In this podcast, Jordan Harper talks about Everybody Knows, James Ellroy, Black-Bag PR, and much more.
About Jordan Harper
Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He now lives in Los Angeles where he works as a writer and producer for television. His best-known books are She Rides Shotgun and Everybody Knows. In Hollywood, he is best known for The Mentalist, Gotham, and Hightown.
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Author Carson Winter presents Soft Targets, a novella of new weird horror out March 22 from Tenebrous Press.
Corporate Body by R. A. Busby
Now available in paperback from Mother Horror and Cemetery Gates Media.
Michael David Wilson 0:07
Welcome to This Is Horror Podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. And every episode alongside my co-host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers and creatives about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Jordan Harper. We spoke to him just a couple of episodes ago, but we wanted to get him back to really go in-depth on his latest novel, everybody knows, it is the most James Ellroy thing he has ever written. It is a hard boiled LA page-turner while simultaneously being a really modern novel in which there is an awful lot of relevant social commentary. So get ready for us to really go in depth on that one. But before any of that, it is time for a quick advert break.
Bob Pastorella 1:32
Author, Carson Winter, presents Soft Targets and develop new word heart out March 22. From tenebrous press, a pair of Office drones to discover a loophole and time that makes some days less real than others, allowing them to act on their darkest impulses without fear of reprisal. Their morals become more slippery and their fantasies more violent. And soon they will have to decide what line they won't cross soft targets in a timely reality bending novella about the easing surrender to violence and the addictive appeal of tragedy is entertainment. More information at tenebrous press.com. impoverished college dropout Nick is desperate for money, so he signs up for highly experimental study at the isolated Drug Corp compound. Nick knows the study involves improving the human genome to extend life and he knows it involves some minor abdominal surgery, but he isn't prepared for the strange after effects the nausea the itching, the unusual abdominal swelling the internal squirming now available in paperback from mother horrid cemetery gates media Book number six in a my dark library line corporate body by our A Busby
Michael David Wilson 2:35
okay without sad here it is it is Jordan Harper on dare says horror. G'day and welcome back to This Is Horror. It is great to have you here to talk about everybody knows.
Jordan Harper 2:53
Thanks for having me. It's really good to be back. I'm glad we get to finish this conversation.
Michael David Wilson 2:57
Yeah. So I know to begin with of course in everybody knows one of the characters, one of the main characters that we're focusing on is May through it. Now she works for a crisis management firm. And I understand that in terms of preparing for this book, you actually spoke to somebody who worked within a crisis management firm, too. So I'm wondering, I mean, what kind of dealings have you had with people such as this, both for the prep and then generally in life,
Jordan Harper 3:40
I haven't in my real life. In my real life, I haven't had a lot of contact with these people. But I had a friend who is a former journalist who knew somebody one of these firms who was also a former journalist, which is not unusual, a lot of PR people start as journalists and then go where the money is. And so that's how I made this connection with the person that I spoke to. You know, I used to be a music journalist, I have dealt with PR people but the much more benign version of like band reps and you know, people who email you to make sure you find out about the concerts that are coming to town and yeah, you know, I even hired a PR person for everybody knows, to help publicize the book, because one thing you learned by doing all this is that that stuff is hugely important. And, you know, again, I don't I there's a huge difference between a normal PR person and and a crisis manager who is really oftentimes dealing not just with bad people, which we're all familiar with those stories, but also with bad corporations. So there's, you know, a thing that is mentioned in the book, there's a scene fairly early on, where maybe goes to a staff meeting, and they kind of run through all of the different jobs that the crisis management firm is working on that week. And that really is a laundry list of real things that crisis management firms do, including rehabilitating bad men and and also though they talk about there's a strike going on at a warehouse or a possible strike, there's a unionization move. And they are working to smear the union reps because they are being hired by the company. And they don't want, you know, a union. So that's something else that crisis management firms and black bag PR people do is, is not just keep stories out, but but aggressively push stories in the interest of powerful people. And, you know, when I talked to this person, their position was, we're just like defense attorneys, like everybody has the right to a defense. And therefore, everybody also has a right to have their side of the story told which you almost buy for a half a second, before you realize that, like, we have public defenders, like we actually do give poor people, lawyers, because we believe that they have the right to a defense. We don't give poor people crisis management firms only rich people get that. So the idea that this is somehow a right, that that is equal to being defended in a court is bullshit. It's just justification after the fact, you know, and I will say that, like my experience with these people, you know, I write may as a character who knows she's doing something that's morally questionable, but it's exciting. And she's paid well, and and, and it's conflicting for her. That's not the experience I've had interacting with people in this field is they they don't have, I think that's the truth about a lot of crime fiction is we want to give feelings to sometimes people who often are just flat and shallow and like, Oh, I do it because I get paid really well. You know, that by itself is not a great motivation for a character in a book to just do it for the money. So we are always, but sometimes that's just it, I found this job, I have a communications degree. This paid better than that. And so this is what I do. And now I've built after the fact justifications for it, you know?
Michael David Wilson 6:57
Yeah. And I think something that you deal with in this and you dealt with as well, I think in she rode shotgun, certainly a little less kind of in your face. But is this idea of truth and versions of the truth? And does truth, even matter? And I mean, I wonder, first of all, how much do you personally think truth matters? Are there any kinda lines on that? Is it a less cut and dry answer than one might assume? And how much do you think, you know, any of us? Or if we, if we had to be absolutely honest and authentic? How often are we even being truthful anyway? And are there just a number of masks that we wear for different roles?
