Monday, November 9, 2009

INTERVIEW: Bestselling & Award Winning Author, Jon Clinch

Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing his views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Jon Clinch. His new novel, “Kings of the Earth” is a powerful and haunting story of life, death and family in rural America is due for released in July of 2010.

In his masterful debut novel which springs from Twain's classic story, Mr. Clinch delves into the history and heart of one of American literature's most brutal and mysterious figures: Huckleberry’s Finn father Pap.

His book FINN was named one of the best novels of 2007 by three major newspaper, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Christian Science Monitor. FINN was name a notable book by the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle’s first-ever best recommended list and Sargent First Novel Prize.

E.I. Can you tell us a little bit about your short story “The Dog”?

J.C. You could think of it as a missing chapter of my novel FINN, although the truth is that it's a kind of farewell to Finn himself. The short story, like the novel, takes off from the details of his death room in HUCK—only this time, instead of black cloth masks and whiskey bottles and a wooden leg, the object in question is a dog collar.

E.I. What inspired you to release “The Dog”?

J.C. I liked sending it out there as a missing piece of my first novel, the way Twain's "The Raftsmen's Passage" existed as a missing piece of HUCK. There was a nice symmetry in that. I've posted it for free on my web site at, and it's also available for the Kindle at Amazon. The Amazon version is about as cheap as I could make it.

E.I. It seems that FINN attracted a lot of publicity and readers. When are we going to see FINN on the screen?

J.C. Sooner than you might think. All I can say right now is that the story is in the best possible hands. I've read the script, and it's a thing of beauty. We have a mighty director. Casting is under way. I'll keep you posted.

E.I. With two books under your belt, how have you evolved as a writer?

J.C. I guess you're talking about my next one, KINGS OF THE EARTH, which Random House will publish in July. KINGS is a much more modern story than FINN, set in the twentieth century instead of the nineteenth. The book's language and method and themes have a more modern feel as well. With KINGS, and with the project I'm working on now, readers will sense an expansion beyond the high-intensity claustrophobia that marked FINN.

E.I. What can you share with us about “Kings of the Earth” without spoiling it?

J.C. One description of it begins this way: "The edge of civilization is closer than we think." KINGS is about three brothers who live in poverty on a crumbling dairy farm in upstate New York. One of them dies in his sleep, and things unfold rapidly from there.

E.I. Did you feel as much pressure when you were writing “Kings of the Earth” as you did following on the success of FINN? What was your biggest challenge and obstacle while writing and creating it?

J.C. The pressure was huge, and it really got in my way for a while. It's bad enough to be constantly looking over your shoulder—but when the person who's gaining on you turns out to be YOU, it's kind of a nightmare. I finally stopped trying to replicate what I'd done in FINN, threw out an entire novel that I'd spent a year and a half writing, and began fresh with KINGS. Instead of FINN's big, mythic narrative voice, it uses a dozen first-person narrators who tell their own versions of the story at hand. That technique alone freed me up a great deal.

E.I. Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you. Be creative. Tell us about your first job, the inspiration for your writing, any fun details that would enliven your page.

J.C. My wife, Wendy Clinch, is publishing a very funny mystery novel in January with Minotaur Books, called DOUBLE BLACK: A SKI DIVA MYSTERY (it's the first in a series, set in a little Vermont town like ours).

E.I. We've been married for thirty-three years.

J.C. The best thing the two of ever did is to raise our daughter, who's now a science teacher in New York City.

E.I. What's next after “Kings of the Earth”?

J.C. Another novel set in my home area in upstate New York. More details as they become available. Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog...

To learn more about Jon Clinch please visit his website at:

To purchase his books please

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