicize until the book is actually published. My editing nerd runs deep), and a standalone.
I feel almost guilty writing that. Raised Catholic, I’ve had that particular emotion hammered deep. I was talking with my buddy Tom Pitts the other day, remarking how strange it is that we both published our first books little over five years ago. Time is relative (as is, well, everything), but it seems nuts when I think back to getting out of grad school in Florida, hobbled from a motorcycle wreck, $100K in student loan debt, and living, to quote Craig Finn, in a rented room. Back then having a single book published seemed so fantastic. Perhaps the only thing stranger is that I’d find myself writing a series.
When I was penning Lamentation, the first Porter book, I did leave enough threads for a possible sequel. But in all fairness, I’ve always been delusional when it comes to art, where I’ve employed a Go Big or Go Home philosophy. My friend Joe Loya says a writer needs to know his/her audience, and then write the hell out of his story for that audience. Meaning, if you want to write an old-timey yarn with a hard-drinking PI come Sin City, which is what my first novel, Wake the Undertaker, is, fine. Just know you are going to have a different (i.e., smaller) draw than if you target a bigger, broader crowd. Niche is nice; I’d rather be Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins.
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