Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Q&A with J.P. Rieger


Photo by Coyle Studios



J.P. Rieger is the author of the new novel Clonk!. He also has written the novel The Case Files of Roderick Misely, Consultant. Also an attorney, he lives in Towson, Maryland.


Q:  What inspired you to write Clonk!, and how was the book's title chosen?


A: Baltimore was my inspiration. And the title is intentionally silly to message the curious that there’s plenty of humor and absurdity within. Clonk! is a purposely off-kilter roller coaster ride through the lives of a group of Baltimore friends who first meet as classmates in a fictional Jesuit high school.


I took a more conventional writing approach with my first novel, The Case Files of Roderick Misely, Consultant. But this time I wanted to write a Jackson Pollock painting. The novel’s timeline is non-linear, which may be jarring for some readers. But just keep those safety belts latched, securely, and enjoy the ride.


However, the publisher will not allow me to reveal the actual meaning of the novel’s title at this juncture. There are severe financial penalties in place. One must “read the book” to find the answer. After all, it is a crime novel.


Q: How did you create your cast of characters?


A: I studied various high school yearbooks of the 1980s. The characters were all there, staring back at me. Yes, I was frightened by the poofy long hair, courtesy of Prell Shampoo, and the sadly under-developed facial hair, but I soldiered on. I then cast my mind back to the glorious 1990s in Baltimore and the criminals who infected the local real estate market with their “flipping” scams.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Yes, I definitely had the beginning and ending from the get go. And I had a list of key scenes to incorporate into the novel. The only changes were the additions of random goofy ideas.

Q: The novel is set around Baltimore--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: The Baltimore setting is essential. Clonk!’s timeline runs throughout the 1990s to the present. I wanted to express “coming of age” stories for the group of friends who first meet in Baltimore in the late ‘80s. I wanted to reveal how their characters developed or didn’t develop over the years, hopefully to comic effect.


Baltimore is the perfect setting because many born and bred Baltimoreans never leave. It’s the Smalltimore effect. Baltimore is the biggest small town going. We Baltimoreans may not each know every person in Baltimore, but we know someone who knows the person because that person is the cousin of your friend’s stepmother’s aunt, etc. Trust me, if you are from here, you experience this.


We likewise feel that travel to foreign big cities like New York is anathema. Why would anyone want to go there? You could just stay here.


House flipping is the other reason. The protagonist, Kev Dixit, being a policeman, encounters plenty of crime. Without giving away the plot, he rubs up against a criminal house flipping scheme set in Baltimore in the mid 1990s.


Today, the term “house flipping” is well sanitized, thanks to countless home improvement shows streaming 24-7. But in the mid-1990s, Baltimore fell victim to criminals who made large amounts of money through crooked flipping and mortgage fraud.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ve just completed my third novel, The Big Comb Over. It’s a farce/fantasy about three nephews and their three crazy uncles. It’s set in Maryland and also London, England. There’s a Royal Wedding, you see.


The Big Comb Over includes two Clonk! characters, one minor (who is a protagonist in The Big Comb Over) and one significant Clonk! character, who plays a minor role. I’m also working on a proper Clonk! pre-sequel crime novel featuring Kev Dixit. It, too, will be non-linear.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes! As protagonist Kev Dixit says, “No rational person would want to experience Clonk! even once.” Thank you, Deborah, for reading my nutty book and giving me an opportunity to participate in your blog!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment