Tuesday, October 21, 2014

**Giveaway** Interview with author Joe Clifford-Lamentation

Today I'm welcoming Joe Clifford who is here to talk about his latest Thriller, Lamentation which received the coveted Starred Review from Publisher's Weekly. Joe publishes with one of my favorite Independent Publishers, Oceanview who is also sponsoring a giveaway of an autographed copy. So sit back and enjoy the titillating conversation, read the starred review and then you can enter for your very own signed copy of the novel.
Details Below!

  • ISBN-13: 9781608091331
  • Publisher: Oceanview Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/21/2014
  • Pages: 201


In a frigid New Hampshire winter, Jay Porter is trying to eke out a living and maintain some semblance of a relationship with his former girlfriend and their two-year-old son. When he receives an urgent call that Chris, his drug-addicted brother, is being questioned by the sheriff about his missing junkie business partner, Jay feels obliged to come to his rescue. After Jay negotiates his brother's release from the county jail, Chris disappears into the night. As Jay begins to search for him, he is plunged into a cauldron of ugly lies and long-kept secrets that could tear apart his small hometown and threaten the lives of Jay and all those he holds dear. Powerful forces come into play that will stop at nothing until Chris is dead and the information he harbors is destroyed.

Oceanview Publishing is graciously offering
One Autographed Print Copy US ONLY
of Lamentation
Thanks Oceanview!
Good Luck!

Joe Welcome to The Reading Frenzy. Tell us a little about Lamentation.
Thanks for having me! Lamentation is a murder mystery set in a small, New England town in a particular frigid winter. Sort of. It’s really the story of two brothers, Jay and Chris, whose lives were set on disappointing, divergent paths when their parents died under suspicious circumstances twenty years earlier. Chris, who is much older than Jay, became a drug addict, and his baby brother a chronic underachiever. I like to think the novel bridges the gap between genre and literary. The book is really about those forces beyond our control—money, power, corruption, sexual deviance—and using the limited resources we have, those inner strengths we still posses through the adversity, to overcome them. You pick and choose your spots. And when is too late too late?

The premise is powerful and scary. What frame of mind do you need to be in to write the challenging scenes?
I drew on my own relationship with my brothers for the bulk of this book. I have a half brother (not coincidentally named “Jay” who used to work in antiques in Northern New Hampshire). But my other brother, Josh, and I have a … conflicted … relationship, stemming from my drug use in the ’90s. When drugs are involved, people get hurt. That’s oversimplifying, I know, but now that I am removed from that world, I find it fascinating, from a particular POV. Of course you never relinquish the guilt over the damage you do. I hurt a lot of people. I live with that. But studying how an addict’s mind works, channeling hands-on experience, is invaluable to a writer. We need to embody our characters. In this sense, I am both Jay and Chris, navigating two sides of that delight, drug-addled coin. But you’re right. You need to be in the right frame of mind to go there. This is where I owe a huge debt to my wife, Justine, who allows me the space to mentally check out for months at a time. When I am writing a book, especially during the drafting process, I go “out there,” and I shut down, which affects those intimate, personal relationships. My wife is very understanding of this. I write dark fiction, and to do that, I have to do to dark places. Although I’d like to believe I am on the lighter, more mainstream side of that darkness, if that makes sense.

Joe this novel takes place in a small New Hampshire town, which is far removed from your living in San Francisco. Did you take in a New England winter for research?
Ha! I grew up on the East Coast. You don’t forget that cold! The town in the novel, Ashton, is actually based, geographically on my hometown in CT, Berlin (I use the same streets, mountains—there is even the crane in the pond, which my hometown friends and fans will appreciate). Although we had some brutal winters in Berlin, they weren’t quite as bad as the Northern tip of New England. I felt that element was instrumental to telling this story, where the very ground is so frozen, so infertile and inhospitable, unforgiving, that, literally, nothing can grow. Not to get all sentimental or touchy-feely but I think one of the sadder parts of getting older is that hardening, y’know? We start out feeling, giving so much, trying so hard, and the world can be such a cruel, cold place that as time goes on and you take your hits, you open up less. It’s a defense mechanism. The fa├žade, the mask, whatever you want to call it; we create these barriers to protects ourselves. Which is both good and bad, right? It’s self-preservation, but it allows us to love less. I think Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) just dubbed it The Wall. Anyway, I wanted that chill to permeate.