Jordan Harper 7:58
Well, you know, I think that is a great starting point for this, because everybody knows, particularly there's this idea of masks and things beneath the surface. But something that I think is articulated in the novel, at least, I mean, for it to be articulated is sometimes the secret self, we all assume that there's like the mask that you wear, and that's fake. And then there's your secret, true self. And that's the truth. But my belief is that the mask is as much you as the thing that's inside you. And again, like Mei kind of justifies what she does in the book by by feeling bad about it. So she secretly feels really bad about it, that must mean that secretly, she's a good person. And that's the truth. And the things that you do on the surface is a lie. But I actually think that there is no singular self, like you're, you know, like, the masks are all that's there. And I mean, to get real high flute with if you get to, like, you know, look Lacanian thought of like the idea that, that there is a factual real world out there that comes through our senses, and therefore it's distorted, and then goes through our subconscious and is distorted even more. I do think you get to a place where, like, the truth matters, and, and you have to strive for it. But like, there's a lot of truths that move beyond facts, like one of the dumbest things anybody's ever said is, isn't Ben Shapiro who says it who's like, facts don't care about your feelings, right? But here's the why that's bullshit. Feelings are facts. Like your feeling about something is a fact like you that is part of your cognition is the way you feel about things. And that's not made up that is a thing happening in your brain. So I mean, now we're just kind of going off into the philosophy of that stuff. But I do think, you know, when you when you bring up the right shock, and you get to an idea that I have aware, the factual the facts of the matter aren't that important, which is like the bear. You know, Polly has this pet or this teddy bear, who ate the lunch He puts his he isn't real, but he's true. And which means that she knows that he's not alive. Like she's not crazy, but it doesn't matter that he's not alive because she treats him like he's alive, and therefore, in a non factual way, but in a true way he is alive. You know, and that's the benign version of, of muddling the facts and truth. And then what may does is the other side of it, where it's not so. But you know, it's it's the idea that like, stories are so powerful that they kind of transcend fact that and I try and deal with it. And everybody knows without spoiling the ending, for anybody listening, I just want to point out when you get to the very end of the book, part of what made does is her plan is an act of deceit, there is an act of deceit in the final pages that she does to bring about the ending. And that was very intentional. I really wanted to get across the idea. I think there's a lot of mystery novels that act like once the truth is exposed. The story is over, because now we all know the truth. And that guy isn't the bad guy. So he can be arrested. And we're done. And I don't believe in that world, I think the real world is very clear that just the revelation of the truth doesn't usually in that many things. There's lots of people walking around where we know what they did, you know, and if the world doesn't do anything about it, just the revelation is meaningless. And so I really wanted to get those ideas across in the ending that I think people who are used to a traditional detective structure might find that ending unsatisfying, but I find the other kind of ending unsatisfying, so this is the what I had to do to tell this story.
Michael David Wilson 11:45
Hmm. Yeah, and talking about looking at what is traditional, and then kind of what you want to do. I mean, something that's quite distinct, certainly, in my reading is when we think about LA noir, we're often looking at the stories that are set in the past. I mean, classic, classic decades would be like the 50s, and the 60s, also, some in the 80s, as well. But here, you very much set this in the present and very much with, you know, me, too, going on as well. So I mean, let's talk about the importance of setting. Everybody knows in the present, and was this an element that you knew had to be in the story from the start? Was this an ingredient that came later, please talk us through this?
Jordan Harper 12:47
Well, I don't remember how much less than we talked, we talked about LA Confidential and me doing that pilot, I think we brought it up some. But so I had done the LA Confidential pilot, and it had not gone to series. And obviously, that's set in the 1950s. And I came out of that process, believing that the LA noir set in the 1950s might just be done as an area of storytelling that Elroy did it better than anybody ever will. And then in the recent past, there have been some, frankly, LA or Elroy knockoffs that have not done it well and have kind of created an exhaustion. And also, there's just the plain fact that like, we've been mythologizing the 50s for a really long time now. And the 50s are a long time ago. So actually, I've said this before, you brought up the 80s. But I would love to see more la stuff, period pieces set in the 80s. And in fact, I'm working on an idea right now, with that being done, but so I come out of LA LA Confidential with all this Ellroy energy that I really wanted to tell a big epic la story. But having just done the 50s it was really important to me, this was the entire like, you know, genesis of the novel was that I wanted to try and figure out what that story looked like today. Because I didn't want to go backwards. I wanted to be right now in the world that I live in that I'm an active part of. And so to me, that's like the key to the whole thing. And why I think it felt so much fun to write was because I felt like I was doing something that nobody else had done, as opposed to when you're going through the 50s. And you're putting the fedoras on the guys and it starts to feel I tried to rule in the LA Confidential pilot. We didn't let our guys wear fedoras. Yeah, because I felt like the moment you put a fedora on it feels costume. We just seen it so many times. I had a conversation with one of the actors on set because he came in wearing a fedora that they put on on costume. I had to be like, I'm sorry, I know it's accurate. I know that if we were making a documentary that people would be wearing hats, but we're not and I and I don't want it but I also feel like that should have been a warning sign for me. The moment you're making a pile would use for what you're doing or like that. That may be maybe this is just an area that is, you know, doesn't need to keep going. And so I wanted to the challenge of like, you know, there's a lot of talk you hear authors and screenwriters sometimes say that modern technology has made stories too difficult. That, you know, cell phones ruin everything. And can you guys hear that wild bird that's flying?
Michael David Wilson 15:30
I can, yeah. If anyone can see the video, like, I'm just kind of laughing like, What the fuck is this? I mean, yeah.
Jordan Harper 15:42
I don't know what that was. We have, you know, actually, it's a plot point. And everybody knows that we have wild parrots in Los Angeles that fly overhead. And they I don't think that's what that was. But they they do live in this neighborhood. Sometimes. I saw some this morning. So I'm sorry, I have to do this outside. I know, it's not optimal. Podcasting, but life comes at you pretty fast.
Michael David Wilson 16:02
Jordan Harper 16:06
And so like, Yeah, I mean, I just really, I think, there, there's lots of La crime fiction being written right now. But that is set now. But nothing that's doing this kind of big, epic take on it. I think that's what made this feel special to me. And so that's why it was really important to do that.
Michael David Wilson 16:23
Yeah. And, I mean, of course, in terms of LA, as a place, I mean, we've seen like a number of films and books recently, such as Tarantino's once upon a time in Hollywood, perhaps being the most obvious example. But I mean, how important do you think places in fiction for you? And then what are some elements that are uniquely la that you though, this absolutely has to be in this is integral to the story.
