My guest today is new-to-me author Rodd Clark whose latest novel Rubble and the Wreckage has one of the most startling covers I’ve ever seen. A huge fan of the edgier type of crime fiction, Rodd has given the genre his own particular twist.
Welcome, Rodd and thank you for answering my questions.
What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
I have less time to read now than I’d prefer but there are great stories out there I wished I could have penned myself, such as the wonderfully written “The Gaslight Mysteries” by Erin O’Quinn. She seems to revel in the bawdy adventure I’d love to call my own. And I enjoy coming across great writers like Allen Renfro and Lee Thomas. But the genres I relish are simply exploding with great talent these days. And it is because of those guys that I feel myself bolster with pride whenever I call myself a writer.
In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Plot is imperative with every novel, but without the proper character build-up, nothing else really matters. You have to have heroes which readers want to root for and villains that make you cringe in terror. But it is nice to know that every single one of us could find ourselves inside situations that we never thought possible. And that is what makes the story interesting for me.
Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Excellent question, in my first mystery series I birthed a main character who I thought I’d enjoy exploring to the limit and his name was Brantley Colton. I enjoyed him enough to carry his story throughout three books. And at the time I suspected he was the epitome of that perfectly flawed, anti-hero type I wanted to delve into. But that was before the creation of Gabriel Church, and the books which will expose his life and trials. Now I fully understand what a twisted, anti-hero is, from meeting him face to face in my writings. And though I suppose my attraction to the morally ambiguous, and bent and corrupted characters may be obvious to some, I have to confess the seed always existed somewhere. It just required a good watering.
Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake? What inspired you to write about serial killers?
I have to wonder about anyone who writes about serial killers, but I have to admit to having an interest in the subject from an earlier project and became fascinated with how it speaks to the dark, untapped recesses in those readers I wish to call my fans. In my latest book, “Rubble and the Wreckage”, there was no shortage of morality questions to address and I liked when it left some questioning their own belief-system by the simple examination of it. On the other hand, there are genres I steer clear of, such as hardcore erotica. I profess to only knowing a few ways of describing the male genitalia and the word “Turgid” is heavily over-rated and borders on comical inaccuracy. It is a phrase which sends shivers racing down my spine, and not in a good way.
Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?
I can only speak to the character driven stories I write myself, but I’m always searching for that glittery vein I can mine with hopes I am guaranteed even the smallest modicum of a return. One I can then share with my readers during our journey together. But honestly I feel that romance should be propelled forward because of the relationship, and not just the heat of the moment. Anything less for me and it displays like some sad sexual tryst, void of any substance or love and where the only gifts remaining are the discarded twenties lying in wait on the nightstand.
Put together your ideal team of men/women drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
Now this is a truly entertaining question, and I’d have to say that I would call upon one of the characters from one of my books. Reason being; they wouldn’t be afraid to make the hard choices and wouldn’t consider the legal or moral ramifications to pushing back against my aggressors, or tangling toe-to-toe with them if the situation required it. We all know that you don’t call a boy scout when facing down a tough opponent. You call someone like Gabriel Church or Brantley Colton, and then hope they’re willing and able to skirmish on your behalf.
Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?
There is very little black and white in my world of fiction and I rarely see anyone truly villainous. But with that being said, some of my characters admittedly have dark hearts. Few are shown as anything close to being pristine or possessing that angelic quality. Sadly all of them are mere branches originating from my own crooked tree, and for me that’s because anyone worth spending the time necessary to write about, is almost always going to be a tad complex or mentally and morally strained…possibly even being pockmarked from some hideously tragic birth. Because the fun for me is delving deep enough to fully see the scars.
What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Currently I am in the middle of editing the sequel to “Rubble and the Wreckage”, which is titled “Behold a Pale Rider”. I hope to see its release later in the year and it should uncover more of the complex relationships between my anti-hero protagonist Gabriel Church, and the intriguing yet oddly relatable, Christian Maxwell. I am also hard at work on the third, and dare I say it, the final chapter in the twisted tale of death and affection which has become the stories occupying my brain of late. Sorry to say though readers will have to wait to see how that tale finally unfolds.
Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Rubble and the Wreckage
“Tell me your story.” Christian Maxwell began, wetting his lips and leaning in. He stared at the killer across the table and rested his forearms on the notepad before him. His look was imploring, he was begging for good and gory details.
Gabe stared at him glassy eyed and with anticipation. He was all but squinting with excitement, of all that was to follow. He had a somewhat wanting expression on his face. Gabe had seen that look many times before. “Better the devil you barely know.” Gabe thought. “If someone else’s gonna be making money off my story it might as well be this guy.” He remembered the first time the thought of telling his story had first sprung to mind. The memories of it much like this, detached, more after-thought than close consideration.
