Jordan Harper is an author to watch. While writing for TV shows like The Mentalist and Gotham, he built up a reputation in crime fiction with his hard hitting pieces that deal with bikers, drug dealers, and dog fighters. His work, which can be see in the collection Love & Other Wounds, is uncompromising, with strong sense of prose style that is perfectly crafted to give it an individual voice that never overwhelms the story. We caught up with Jordan to talk about his writing.
MysteryPeople Scott: What about the short form of fiction attracts you?
Jordan Harper: It gets to the point. One main character, one story, one theme. Everything’s so concentrated, so that language and character and action all become unified. It’s very satisfying.
MPS: You have a great talent for presenting a bad man and showing his heart without compromising him or the darkness of the story. How do you approach your characters?
JH: I make the assumption that most people are just that … people. We’ve all done bad, we’ve all done good, just in different ratios. Once you approach characters like that, it gets a lot easier to write them. Maybe it’s a sign of low self-esteem that I think killers and badmen aren’t that different from myself. But it’s how I write them. It means spending a lot of time spelunking in my skull, seeing what sorts of blind salamanders and weird mushrooms I find down there and bringing them to the surface. I may have lost control of that metaphor.
MPS: You make your living writing for television. Does one form influence the other?
JH: Less than you’d think. I’ve learned a lot about dramatic tension and how to produce it from working in television, but it’s a day job like any other. My fiction is very different than what I’m paid to write, and I think there’s a pretty thick wall between those parts of my brain. One thing that’s been useful is that television is a collaborative medium, meaning that there’s a lot of input from a lot of people on a television script. It can make taking notes less painful, thanks to all the scar tissue.
MPS: Unlike many authors, your stories have several different locations. Is there one in particular that lends the best backdrop for your writing?
JH: I was born in the Ozarks, and a lot of my early stories are set there. But I’ve also moved around a lot, and I made a decision at some point that I wasn’t going to be a single-location writer. How could I hope to keep writing about the Ozarks in an authentic way when I haven’t lived there in a decade? Especially when Daniel Woodrell is still there and writing brilliantly? Now that I’ve settled in Los Angeles, most of what I write is set there, but I’m trying not to tie myself down.
MPS: I heard you just finished a novel, can you tell us anything about it?
JH: It’s called If All Roads Were Blind. It’s the story of an eleven-year-old girl who is kidnapped by her ex-con father because they’ve both been greenlit by Aryan Steel, which is my stand-in for the Aryan Brotherhood. Like Paper Moon with a body count.
You can find copies of Love & Other Wounds on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.