Jordan Harper 17:04
I mean, you know, the obvious first part is just the the industry itself that that we are telling Hollywood entertainment story that just wouldn't feel really anywhere else. Maybe you could do something similar in New York, but like, so that was a huge part of it. I love Los Angeles and I love you know, the different sections and neighborhoods, I tried to get as many different ones as I could. It's a very it's very much my Los Angeles, you know, there's not a lot on the west side in everybody knows, because I live I live farther east and you know, but I wanted it to me like Korea Town, I put, I had Chris, the second POV character of everybody knows I put him in an apartment building and I know exactly where it is, because I want him to be able to look down on a very specific strip mall that I think is the epicenter of the best food neighborhood in America is just that the amount of great restaurants that are right that radiate from that location is it's ridiculous. And they are 95%. Korean we have the largest Korean population in the world outside of Korea in Los Angeles. And so, you know, I really wanted to get that in and just the the different elements of food that I gave Chris, almost, it was important to me to not have a tough guy who drinks whiskey. I just feel like we've seen that. So I thought well, what let's have a tough guy who who kind of eats too much junk food and gets heartburn. I have him you know, eating Korean fried chicken and tacos and Japanese curry and all the things that I eat because I I've been sober for 16 years. So I don't have any connection to like to, you know, drinking and the hard guy. It's been a long time for me. So I really wanted to do something that felt unique and La based, you know?
Michael David Wilson 18:52
Yeah. Yeah. And I'm wondering, and so this is like going a little bit away. Well, a lot away from the story. But since you mentioned being sober for 16 years, was that like, I guess what, what was the moment where you decided you wanted to be sober or you needed to be sober?
Jordan Harper 19:17
I mean, that's a that's that's an interesting question. It was. Honestly, I was at a a function, a business function for my, the, my significant other at the time. And some people were playing drinking games, and I started playing the drinking games and basically woke up the next morning with like, this deep shame that, you know, it had been a problem for me for a while. It wasn't that I had to drink every day. It's just when I drank I drank very heavily and I used it as a crutch for my anxiety and things like that. And I you know, I didn't I don't go to AAA. I've never done any of that stuff. I just quit on my own. And I thought my life And around rapidly, like, I think I went from getting sober to working in television in the space of a year or two. And, yeah, it was a pretty huge shift in my life. And I don't miss it at all. And I don't get I don't subscribe to whatever works for anybody else. I'm not a cop. If somebody likes going to A, that's their business. For me, it's never appealed to me. And I feel like one of the things that doesn't appeal to me about it is to kind of live in that space all the time, where they're like, every day, they have to get up and say they're an alcoholic. And again, it feels like I'm being critical. If it works for them great for me. I live a life where I don't think about it anymore. It's been 16 years, like, why should I think about it anymore. And, and I'm not saying I've solved all my problems or that I'm better. But like I have, you know, I've built a life where I can drink non alcoholic beer, because sometimes you want something with food that doesn't taste sweet, or it's just water, I can do all of that. And I can live around it. And I don't you know, if I'm at a, I don't go to a lot of bars, obviously. And if I'm hanging out with people, and they order their fourth drink, I tend to leave not like not in a huff, I just find like, oh, there will be a moment where everybody, somebody will say something sort of funny, and everybody else will laugh really hard. And I'll be like, Oh, I'm not. I'm not on the vibe with everybody else anymore. Because I'm not drinking. And that's usually when I leave, which works out fine. Again, that's not it's not a bad thing. And so, yeah, it was just something you know, I'd started in college, I did drugs before that. But like, drugs were never compromised. Alcohol was the problem. And it just was it was too easy. And I'd done it for too long. And I was I think I mentioned earlier, I was a rock journalist for a couple of years. Yeah. That's a great way to go ahead. And if you already have unhealthy drinking habits, becoming a rock critic, where your job is to go to bars and nightclubs every night, yeah, is a really good way to solidify very unhealthy drinking habits. So yeah, so that's what it was. And then, you know, I finally got to a place where when I was living in New York, where I had that very embarrassing moment where I humiliated somebody who was important to me, and I was just like, I'm not okay, I'm not doing this anymore. You know, and I, I felt like I needed to, but I'm extremely grateful, I guess to myself that I did, because I needed it. And my life is much better now.
Michael David Wilson 22:25
Yeah, yeah. And I relate to the things you're saying about the the rock journalism as well, because I used to work as a heavy metal journalist. So I'm, I'm guessing from the kinds of things that you've, you've said that maybe the bands that I was, like, interviewing and reviewing the gigs are a little bit heavier, you know, things like Pantera and orange goblin stuff like that, but ice? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Maybe the most surreal moment was going to meet like Vinnie Paul at about 1pm in a hotel, and he's just like drinking whiskey, which again, you know, it's showing the issue here with like, if you're trying to avoid drinking that kind of lifestyle, or that career is like, I mean, of course, you know, you can say you're not going to but there are going to be obstacles and social pressure and temptations
Jordan Harper 23:25
I was so I was the music editor for an alt weekly you know, like an independent newspaper and it was literally in my contract that I had to be had to go out to a bar or a nightclub four nights a week. So that was like baked into my career was an expectation that I would be at places and you know, you become a regular and all the nightclubs want you to write about them so they will give you drinks and yeah, you're Yeah, you know, so it's a very unhealthy if that is that if that's a weakness for you, then that is going to be a place where it's gonna come up I I really actually I really liked having I'm wearing a son
Michael David Wilson 24:05
Jordan Harper 24:06
And like orange goblin I like I really like that's my styles like that stone or metal. Yeah, zoom and stuff. That's been a lot of time listening. Like electric wizard, I think
Bob Pastorella 24:19
is Oh, yeah.
Jordan Harper 24:21
They're the one band I listened to a lot of music when I write and electric wizard is the only band I listened to while I write that has lyrics. Everything else. Yeah. And I'm told that like, their lyrics sank into the music so well that it doesn't distract me. So that's yeah, they're huge band for me.