“Ever been out to the Florida Keys?” Gabe asked. When he only received a nod from Maxwell to his question he continued absently, “For me it was like driving to the keys, a few miles over the speed limit on that old Highway One…you know, the one they called Highway out to Sea…under fleecy clouds with that fresh coastal winds slapping you in your face, under a vast, unending blue on blue…it is rather freeing.” His hands wrapped around the old dusty cover of the book he was holding, more as an effect than something to read.
Christian listened to him speaking with that far-away gaze in his eyes, knowing he was already back there in his mind. He pretended to jot notes down but concentrated more on that distant expression on Church’s face. Sitting so close to him, he could almost feel the wind slapping his hair, the sun beating down as he rode in the passenger seat of Church’s mental trip along Highway 1. He knew it was going to be a good book when he finished it.
He didn’t want to interrupt the narrator but he couldn’t resist,
“But it didn’t begin in Florida did it? I just presumed it happened elsewhere.”
The killer’s posture changed as he replied. He sat up straight in the chair, his eyes narrowed, “If you think you know where it started then why are we sitting around hashing old news?” The killer’s voice was cold. Dampness built under Christian’s armpits.
“Because no one has ever asked you for your side of it, usually a serial murderer doesn’t get a chance to explain why he kills. But I…” pointing to his own chest, “…I want to give you that opportunity.”
“Well that’s mighty big of you.” Gabe leaned back in his chair and smiled a grin that could cut through glass, his mocking words and expressive eyes said it all: this might just prove to be an interesting way to spend his free time. He rubbed his rough forefinger across the lip of the wine glass as a carnal abstraction as he watched Maxwell jot his notes, even though they hadn’t even begun his tale.
“Shouldn’t you wait till I start to speak before you scribble down all those pretty words?”
Christian looked up and smiled sheepishly, “…just mood stuff. You’ll have to get used to that…meaning my process, early on.” He put his pen down and folded his hands neatly to hide his notes. “I’m a little fastidious or obsessive at times.”
“No worries”, he said nodding, “The same has been said of me.”
That bent smile of a killer reappeared and twisted Church’s face into a mocking evil caricature, sending a shiver down Christian’s spine. He smiled back and returned a look that seemed to place them on equal understanding. ‘This was going to be tough’, he thought, ‘but worth it.’ Christian picked up his pen and sent an imploring gaze at his subject of study.
Gabe recognized the untidy anticipation, and reluctantly continued. “Actually it began in Texas…but we need to go back to where the…umm, desires, I guess is the word…first came into clear focus don’t we? I mean you want the full picture don’t you?”
When the man didn’t offer a conciliatory gesture, Gabe continued.
“Before Florida, before Seattle I had been somewhere else… it was a better place for me, because it still held some type of promise, nothing had been carved into stone…if you’ll pardon the pun.” Church’s head lolled back as if he was about to break into a hearty laugh.
He was a dangerous sick man Christian could see that. His reference to the markers of his varied victims, as his nonchalant manner in describing his affinity to murder was unsettling, even for someone as akin to pathology as Christian Maxwell.
In college, his dark sense of humor and an uncomfortably quiet nature was off-putting to most. His so-called friends would jokingly offer that it was going to be Christian who would be famous, but more for the salvo of bullets which hit other students from his safe vantage in some random clock tower or rooftop. The look on Maxwell’s face as he sat across from Gabe was pensive as if he was about to interrupt again but questioned the insolence. The killer had nothing but time, but he didn’t like breaking his train of thought so early.
Rubble and the Wreckage
by Rodd Clark
Gabriel Church knows you can’t take a life without first understanding just how feeble life is, how tentative and weak it stands alone. If you desire murder, you hold a life in your hand. Whether you release it to grant life or grip tighter to end it, it is at your command and discretion.
Gabriel is a serial killer with a story he wants told.
Christian Maxwell studied abnormal psychology in college but chose instead to focus on a career in writing. His background comes in handy when he thinks of writing about a serial killer. He can’t think of anyone more qualified to write the story of Gabriel Lee Church, and do so in the murderer’s own words. It’s been done before, but never with a killer who has yet to be captured or convicted.
There was never anything more than a gentleman’s understanding between the two men that Christian would record Gabriel’s life story. The killer did not ask for his complicity in any crimes, nor did he ever ask for his silence. Christian’s interest in the man, though, is fast becoming something more than academic. When the writer and his subject become unexpected friends and then lovers, the question remains: What is Gabriel’s endgame . . . and why does he want his story told?
You can follow Rodd at these sites: