"Taut, pacey and with a powerful sense of place, Joe Clifford's The One That Got Away is an intelligent and astutely observed piece of American small town noir." --Paula Hawkins
What drew you to the genre you write in?
I made the switch to genre, mystery, because honestly, the people were nicer. This isn’t to knock all literary fiction writers. But that’s the place I started, and I found many to be, well, sorta douchey. Or at least rude. And I think about this often, why mystery writers—crime writers—who write about some god-awful stuff—murder and assaults and kidnappings—tend to be some of the nicest mutherfuckers you’ll ever meet. Whereas, conversely, literary fiction writers, who write all about feelings and shit, are a little more insular, snobbish, pretentious, dickish. And I think it’s because we mystery/crime writers understand there is no end game. No prize. Every once in a while someone breaks through, and you are truly happy for them. But most of us are happy to get our books out, have some people like them, and so we support one another. Without generalizing too much, I think literary fiction carries a heavier weight, that illusion of the Great American Novel, and how it is going to change your life. It’s not.
Which character in the novel gave you the most trouble?
That’ll always be Jay Porter. Jay is a character I deeply identify with, and a character that pisses a lot of people off. He’s morose, sullen, angry, hellbent on revenge, and not all that nice. And while I am not like that, at least not entirely, I can see how I could’ve ended up there. A couple more wrong turns, fewer good breaks, whatever. But my life broke a different way. But it didn’t for Jay, and when so many things go wrong I see how people can become broken. My brother was broken like that. The stories of broken people interest me. Heathcliff. Holden Caulfield. Camille Preaker. I’ve found that a lot of readers don’t like to be reminded of that kind of thing, and that if a book is too dark, you run the risk of alienation. But that was the story I wanted to tell. But, yeah, it hurts that Jay doesn’t get a little more love.
If you weren’t writing, what would you be doing with all of your free time?
What I’m doing now. Golfing. I’ve been golfing a lot. I’m trying to take time off before the next book. I have three out this year (Broken Ground [Porter 4]; the 2nd Ed. of Junkie Love. And [my first in a 3-book deal with Down & Out] The One That Got Away. And a 4th if you count the Italian translation of Lamentation [Porter 1]). Which involves a lot of traveling to promote. I don’t think I get one uninterrupted three-week block till the New Year. Moreover, though, I want this next book I write to be … the one. I feel like I am running out of time. Anyway, it’s sorta driving me nuts, not writing. So I’ve been golfing a lot. Which with my injuries (motorcycle accident) is tricky. I’ve got a little old man swing. But it’s fun. I did it a lot when I was a kid. My wife thinks it’s a mid-life crisis. Probably. Still beats having an affair and buying a sports car.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I once heard another writer say that the best cure for writer’s block was having a deadline. It’s pretty amazing, especially if an advance is involved. I mean, you ain’t giving the money back. I haven’t missed a deadline yet.
What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?
Well you know how that is. You love all your babies the same. It’d be like asking you which chicken you love best! But, yeah, since you’re asking (and I’m answering). Junkie Love. It was my first book, and it’s the story of my life. I am very proud of work I did on the Jay Porter series, in part because I was able to expose what a bunch of rat-bastards the Manafort family is (have fun in prison, Paul). And my new thriller, The One That Got Away, may very well be the “best” book I’ve written, at least in terms of character, plot, mystery, etc. But Junkie Love will always be the story of how I got from there to here. And I like here. Most days.