Short and Sharp Words: MysteryPeople Q&A with Jordan Harper

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Jordan Harper’s She Rides Shotgun is one of the most exciting full-length novel debuts to come down the road in some time. It concerns an ex-con on a crime spree road trip with his eleven-year-old-daughter. Over the course of their journey, both are targeted by a White Supremacist gang. It is a tough, uncompromising book, with a heart that is hard-won.

Jordan joins us at the store for our New Voices of Noir panel this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM. He’ll be joined by Bill Loehfelm and Rob Hart. We got ahold of him by himself for this pre-interrogation.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea for She Rides Shotgun come about?

Jordan Harper: I recently prowled through my DropBox and found an early draft of She Rides Shotgun that was dated 2014. It’s been in the works for a long time now, and just how I got the initial idea is a little murky to me. But I know the initial idea came from me noticing that there was a very small subgenre of crime story, that of the criminal and child on the road together. It’s a subgenre I’ve always loved, even if I’d never noticed it was a genre at all. I was inspired to add to the canon that includes Lone Wolf and Cub, Paper Moon and The Professional.

MPS: Does telling a story on the road come with any challenges?

JH: I found the road aspect of the book pretty easy. I spent a lot of time driving around Southern California, and nearly every place in the book is either real or modeled after a real place that I visited while writing. I think it’s vitally important to physically visit places you are writing about, or you’ll never capture it accurately.

MPS: Who did you go about finding the voice of an eleven-year-old girl?

JH: I talked to some parents about their children, but mostly I spent time thinking about what I had been like at eleven, and figuring that I had at least as much in common with an eleven-year-old-girl as I do with a white power killer or methhead.

MPS: You’ve written a lot of TV scripts and short stories. What was the best thing about turning to the novel form?

JH: The ability to dive deep into a character is really rewarding, but even better is the unfettered nature of the novel. How you can leap to different points in time and space, with no thoughts to budget or feasibility.

MPS: The violence in your work feels both real and visceral. Do you keep anything in mind when you come to those passages?

JH: I think the key to a brutal voice is short and sharp words.

MPS: As a writer what appeals to you about crime fiction?

JH: I always say that crime fiction does for your sense of oppression what Superman comics does for your sense of gravity – you shake off the world and fly. I think it’s very important to think about the invisible walls that society has built around us, and what we’ve gained from them but also what we’ve lost, and I think crime fiction does that for us.

You can find copies of She Rides Shotgun on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Come by the store this upcoming Wednesday, July 26th, at 7 PM for our New Voices in Noir Panel discussion with Rob Hart, Bill Loehfelm, and Jordan Harper. 

 

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