New interview with thriller novelist Stephen Clark

Novelist Stephen Clark joins me today to
chat about his new crime thriller, Hands Up.
Stephen Clark
is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los
Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of
Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey
with his wife and son.

Hands Up will be released on September 28th and is now available for pre-order at a special discount.
back to Reviews and Interviews. Please tell us about your newest release.
follows three people who are on a
collision course after a deadly police shooting spins their lives into chaos.
Officer Ryan Quinn, who was on the fast track to detective until he shot an
unarmed black male, embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to choose
between conscience and silence. Jade Wakefield, an emotionally damaged college
student who lives in one of the city’s worst neighborhoods, wants to find the
truth and get revenge after learning that there’s more to her brother’s death
than the official police account. Kelly Randolph, who returns to his hometown broke
and broken after abandoning his family 10 years earlier, seeks forgiveness
while mourning the death of his son. But when he is thrust into the spotlight
as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and
threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.    

inspired you to write this book?
After a
series of high-profile police shootings of unarmed black people in recent years,
I wanted to examine race relations in America in a fresh way. A way that
illuminated persistent challenges and evasive solutions. But instead of offering
another tearjerker, fiery sermon or racial morality tale, I set out to create a
unique story with unbearable suspense and memorable characters for an
unforgettable experience.
from Hands Up:
I’m not a murderer.
I’m not
a murderer.
I’m. Not. A. Murderer.
Oh, who was I kidding? No matter how many times
or ways I said that to myself in the bathroom mirror, it didn’t change the fact
that I had just killed someone. A teenager. An unarmed black teenager. Yet
everyone kept telling me not to worry: My partner. My superiors. The lawyer I
just met. They all said it was a justified shooting. But truth be told, I
wasn’t so sure about that. I wasn’t so sure about anything anymore – especially
whether I’d get away with it.
I splashed some cold water on my face and
studied my reflection in the grimy mirror. My eyes were bloodshot and my face
paler than I had ever seen it. I looked like shit. Even worse, if I held my
head at a certain angle, I resembled a mugshot of a deranged suspect I recently
collared. I smoothed my close-cropped brown hair and tried to pull myself
together, but my mind was still in a fog. I needed to snap out of it – and fast.
Internal Affairs would arrive at my station any minute now.
As I wandered back to the interrogation room, adrenaline
was still burning through my veins like a raging wildfire. I should’ve never
agreed to do an interview so soon after the shooting. My partner convinced me I
would be able to remember all the details better if I gave a statement right
away. But I didn’t realize I would get caught up in a whirlwind of emotions
after the numbness of the initial shock wore off. I tried to buy myself some
time by telling the lawyer for the police union that I needed a few days before
I’d be ready to answer questions. But Harrison Clyne advised me against delaying
the interview because he thought it would look suspicious. Although I had just
met him, I had complete confidence in Mr. Clyne. Maybe it was his graying temples,
professorial glasses or formal manner of speech. Whatever it might have been that
inspired confidence, it definitely wasn’t his shabby off-the-rack suit.
I hated the interrogation room we were waiting
in. It reeked of body odor, stale cigarette smoke and burnt coffee. I looked
around the poorly lit, windowless room and saw cigarette butts scattered on the
floor. Even if I was a potential suspect in a criminal investigation, they didn’t
have to treat me like a criminal. It was bad enough when my supervising
sergeant took my .45 caliber Glock after escorting me back to the station. They
could’ve held this interview in the carpeted conference room with the fancy
swivel chairs that overlooked the parking lot. I suspected my bosses wanted to
send me a message: I wasn’t going to get special treatment.
Finally, a man in a charcoal suit walked into
the room and introduced himself as Nate Wiley, the internal affairs detective.
My insides froze as soon as I saw that he was black. With supreme confidence
and an unmistakable intensity, the detective took a seat in one of the metal
folding chairs across from me and Harrison. Dark-skinned and bald with a
vaguely sinister mustache, he appeared to be in his early 40s. He was
articulate and polite, but I still didn’t trust him. There was no way he’d let
me slide if I hesitated, even for the briefest second, in my recollection.
What’s the
next writing project?
A missing
girl thriller set in the Deep South with a deaf female protagonist.
What is
your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with
this book)
The biggest
challenge in writing Hands Up was depicting the harsh realities of policing and
living in a high-crime neighborhood without perpetuating racial stereotypes or glorifying
violence. Adding to that challenge was trying to navigate this current cultural
minefield of extreme political correctness. In fact, my initial editor split
with me over creative differences after taking offense to how some of the black
characters spoke and were portrayed. This editor wanted everyone to speak the
King’s English, but that’s not the world I recognize or want to portray. I
believe as artists, we should strive for authenticity, no matter how
controversial the subject matter.     
If your
novels require research – please talk about the process. Do you do the research
first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you
need to fill in the gaps?
plays a never-ending role in my novels. From conception to outlining to writing
and rewriting to final edits, I am constantly researching, among other things, the
jobs my characters hold, the cities they live in and the specific incidents
they’re involved in. For example, in Hands Up, I needed to learn everything I
could about the administrative process for cops after they’re involved in controversial
police shootings. My research aided me in every stage of the writing process
and affected the events of the book from the very first chapter.
your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse
is more active? Please tell us about it.
It’s been
said that a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind, and a messy desk is a sign of
genius. So I’m happy to say that my writing space resembles a disaster area. In
my house, I have a den all to myself for writing. But I’m not sure the
isolation and relative silence is the best place for me to invoke my muse. I
believe I was more inspired when I had to write my first novel and most of my
second one amid chaos in a crowded living room of my apartment in the Bronx.     
authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
My good
friend Jonathan Abrams recently released his second book, “All The Pieces
Matter,” an oral history of The Wire, an HBO drama rightfully considered one of
the best shows ever.  
additional you want to share with the readers today?
Thank you so
much for hosting me on your blog again and giving authors a platform to discuss
their books. I hope to continue this discussion with readers on social media.  

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Thank you
for coming back to Reviews and Interviews!

Don’t forget! Hands Up will be released on September 28th and is now available for pre-order at a special discount.

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