Michael David Wilson 24:36
Yeah, yeah, we've hit on almost one of the danger topics where we could then stop writing for the for the entire hour, because I mean, yeah, kind of stoner rock and stone and metal. It's one of my favorite sub genres. I think the same for Bob. I mean, like, obviously, you mentioned electric wizard that stuff like Weed Eater, which is an amazing name. That's I hate God, which is kind of tangential to that stuff. Yes. Sleep. Early grant. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, just
Jordan Harper 25:13
Yeah. I mean, even in the the last king of California, there's a scene where the main character goes to the band has never named, but he goes to a sun concert without knowing what he's going to and gets blown away by it. But I never named the band I like it better. Where he just like, sees these guys and robes and the giant stacks of speakers and kind of has his mind blown by it, but because, yeah, I love that band, too. I've, uh, I've taken a lot. And actually, I just recently saw them here in LA, and I paid extra to go to the soundcheck and I swear that this has a point besides just nerding out. Because basically, you get to see them play without the roads without the smoke just doing it. And then they do a q&a. And a lot of the q&a is for like real gearhead types where they're asking about like, the pickups on their electric guitars and things like that. I don't know anything about that stuff. But I've actually done this before, and I saw them give a speech and somebody asked like if they had any like advice to pass on. And they told this story about having when they first started being a band, they were in a they were in a studio here in Eagle Rock, which part of Los Angeles I'm in right now. And there was a hippie who had like the studio next to theirs. And he gave them this piece of advice, which was just basically the phrase, like beginner's mind, which is just basically the idea of like, no matter how far into your art you go, always remember, like, what got you into it? What got you excited about it? Like, what, what was your initial love, and never let go of that and try and if you get tempted to become artsy or like, you know, become artsy, but don't forget, like and for what they said was like, and so we always try to remember that we got into this, like big, loud, dumb, heavy metal. And, yeah, when they've done, they've done concerts in, you know, art galleries in France, or in churches, or whatever it is. They just try and always keep that in their heart that like, we're here to play big, dumb, loud, heavy metal. And I've always kept that. That's like a piece of wisdom that I think about all the time about, like, you know, I like to try and straddle that thing between, like, I like to do genre work that is executed at the level of literary fiction. That's my goal. But I always try and just remember, like, the things that blew me away about crime fiction when I was a kid, or a teenager in my 20s. Like, never lose sight of that. Never, never try and always try and write a book for that guy like that. You know that I do big pulpy crime fiction. And if there's more to it than that, that's great. But that's, that's what brought me to the show. And I need to remember that so I've always been, I really am very impressed by them as as artists, you know,
Michael David Wilson 28:03
yeah. Yeah. And I think for anyone listening who hasn't heard sun, they're almost impossible to describe, like, if somebody said, What is this band? Like, it's like, like nothing you've ever fucking had before.
Jordan Harper 28:21
I was like, I will sometimes listen to them on on record, but I do believe that they are a live band at heart that like what you can get into a record is one thing, but when you are there live because again, like you're saying, they're hard to describe, but the basically they play very deep, long sustained hordes of heavy metal guitar. Louder than you believe as possible. Like, yeah, you know, you're standing at the front row, and letting it hit you like that. It's really intense and incredible. And like, you know, and again, I do listen to the record sometimes and and I'd recommend that people do so. But like, if you ever get a chance to see them live, you will not walk away going like well, I've seen that before. Like, it's truly on a different level. So I really Yeah, I agree that I really obviously wearing a hoodie. Yeah, I'm on and I've got multiple posters in my office from shows I've seen and stuff so yeah, I'm a big fan of theirs.
Michael David Wilson 29:19
Yeah, yeah. I guess when I said they were impossible to describe, I meant more like impossible to honestly compare with other brands because you you can literally describe what you're gonna, what you're gonna get, but I feel like you're not capturing it. Yeah, yeah, that's it. I mean, as you say, particularly if you see them live, you're going to feel the music with your entire body. both literally and more metaphorically. I mean, yeah, it's gonna go through you. But I mean, I don't know how we Even segway back to everybody knows, but I just got to do a hard segway. Yeah. Oh, I'm gonna try and segue. I mean, we're talking about originality here and kind of doing their own thing, inventing things. Well, black bag publicists. That is a term that you invented for this novel. So yeah, I mean, talk us through that.
Jordan Harper 30:31
Well, you know, I think I think I just needed a term and I love the idea. And I think in the initial drafts of the book, I made it a little too of a gag, because I always had it may carry like a black leather purse. And that was like a signature person. It's a bag. Yeah. And I kind of like, okay, I don't that's not a necessary component for it. But I just wanted crisis management is obviously a term created by people who want to hide what they're doing, you know, so I wanted, like a cooler phrase. And I was also just thinking about John lecarre. A when he wrote Tinker, tailor, Soldier Spy. Oh, yeah, needed a term for the the spy who's undercover and another spy agency. And so he just made up, he just made up the term mole. He just said you call somebody like that. And now that that phrase that using mole in that way is just part of the English language, you know? And then he actually like, and I was just thinking, like, again, dream of all dreams is that like, somebody else will write an article about an actual crisis management firm and call them a black bag PR firm. Yeah. And then like, it will just spread. So that's the term for it. And then I will have like, impressed upon the English language, my little contribution. And I think that would be really cool. Because I do think it needs a term that wasn't created by the black bag, PR people, which is what crisis management is, is that as a term that was made to sound like, well, of course, if you have a crisis, you need to manage it, who would be opposed to crisis management, and, and what they actually do requires a little bit more, you know, exploration.
Michael David Wilson 32:05
Yeah. Yeah. And I, I mean, I love how kind of CDA is and elicit and, like, I feel like, you know, if you're talking about it, it's like, if someone's like, oh, you need a crisis manager, it's like, that doesn't sound so sexy. But if you've got a character in a novel, it's like, what you need is a black bag publicists or Mac Yeah, keep that on the down low. Be quiet. Don't Don't say that aloud in the bar. You're gonna get Yeah.
Jordan Harper 32:42
And you just know that that like, oh, well, they're up to no good. Yeah, black bag prs? That's not good. You just know, that's not the the hero isn't writing down on a white horse and saying I'm a black bag Publix list, you know? Yeah.