Joe you’re also a successful artist and musician. What kind of music do you make?
Not sure you’d call my band The Wandering Jews successful. But, yeah, I play music. We are Springsteen-tinged, alt country, I suppose. I used to joke I did everything that didn’t garner a paycheck: play music, paint, write. That last one is finally yielding dividends. To me, all art is just about learning the rules of your medium, but the source, you inspiration, your—forgive my hippy moment (I do live in Northern California)—“creative soul” remains the same. My areas of interest, what I am fascinated by—these subjects translate genre. I care about the downtrodden, the marginalized, those aimless folks desperately trying to find their way in the world; those men and women who, day in and day out, trudge up mountains against insurmountable odds, destined to fail (in all likelihood) but doing their best anyway. It’s the Rocky phenomenon, this distinctly American ideal, a heroism found in an ability to take a beating and keep moving forward that’s truly heroic. I don’t know how else to describe it. Getting in that ring, knowing your going to take a beating, like Paulie says; that takes guts.

Joe I understand you’ve dealt with your own past demons to get where you are. And congratulations for “making it out.” In fact the headline for your San Francisco Chronicle interview reads–Joe Clifford: clean, sober and inspired to write. In your stories you deal with past realities but how much of your first novel Junkie Love was self-biographical?
First, let me just say, I always have a hard time with the “clean and sober” part. I used to do heroin. I don’t anymore. But I have the occasional glass of wine with dinner (a margarita when we go to Mexico!), and if the doctor prescribes me medicine, I’m going to take it. I had a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2006, and, frankly, without medication, I couldn’t get out of bed. (My hip was shattered, lower traverse lumber fracture, and my pelvis is degenerating, to quote my doctor, “at an alarming rate.” I only bring this up because the recovery industry is so tilted toward AA in this country that it makes any other path “out of it” frowned upon. I mean, the fact that I am on painkillers, to someone in AA, I am not “clean and sober,” and I think that’s an important distinction to make. Bottom line for me is I was living as a skid row junkie, eating out of dumpsters, in and out of jail, and I was dying. And I stopped doing that. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and I applaud anyone who tries. Active addiction is a living hell, and I don’t care what you have to do to stop dying, you do it. There’s a better life out there, and that is my wish for every addict: to reclaim your life and not be a slave to a drug. And to answer your specific question, that is the story I tell in Junkie Love. The book is a memoir released as a novel, but as I say in the introduction, 99% is true, or at least what I remember as true. The stuff I changed were the little things, like combining two trips down to L.A. into one, that kind of thing. Whatever I could to do to help propel the narrative. Like my good writer friend Andrea Askowitz says: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Where does your love of writing come from?
My mom. Most of my better qualities came from her. She was a remarkable woman, who died way, way too soon. And then the two authors who pretty much cemented that love: Salinger and Kerouac. I mean, I named my first son Holden (and it’s looking like the sequel will be named Jackson Kerouac), so there’s that.

