Wednesday, May 26, 2021

David Gordon

David Gordon was born in New York City. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. It was also made into a major motion picture in Japan. His work has also appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Purple, and Fence, among other publications.

Gordon's new novel, Against the Law, is his third installment in the Joe the Bouncer series.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Ideally, I like titles that add something to the book. This novel, Against the Law, is the third in a series that began with The Bouncer. I was hoping that first title was both simple and intriguing, since the main character, Joe, is a mysterious figure, a strip-club bouncer who is recruited by New York’s underworld bosses when they fear a terrorist in their midst. In Against the Law, Joe is tracking a heroin smuggler who is funding terrorism, so the title, on the surface, refers simply to the criminal capers unfolding in the book. However, “the law,” is also slang for police, and here the title refers to a general sense many of the books’ characters have that they live outside mainstream society and expect little or nothing from its institutions. To them the entire social system is antagonistic, and they are “against” it. In Joe’s world, people don’t call the cops, they call Joe.

What's in a name?

A lot! Choosing character names is harder than it seems, because ideally you want to start thinking of a character as a real person and the name has to fit the way your old friend’s does.

As I said above, I wanted The Bouncer to be about a character who is an unknown quantity, a seemingly simple guy who gets more complex as we follow him. So I picked a short, common name: Joe. His last name is Brody and that I can’t explain; it just popped into my head and felt right.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I think he would be impressed. This is exactly the kind of story I loved when I was young. Though I took a surprisingly roundabout path to doing it, and certainly never imagined a series.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Both are hard but I actually tend not to change them that much. I need a strong opening to get me started, and usually, weird as it sounds, I know what the ending will be, even if I have no idea how the characters will get there. So it is everything in between that changes, constantly. The middle is the hardest part.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Since Against the Law is about expert criminals fighting terrorists, spies, heroin smugglers and mercenaries, my instinctive answer is ‘of course not.’ I sit in a quiet room writing all day. But, surprisingly, friends and loved ones tell me that they see a lot of me in Joe. So who knows? I suppose in some way every character you write is partly you.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

More than I can really list here. Movies of course are a huge influence, but so is music and visual art, though it might be harder to pin down. Often music provides me with the tone or feeling I am trying to convey. I read more books about painters than I do writers, and I think it helps me learn about the creative process. But I learn a lot from friends who are chefs, too. And then there is all the inspiration that comes just taking a walk, riding the train, reading the paper or talking to my neighbors. In some ways, it is New York City, my hometown, that is the true inspiration for Against the Law.
Visit David Gordon's blog.

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