Michael David Wilson 32:54
Jordan Harper 32:56
And again, I just really wanted to try and capture it's on the corner of the book, just how much of our media is, is either, you know, PR people pitch article ideas to people, PR people provide written articles to people who are really lazy, who will just copy and paste press releases, you know, they, they filter everything, they spin everything. I don't think it's what happened last time, we talked if it had forgive me, but I read an article recently about a show I had worked on, right and every every sentence in it, that I knew whether or not it was true or false, was false. Like there was not a single sentence that I read, right? So though they got that detail, right. And they all got it wrong, in ways that were like, very obviously, massaging the truth to make people look good and to make things seem like the company was in control and like all of that stuff was going on. And it was such a again, in the thing that amazes me is and we're all guilty of this is if you've ever read an article about something you know about, it's like you're gonna see falsehoods, and you're gonna go, Oh, they got all that wrong, they got all that wrong, and then you're gonna turn the page, you read a news article about something else, and you're gonna believe it all, you know, like, and again, like it's been politicized by people who want to act like you know, fake news is something that is done to hurt corporations or it's done to hurt rich people, which is nonsense. It's almost always the other way. It's always coming from you know, the capitalist class the you know, the ownership class, all of that stuff. That's who is doing this and so like fake news, I wish I wish it wasn't so politicized because it's a pretty useful term, but um, but it now it carries too much baggage for that to be the term so I guess I need to meet with black bag PR. I can come up with a Yeah, another term that isn't so nakedly politicized. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 34:49
yeah, no, it is so politicized. And, also, I mean, I've noticed and I'm sure a lot of people have noticed too. It's like pee People will be quick to call out fake news, if it's because it's something that they oppose. But if it's fake news, and actually, this is something that would help their political agenda or their political beliefs, they're pretty silent on calling that out. You know? Yeah. And even it's like, well, I mean, if we're to make it American, which I mean, this conversation is about, you know, well, you're both American, this is in the US, but there'll be people who let, let's say that they're like, more more on the left. And it's like, well, here's, here's this article from Fox, that is absolute bullshit, there's fake news, or here's this news story. But you know, when there's another article where it's there, it's also problematic, but it's from CNN, little bit quieter about that one, and I just, I just feel that we all need to be more authentic and honest. And it's like, if we're going to call out one thing, then we should call out another thing?
Jordan Harper 36:15
Well, I, you know, I come from a position of like, you know, both MSNBC and CNN and Fox, they're all owned by different very rich people who are all essentially on the same team. And so, you know, I, so I won't start, you know, quoting Karl Marx yet, but like, I am capable of it. But like, if you really like, yes, they're all, it's all the same. And it can filter from those big issues that we're talking about. Now. It's like, anytime you read a news article, and the newspaper says, like, whoever it is, it doesn't matter. It could be a famous person, whatever, it's a release a statement through a spokesperson. That person had nothing to do with that statement, like nothing, when we all know it, we all know it for a fact that like, when they the phrase said through a spokesperson is essentially a lie. It means if they were being totally honest, they would say, you know that this famous person paid a spokesperson to say x, because, you know, that's who's actually crafting the message, the person in question might have never even read the message. You know, it's just, but we all treat it again, like that is a statement that they made. And we all, we all know that that's not true. And and, and when you start multiplying that on to infinity, where you get people reacting to statements that somebody never made, well, now, their news, their reaction is a lie. Because the initial statement, never really, you know what I mean? Like it mean, and you get to see where it just becomes this, like miasma of falsehood, where we're just talking about total bullshit all of the time. And so, you know, I just, I think all of that is like, really important. And I will also say, like, pretty hard to dramatize. So I think that was one of the real tricks of everybody knows was how to dramatize that kind of stuff in a thriller in a way that is entertaining and feels immediate, as opposed to like, kind of drifting off into abstraction, the way it's so easy to when you talk about these things.
Michael David Wilson 38:19
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, throughout the novel, you've got this, this chorus, this repeating, phrase, an idea that nobody talks about everybody whispers. I mean, this is central to both the novel and Hollywood. Now I'm wondering, as somebody living and working in LA, how does this mentality affect your well being? And how present? Do you think it is, in reality?
Jordan Harper 38:52
Oh, it's 100% present reality, I live that reality every day I live the reality of, you know, working in an industry where we talk about the famous people all the time, amongst ourselves. And that's just whether you're on set and you're sitting around the camera, you know, the video village, which is where you watch the camerawork and whatnot on a set, or if you're in a writers room, everybody has a natural curiosity, because we're also fans right? At the same time. Everybody wants to know, who else have you worked with? And were they monsters, and we talk about it all the time. And so I meant that you know, like, but none of us are going to the newspapers and saying this, and, you know, I we were talking about, I will not name the names here, but like I was talking about this this week is the concept of the open closet, which is the idea that there are people and again, you hear rumors about or whatever, like people who are openly gay in their private life, but not openly gay in the media, and you and particularly about male actors, because there's still unfortunately, there is a stigma about, you know, a gay man. And there are certain roles that they just don't give action roles to gay men, or whatever it is. And you can be in a writers room and have a very open Oh, yeah, he's, I've met his partner, they're, you know, they're lovely, whatever. And you would never say that to newspaper and you shouldn't like that as a case of like a good like that, because that's their choice. They get to decide how they're presented. But the you know, the, the much uglier flipside of that is that, you know, you just sit around and go, Well, how are they? And it's like, well, I'm not talking about the same people at all just saying, like, in a general sense, like, oh, you work with x, what do they like, and then they, you hear the story, and everybody goes, you know, the phrase that you use in the writers room, okay, this is, you know, cone of silence. And then you say, whatever it is, and you talk about the celebrity, and then everybody understands that you can tell other people in real life, who you meet about the stuff, but you would never say it in the media. And so that idea that nobody talks, but everybody whispers this specific, but again, I'm not comfortable saying the names, but I'll say the specific inspiration for that phrase for me personally, was, I was working on a TV show. This was years ago, and I had heard stories and multiple stories in that same way that I just described that there was a show runner, and another show for the same studio, who was a monster who was abusive to women and embarrass them in the room and said inappropriate things. And I was having drinks with an executive from that studio. And I just said, Hey, you none of I wasn't being a hero was being whistleblower, I was just saying, like, hey, just so you know, I heard this rumor that this guy is a real monster. And the executive just kind of gave this look of like, yeah, like, I know, like a very resigned like, yes, yes. And then three, like, three or four years later, yeah, when that guy was finally taken to task, and he was exposed, that same studio, and the people who worked with him put out statements of like, we had no idea that this was going on, I was like, and I knew for a fact, that was not true, because I knew about it. And I was just some other guy and some other show for the studio. So the idea that like that they that anybody involved, like why there was no reason why I as a mid level writer on a different show should have inside knowledge that wasn't available to all of these powerful people who are now just acting like they were shocked, shocked to hear this stuff. So you know, it's very real. And I think that experience, not just that specific one, but that's like, the one that really sticks with me was really intrinsic to, you know, deciding what part of Hollywood I wanted to write about. And, you know, I didn't want to write about it from the perspective of a TV writer who can hear about it not really do anything. And I didn't want to tell it from the perspective of a victim, because I feel like there are other people who can do that, and do that better than me. And so I wanted to basically give somebody my conflicted feelings about working in Hollywood, but kind of make them more complicit and more involved and more, like in the mix. And that's, that's really where the, where my story came from.