Are you a reader? Fiction or Non-Fiction? The best book you’ve read this year?
You can’t be a writer if you don’t read. OK. There are a few books I have to give a shout-out to. First, Gillian Flynn and Gone Girl. I actually read it last year, but I love, love, love it so much. Due to its popularity, I so wanted to not like it. But it is amazing, a Top Ten all-time. I am so enamored by Gillian Flynn. I heard that she is going to be at a conference I am attending later this year, and that she is a hugger. I am terrified of possibly meeting her. My friend Jimmy used to have a pot belly pig when we were kids, and if you yelled at it, the little pig would just past out. That is what I think would happen if Gillian Flynn were to hug me: I’d just pass out. And Hilary Davidson, another of my absolute favorites. She wrote The Damage Done, which is a weirdly sister novel to Lamentation. I drafted my book before reading hers, but I was struck by the similarities. My novel is about brothers, hers sisters, but each posses a similar dynamic, this mainstream sensibility while traversing the seedy and wretched. Her first standalone, Blood Always Tells, came out this year, and it is wonderful! Last is an upcoming book by Joe Buck Williams, The Triangle. In addition to writing, I am also an acquisitions editor for Gutter Books. It’s a labor of love, but one of the perks of being on the other side is making someone else’s dreams come true. Buck Williams’s book is an oddity and not easily classified, and would probably have a tough time finding a home with a traditional publisher, but it is one of the best I’ve read this year, for sure.

You’ve gotten some really nice reviews. How important are they? Do they mean more from “experts” or peers?
It’s funny, one of my writer friends, Chris Walter, another ex-junkie turned novelist/publisher, is always giving me a hard time about my reviews, warning me about reading them. And I’ll admit here I do read them. And it’s not a good habit. And so far, yes, you’re right, they’ve been very good. But out of all the 5 star reviews I’ve gotten, you know it’s the one one star that sticks with me! It’s a writer thing. The truth is we—well, I don’t want to speak for everyone—let’s say I—I think there’s a certain amount of insecurity that comes with creating. Some of it is good. We don’t write in a vacuum, and that old advice of you have to “write for you” is about the worst advice you can give a writer. We write for us and an audience. But relying too much on outside validation can be a bad thing. But what means the most, peer or pro? Both. Having someone “get” what you are doing, and having that transcend? There was a review I received for Junkie Love that would’ve made me cry (if I was the sort of man who cried), where the reviewer said my book helped her understand her own addicted father. That sort of thing is humbling—and beyond the scope of ego. 

Joe thanks for answering these questions and good luck with the new novel.Will there be any events for fans to catch up to you?
I will be reading throughout the Bay Area, with various events, which you can find on my website. I am also really excited to be a part of this year’s Miami International Book Fair. I was there in support of Junkie Love last year, and it was wonderful. The week-long festival is one of those rare occasions where it seems like books matter more than anything else in the world. I mean, as a writer, you always feel that way. But it’s nice having a whole week where if feels like everyone else believes the same thing.

Publishers Weekly

★ 08/25/2014
Jay Porter, the narrator of this powerful novel set during a bitter New Hampshire winter, is drifting through life, stuck in his hometown, where he has a dead-end job sorting junk and a hopeless relationship with his ex-girlfriend and their toddler son. He’s marinating in sour anger that spills out at those who criticize his listless existence—largely because he realizes they’re right. When his junkie older brother, Chris, is suspected of murdering his partner in a computer recycling computer business, Jay is barely motivated to help; he doesn’t believe Chris’s statement that the hard drive of a discarded computer contained evidence of an evil conspiracy. It gradually becomes obvious, though, that local powerbrokers are panicked about something on the missing drive, so Jay has one last chance at salvation if he’s able to act. Clifford (Junkie Love) understands human potential for moral collapse and redemption, and his lean, gritty prose never lets characters or readers off the hook. Agent: Elizabeth Kracht, Kimberly Cameron & Assoc. (Oct.)

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Joe Clifford writes from experience. He spent a decade on the streets before getting back on track to make writing his life. He is the award-winning author of Choice Cuts, Wake the Undertaker, and Junkie Love. Clifford lives in California with his wife, Justine, and their son.

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  1. I haven't read Joe Clifford but look forward to enjoying this book greatly. Thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. You have some of the best interviews Debbie! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  3. Oh wow. Always interesting when an author can pull from part of their real life and use that in their writing. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for sharing Joe's story, and his thriller sounds quite good.

    1. Hey Kim sorry I missed this Girlfriend, thanks for stopping by and commenting :)