Interview with Award-Winning Author Joe Borri

Even though both of our clans both have slightly nefarious characters lurking in the backgrounds, my childhood was different from hers. Much of the book is told from the perspective of an Italian son of a Detroit cop, who married a Sicilian girl whose father strongly disliked Detroit cops. Many Sicilians and Italians in the post-war years felt marked by the police as criminals, and they resented them for it. There’s definitely a patina of that dislike for policemen and/or authority glazing my stories: a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude that doesn’t emerge unless the person is pushed. Depending on how or where they were brought up, men handle those kinds of situations quite differently. A lot of these guys were street kids and had their own sense of right and wrong.

I love myths and folklore, and after looking at the 15 stories, they felt very much like a collection of stories that could be looked at in that vein. Sort of long lasting, adult campfire tales. Maybe a book you take to the cabin or settle down with by the fireplace. At the very least, something to leave behind for my kids after I’m gone.

What are you working on now?

I just finished a novel I adapted from a screenplay I wrote called, The Claw. Jack Epps, (he wrote Top Gun, Dick Tracy) a Michiganian who teaches screenwriting at USC, read it and liked it, but knowing how tough it is to break into screenwriting, encouraged me to do it as a novel. It’s a dark, tragicomedy about a guy who outwardly has a great life but can’t identify what’s making him feel so empty. He finds out soon enough and it takes him on a crazy ride starting in Birmingham, traveling Downriver and points in between. The characters are based on some folks I’ve observed here and there, working for rich people while in college. My wife loved The Claw from the moment she read it, and she’s the one I always try to entertain. Hopefully I can get a national publisher interested in it.

I’ve got some other stories that I hope to flesh out into novels. I was fortunate to get the short stories published first. Usually you need a couple novels out there for a few years, then you get the short story opportunity. I guess I went about it backwards.

Tell me about the artwork in the book.

I started out wanting to only do the covers, feeling like any other art might distract from the writing. But that’s what I am first and foremost, an artist. I was bored one day, and just for grins I did a black and white sketch for "Bow Season." I submitted it to publishers with the artwork attached (something every expert on getting published tells you not to do). A few responded quite favorably, including Momentum’s Ed Peabody. During the rewrite process, I decided that I wanted the book to feel like the old, illustrated fiction from back in the day when art was king. I ended up doing 40 pieces of art: 15 facing page, woodcut-style illustrations and tailpieces, plus the front and back covers. Thank God for my wife’s coffee. Momentum embraced the fact that I am an artist with a bit of design sense, so they were gracious enough to let me, along with Leah Clark, their designer, shape the look and feel of the book. It’s a big hardcover with rich, natural paper and classic type. The look and feel of it was extremely important to me. I’m pretty sure they all hate me over there, but hey, I’m really happy with how it all turned out.

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