Michael David Wilson 43:17
Yeah. Yeah. And I'm wondering, too, I mean, how did you balance when writing this making, like important social commentary and statements on society on power on money, but also ensuring that you know, you were creating this hard boiled page turner?
Jordan Harper 43:41
Well, I mean, I think the luckily for me, my instincts always go towards the hard boiled page turner. And so that was the natural place and I've just, I always feel like, I'm very aware of this, like, I like thought provoking work. I like intelligent work, I like work with ideas in it. But to me, like, those kinds of things are like the bass notes in a song. Like, if you don't have them, the song becomes hollow and empty. But if that's what dominates the song, it's, it's probably not gonna be a very good song, you know, think of is just, which is weird, cuz we're just talking about son, but I mean, something very different. I mean, like, you know, that, like, it's something like that. My point is, is that the themes and ideas are there to serve an exciting story, not the other way around. The other way around is really good recipe for very bad fiction. You know, and I just think like, yeah, to me, my mantra is like, everything needs to serve the story that I think some people try and act like stories only worthwhile if they have a message or if that's, that's what makes the story worthwhile. And my belief is that stories are intrinsic good unto themselves. Like, like people want stories. They need stories to produce stories and entertain people. which is a good period. That's all you need. And if it has a theme, I think that enriches the story makes it deeper makes it resonate more. And that's good because it serves the story not because you're going to change the world with it. Now I have friends who are like activists and have a different view than this. And that's fine. They can, again, I'm not a cop, people do whatever they want. But for my work, I always want the the ideas to be there to make the story have more resonance, not, you know, not to think I'm going to change the world with what with what I'm doing, other than changing it the very good way of putting a good book in the world.
Michael David Wilson 45:36
Right? Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, we've spoke quite a bit about May, but we haven't spoken so much about Chris. So I'm wondering, you know, what, what was your as a broad kind of starting point? What was the inspiration? Or how did Chris, enter your life?
Jordan Harper 45:59
Well, you know, Chris is a more typical character than May is I think, you know, you have seen his type he is, you know, very much a character who, you know, is drawn from, like James Ellroy, I think, very clear antecedents, and Earl Roy's work. But what I really wanted to do was bring that guy into the present and D mythologize him quite a bit. I, you know, and also, and I hope this is apparent in the book that I just want to suggest a guy like that who's really good at violence, and not much else isn't actually that useful when you get to the end of the story. But I never I never have and I hope I never do write a novel where the the novel is, the ending is decided by who's a better puncher than another guy who's a better shot than another guy, because I just to me, that's meaningless. Like, oh, what a coincidence that the person who was morally right also happens to be the best shot like that. That is really, and again, there's 1000s of movies, where that's how it ends. And I love there are a lot of movies like that, that I love. But I just feel like to me, that's just profoundly uninteresting. And so I really wanted to play with that. And I also and this is where I will get I, you know, this is probably the most nakedly political thing in the book is, you know, I have fairly radical ideas about what I think police are good for, which is not much. And specifically, I have a real problem with the LAPD and the LA Sheriff's Department, which are pretty nakedly bad organizations. And so I really wanted to, you know, get in the stuff about the sheriff's gangs, which is headline news in LA, like this week, like, it's there, they're still being investigated. You know, the new sheriff is saying, He's going to eradicate them, which I will believe when he does it, and not a moment before. And that won't happen. And so I wanted to tell that story and make Chris, somebody who needs redemption. And and yet is not granted a Total Redemption, by the end of the book, I don't think he is, I think that I give him an ending where he can see a path out, but it's, I don't want to talk about the end too much. But it's based on the fact that he's not going to be able to do what he has done in the past, or that, you know, that he is not going. You know, and again, I also, you know, I didn't want to be so nakedly political, that I didn't make him sympathetic. I think he's very sympathetic. And like may both of them are people who admit to the wild thrill that doing these things give them and I think that's really important is to say that people can do things that both repulse them and excite them at the same time, and that those two feelings don't just go side and side, they're actually connected to each other that like, there's something thrilling about doing something that's repulsive. And there's something repulsive about being thrilled, in some ways, like, you know, that there's a weird sexual energy at certain points that like, shouldn't maybe be the moments that are sexual and like, right. And, you know, their relationship is very fraught because of that. But I think that I hope that I did something new with with Chris, like I said, I think on the surface when you describe him, Oh, he is a muscle bound guy who does favors for rich people. He's a fixer, who used to be a cop. I mean, that's Pete bond. From from L Royce books, it's a lot of other it's a Showtime show that was just on the air. Ray Donovan, Ray Donovan, thank you and and so I hope that again, like my decision to not have to have a drinking problem to have him eat food that he has these heart attack fantasies that are anxiety based, that again, you don't normally see a tough guy kind of like having panic attacks. Frankly, I just I hope I did something new and interesting with him because I really did like him as a character and I'm And I knew that like every every book I've written has had both a male and female protagonist with alternating viewpoints. And I think that's fairly unique in crime fiction, I think, particularly to do it kind of as a pattern in the new book I'm writing now has for right now, two male POVs and one female POV. So it's I started with she ride shotgun, and I just I haven't Alaska and California I have everybody knows I have a new book. I like living in both those places in fiction, because I think they're, there's a lot they do one or the other. You know, obviously, a lot of the stuff I'm drawing from, is very masculine and comes from a male point of view. Elroy never did a female protagonist. And, and, you know, most of those stories, even like, in a lonely place, which is like a very famous female penned novel, la noir, the protagonist is male, you know, so I really wanted to mess with that. And I think the other thing that is after Elroy, you know, one of my absolute favorite crime fiction authors is Megan Abbott and I, I really like trying to fit myself in this space between Elroy and Abbott. I think that's like a very interesting space that again, I don't know anybody else who's trying to hit that Venn diagram the way I am. So I think that really, again, helps me carve out my space that is unique to anybody else.
