Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Aaron Philip Clark Interview - Blue Like Me

Photo Credit: Stanley Wu

Aaron Philip Clark is a native of Los Angeles, CA. He is an ITW Thriller Award-nominated novelist and screenwriter. His most recent novel, UNDER COLOR OF LAW, is inspired by his experiences in the LAPD and was published by Thomas & Mercer on October 1, 2021.

Clark's forthcoming novel, BLUE LIKE ME, will be published on November 8, 2022, and is the second installment in the Detective Trevor "Finn" Finnegan series.

As a self-described "son of the city," Clark takes pleasure and finds inspiration in exploring the many facets of Los Angeles.

Greatest thing you learned in school.
I’ve always treated school as a practice field for life, and it was a good training ground for the creative challenges I would face after graduating. As a creative writing MFA student, I needed tough skin. Since I was the only student writing genre fiction, I didn’t always receive peer feedback in the spirit of improving my writing. There was a sense that genre fiction was less important than what’s commonly seen as literary fiction; therefore, some didn’t think it required the same level of respect and consideration. After a few semesters of contentious workshops, I found tranquility. I focused on my story, and once I was three chapters in, I saw the finish line and just kept writing no matter the feedback I received. That was my thesis novel, THE SCIENCE OF PAUL, which was published in 2011.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Being able to connect with writers I've long admired.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
Around 7 or 8, I had the notion I wanted to be a writer and a visual artist. I loved comic books and superheroes and was swept away in the fantastical aspects of being superpowered, but I was also interested in the struggles and difficulties associated with being a hero. I remembered reading Spider-man and X-men comics and marveling at the sophistication of storytelling. Sure, they were superheroes, but they were also human. Spider-man dealt with the struggles of being a teenager and the guilt of losing his beloved Uncle Ben. Wolverine was traumatized by a violent past and desperately wanted to prove violence wasn’t inherent to his nature.

I had a wonderful summer school teacher who encouraged my imagination. I spent that summer writing three stories about superpowered beings tasked with saving the world, even though the world treated them cruelly.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Following your instincts is the best advice I can share with budding writers. A writer knows their story better than anyone, and while feedback is good, a writer should never allow it to demotivate or discourage them from seeing their story through until the end. It takes time for a writer to find their footing and “voice,” so allow time for the process.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
My film and TV management team is working on a deal to adapt the first Trevor Finnegan novel, UNDER COLOR OF LAW, into a TV series. I was lucky enough to write the script.

In addition, I’m completing a thriller set in the music industry and inspired by the works of Patricia Highsmith. I hope to return to the Trevor Finnegan novels after completing my current writing projects.

In your newest book; BLUE LIKE ME, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
BLUE LIKE ME is the follow-up to UNDER COLOR OF LAW, the first Det. Trevor Finnegan novel. It’s set in Los Angeles, and centers on ex-LAPD Detective turned private-eye, Trevor “Finn” Finnegan. Trevor's mission is to expose police corruption. While surveilling two potentially dirty cops, Sally Munoz, Trevor’s ex-partner, and Martin Riley, he witnesses Riley's execution by an unknown assailant. In an instant, Trevor goes from private eye to eye witness. It isn’t long before Sally comes to Trevor for help solving Riley’s murder. A reluctant Trevor knows to keep his distance. Sally could be crooked, along with Riley. But his reluctance ends when his "uncle" is murdered, and he soon realizes Riley's killer may be responsible. Trevor and Sally will have to join forces to catch the killer before more cops die or they, too, end up in the killer’s crosshairs.

  • Compelling and flawed characters you’ll root for.
  • Scenes are set in parts of Los Angeles County that are less known and hopefully provide a fresh perspective of the city.
  • A multilayered mystery that’ll keep you guessing until the end.
  • Pays homage to classic LA noir novels like THE LONG GOODBYE.
  • Examines complicated personal and professional relationships.
  • A good dose of realistic action.
  • Trevor drives a very fast Ford Falcon.
  • Poorly lit dive bars and strong drinks.
  • LAPD history.
  • A nontraditional love triangle if there is such a thing.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Hopefully, the novel will wildly entertain readers with humanistic characters and plenty of twists and turns, but thematically it explores the impact of toxic relationships. It doesn't matter if relationships are personal or professional, they can be unhealthy and psychologically damaging if they're toxic. When I was training in the LAPD academy, there was this “us against them” mentality, and even if a person didn’t overtly agree with it, over time they adopted the same thinking because they aligned themselves with training officers or classmates that believed that way. I saw people negatively influenced by relationships that led to changes in their fundamental beliefs.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I approach characters like human beings and enjoy building backstories that inform their decisions and, hopefully, make them believable.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing BLUE LIKE ME?
There’s a moment in the book when Trevor and Sally interview a retired detective living in deceased LAPD Cheif Daryl Gates’s old townhouse in Monterey Hills. It was such a fun scene to write because it was inspired by personal history. My grandmother lived three townhouses down from Gates, and I often saw him sitting on his balcony smoking a cigar and looking out at the LA skyline. Years later, when I was much older, I wondered what he was thinking. Maybe something as weighty as his legacy and impact on the city, or something as innocuous as what he planned to have for dinner--who knows?

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
It’d be fun if Trevor Finnegan met Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins. Easy would naturally be much older, but I feel they’d have a good amount in common. Their discussions could span Black history, a gentrifying Los Angeles, and the LAPD.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from BLUE LIKE ME
  • Pop will never admit it, but he’s drowning in loneliness, which makes my coming to his condo at 11:30 p.m. opportunistic and selfish. But on a night like this, I don’t want to be alone.
  • It doesn’t take crack detective skills to surmise that Bergman loves the law but hates being a lawyer.
  • It’s like I can smell her complacency; it’s how I’d expect a big-game hunter to smell after killing a defenseless elephant.
  • I stare into her big green eyes, pondering why some people are criminals. Especially people like Cassandra, whose privilege is only heightened by her intellect and allure.
  • “We Finnegans court disaster.”
What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Probably quit writing and join the LAPD.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Pick a country at random and travel there.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Riding my bike after school through a field of sprinklers on a hot day.

How far away from your birthplace do you live now?
About thirteen miles, which translates to thirty minutes in LA traffic.

What were you doing at midnight last night?

Best date you've ever had?
A dinner of Cuban cuisine set to live jazz on a January night near Redondo Beach.

A brutal homicide sets an ex-cop and his former partner on the hunt for an enigmatic killer in a gripping thriller by the author of Under Color of Law.

When former detective Trevor “Finn” Finnegan became a PI, he adopted a new mandate: catch the LAPD’s worst in the act. While on surveillance in Venice Beach, Finn tails two potentially dirty cops: Detective Martin Riley and Finn’s ex-partner, Detective Sally Munoz. Things take a deadly turn when an unknown assailant executes Riley and wounds Munoz. In an instant, Finn goes from private eye to eyewitness.

Munoz needs Finn to help find Riley’s killer, but doing so could blow his cover. She’s an officer shaded by rumors. Maybe she’s still a good cop—but maybe she’s not. Finn’s reluctance ends when his dear “uncle,” an ex-LAPD detective, is murdered, and it might be connected to Riley’s death.

To prevent more bloodshed and avoid becoming the next targets on the killer’s list, Finn and Munoz will have to bury their complicated past, trust each other, and come face-to-face with painful secrets that could destroy them both.

You can purchase Blue Like Me at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you AARON PHILIP CLARK for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Blue Like Me by Aaron Philip Clark.