Michael David Wilson 51:24
Mm hmm. Yeah. And talking about Elroy, I mean, we mentioned last time that your literary agent is not so Bull. I feel that we almost glossed over that or we didn't follow up. We didn't talk about it. We didn't explain for anyone who isn't aware just how fucking important in you know the history of La noir, and hardboiled Nat Sobel is I mean, for goodness sake, American tabloid is dedicated to him. So, I mean, he's clearly you know, the dream agent for you. But how on earth did this dream become reality? How did you meet? How did he come to be your agent?
Jordan Harper 52:21
That's a great question. And I love to talk about that, as you said like nats hugely important in he's the I often refer to him as he's like the the the Lion of crime fiction agents, there's no second place. You're talking about a guy who who helped discover James Ellroy, who was I Lawrence blocks agent at one point he was he's just the list of people that he has represented as a who's who of crime fiction over the last 40 years, you know, and that's amazing. He's told me stories about he was in the room with Elroy when I'll recreated his literary style that became apparent in LA Confidential where the book was too long, and he had to cut a certain amount of words from the novel. And Elroy refused to cut any plot use cut any characters and they were just sitting there looking at at the manuscript, and suddenly Elroy just started crossing out words. Yeah, making a tire. And that's where that that Elroy that super hard boiled style that you really see that difference between you know, the big nowhere and Black Dahlia and then LA Confidential and everything after was born from necessity. But once you've done it, it was like, oh my god, I found this incredible style. That's so good for for hard boiled, and that was literally in the room. Just watch that half. Yeah. So actually, I haven't even I've just got the new Elroy biography Love Me fierce in danger, which I mentioned on two pages of which I first thing I did was open up the index and found my mentions, which is all about the pilot, but um, but nats all through the book, and I haven't talked to him about it yet, but I want to read it and talk to him about it. Because, you know, he was he's really important, not just again, not just to Elroy but a lot of other people at one point or another, now is their agent in this world. So I met him through Douglas, which I think I talked about a little last time is Robinson online magazine, and that being a dedicated student of crime fiction, found out about Thug Life, started reading it and started reaching out to people. And, and I was one of those people he read one of my short stories were my early short stories, and and liked it and asked me if I had a novel and at the time I was writing or had written a really bad novel that will never be published. And, and he read it and he gave me some notes. And then I tried to execute those notes. And again, this novel was bad to the bone. It was not ever going to be good. After four or five turnarounds with Nat I was like, I'm sorry. If I you know, thank you for taking your time with me, but I don't think this novel is working. And I put it to bed, which was really hard. Because when I first got that email from from, as you say, James Ellroy alliteration, I was like, ah, the break has happened, you know, I'm now on my path to success. And it was a much longer path. Because that was fairly that was a long time ago. And then we didn't speak for a couple of years, because I didn't have anything to show him. And then I was, you know, I'd been on the Midwest for a while this was all before I was in on The Mentalist or anything. And then I moved out to LA and I was on the Midwest for a while, and I got bored. And I did the self pubbed version of my short story collection, called American death songs where I just got bored and decided to collect a bunch of my short stories and put them out in a little edition called American death songs. And somebody gave NAT a copy of, of American death songs. And he reached out to me again, he's like, why did you self publish this? We could have published this, we could have sold it. And I was like, Really, I was like, nobody sells short story collections for crime fiction. And he's like, Well, tell you what, write up a two page description of whatever novel you're thinking about writing next. And I'll we'll sell this as a two book deal. And I wrote up a two page description of what would eventually become she rode shotgun. And he went out, he sold them. And I was like, well, job net. I mean, he's, he's amazing. And so that was a you know, so he's been my literary agent ever since. And him and his wife, Judith, who handles the the international sales for them, and he does the American sales. And, and they are, I mean, they are really amazing people who've had an incredible life and really have made like a huge imprint on American crime fiction, and I hope that they get the recognition for that, that they deserve.
Michael David Wilson 56:44
Yeah, yeah. Wow, this story is even more incredible that essentially, he read floodlit, he liked your story. He contacted you, like, yes.
Jordan Harper 56:56
And he's contacted other people at a thug life. I'm not sure if there's anybody but he is still rapping other than me that came out of there. I'm not sure probably like, you know, I know a lot of people who are not so well, clients or, you know, so. So yeah, he said, but no, that's just because he was he's, this is what he loves. He is out there right now. You know, he sent me a book this week, or last week to read saying, I think you'll love this. And if you love it, give me a blurb and we can use to try and sell it. He is out there. You know, he's been doing it for a long time. And he's a he's a true student of the art form.
Michael David Wilson 57:33
Yeah, yeah. And I love that, you know, he has this personal relationship with you and his clients and contacting you about books that he thinks he'll be interested in, and that he's always, you know, trying to learn to get better to master the genre, even more. I mean, if anyone could rest a little bit, or say, you know, I think my education is done, then, you know, I don't think you could create a science nap for doing that. But he's absolutely not all. It's like, look, you know, that decades ago, you discovered Elroy and you're still learning in 2023. I mean,
Jordan Harper 58:19
yeah, it's really amazing. He's Yeah, he's one of a kind. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah.
Michael David Wilson 58:27
Yeah. And I know that you met James Ellroy. So I'm assuming the story there is probably to do with the pilot for really confidential, but it's also my understanding that you have a voice message from him, too. So I mean, yeah.
Jordan Harper 58:47
Yeah, I, yeah. So it was it was in the period of time after we'd shot the LA Confidential pilot. We didn't know if it was gonna be a TV show or not. And we had hired some what do they call them? consultants, who helped us with the authenticity of the of the pilot who were retired cops who came up to me near the end of the shoot and said, Hey, we know Elroy because he knows a lot of cops. And he's like, no way we'd like to meet, we told him what we're doing. And he wants to meet you. And so and so they set it up, and he was introducing LA Confidential. The movie at the Egyptian, which is this grand old theater here in Los Angeles, and they were like, come to the green room beforehand, and meet him. And so I went, and I, you know, it was him. And all of these people who were old, retired cops who were all dressed like cops from LA Confidential, and, and he was, you know, he was very kind. We we started with a service on CBS. And I was like, yeah, he's like, so you can't say, and he just said a list of words you can't say on CDs. And I was like, you are correct, James Ellroy. And I was honest with him, and I said, I've said this before, but I was honest with him. I was like, You won't like it. You know, we, he doesn't like the movie. Right? And I think the movie is brilliant. But he doesn't like it. So I was like, if you don't like that you're not gonna like the CBS version. I tried my best, but like, but he was very kind. And I guess I don't remember I must have given him my phone number because he did call me a little while later, and just left a message that was very kind and and I've never erased it. I haven't listened to it in a while. So I hope it's still there. My God, I hadn't even thought about that. But like, just right now it was it was very thoughtful of him as and it and then the show didn't go to series. And I, you know, I didn't feel like I needed to I didn't want to call him back because I didn't want to intrude and it wasn't, didn't feel like that was what he wanted, either. So I hope not. I hope I didn't like turn away a friendship with Roy. But I think he just wanted to say good luck. And it was very kind of them. So
Michael David Wilson 1:00:54
yeah. Yeah, no, you should get that message again and find a way that you can record it. Even if it's like an imperfect recording, like you just put the phone on speaker and record it that way.
Jordan Harper 1:01:10
I mean, you're not wrong. I should do that. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 1:01:14
I mean, I'm just thinking about how the, you know, the different phones work. I mean, you could screen capture it and then get a pretty good recording. But yeah, you're talking about oh, I hope it's still that don't leave it to chance don't not have a backup for this. What is going on? Why is this helping? recoated? What? Why are you saying no, that's a good idea. Yeah, but
Bob Pastorella 1:01:43
I can if I can add on that. My day job is in the phone industry. And yeah, if you do happen to change a carrier, if that's a voicemail, you could potentially lose it. So okay, I would definitely make a recording of it.
Jordan Harper 1:02:00
That is no, I had never occurred to me. And now it is it is very obvious that I am if I have not already tempted fate, which I'm not going to look on the air and find out if I did.
Michael David Wilson 1:02:11
We don't want it on and break down.
Jordan Harper 1:02:17
Pretty amazing, though. I mean, I that whole board, even though it didn't become a TV show, which I really wish to add that it's just, I mean, one of the great things that I you know, I'm never gonna forget about my life is is that I got a chance to, like, live in the world of LA Confidential for a while.
Michael David Wilson 1:02:33
Yeah, yeah. And I can't help but I've noticed that you said, you know, he was introducing the movie LA Confidential. And then about a minute later, he revealed he doesn't like that movie. So it was me interested in taking the gig to introduce it, but also knowing that you don't like it, but then because it's James Ellroy. I could even imagine him just saying that. It's like what the fuck you get nailed, right?
Jordan Harper 1:03:02
I believe if I if I read it correctly, I believe that the this Elroy biography that I just mentioned, love me fierson Danger. says basically, like I said something. And then the guy said, Well, if Harper had stuck around for the screening, he would have heard Ellroy unload on LA Confidential the movie because I guess he literally in that introduction, said he didn't like he used to like back in when it was new. I think he used to play nicer about it, but I think he's yeah, pretty open and saying he doesn't like it. So yeah, so yeah, I think I I didn't stick around. I could have but I was like, how am I going to top you know, I have a photo with them. Me and Elroy and like, they're very few. You know, working in Hollywood, you kind of have a rule of like, don't ask celebrities to pose for pictures with you. Yeah, I've only broken a few times. I can't I can not get a photo of me and Walton Goggins on the set of LA Confidential, which really, I really wish I have, but I have a photo with when I when I was working with Michael Chiklis from the shield. I got a photo with him. Yeah, I got a photo with Malcolm McDowell when I did an episode of TV with Malcolm McDowell because, you know, you don't ask for the photo very often as a pro. But Elroy was like, somebody asked me like, Do you want a photo with him? I'm like, Yes, I did. Yes, I do. Can you please can we please do that? But yeah, it was pretty cool. Pretty cool.
Michael David Wilson 1:04:26
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I know that we come in up to the time that we have together you know, unbelievably, we could have continued to talk about everybody knows that we still haven't even spoken about she writes shock and so I'm impressed the amount that we all I have to say,
Jordan Harper 1:04:50
You know what I would like to do and maybe like, in the future, like I want the book to be out for a while but I've never done I want to do a spoiler fill Episode because I've never done one I've never done an interview where we just go. Okay, if you haven't read everybody knows you've had your chance, you know, the baby's future. You do that because I agree. This has been a great conversation and I feel like we could go by probably do need it to go. But yeah, we don't need to do part three right away. But like, yeah, having me back on this was really fun.
Michael David Wilson 1:05:23
Yeah, yeah. Or something I do want to ask before we go. We said before that this is the most like a screenplay novel that you've ever written. The most like a screenplay story. Because if I say like a novel, it's like what? Well, there's two of them. What do you think one can learn about screenwriting from novel writing? And and vice versa? What do you think someone can learn from novel writing from screenwriting? I guess I'm looking? What the Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, go on.
Jordan Harper 1:06:01
Yeah, I mean, I think from from being in television, story, mechanics, and plot structure is the most valuable thing. And then, also being concise. You know, there is a there's an urgent in screenwriting, to be very concise. But my opposed idea to that is that novel writing, they tell you Don't be literary. When you're writing a script, I break that rule all the time. But I don't write literary and like long paragraphs or anything like that I just write well, I write exciting things. But I try very hard. Some people will tell you like, oh, it's very unprofessional. To write a script that's fun to read, you're supposed to just write the bare mechanics of what happened. And that's misunderstanding what a script is for. Because the script serves two functions at two different parts of its life. The first function, and the most important one, for anybody who's trying to become a screenwriter is it's a sales document, you are selling the idea of a movie. And if you're selling the idea of a movie, that fucker better be interesting to read. Because they needed the people who are reading them are reading stacks of screenplays every weekend. And if you can, again, not write big, long paragraphs of prose, but if you can make it exciting and fun, and have memorable images, and the language is nice, that only helps you like that's a really good idea. And then the second thing is script does is it's a blueprint for the actual shooting of the movie or the TV show. And that sometimes figurative language, it doesn't serve you well. And but you can always cut that out, you can always say Okay, now it's time for the production draft of this script. And then you can just make it a little more mechanical, that's fine. But people act like, again, I think it's like a fake professionalism of like, well, the script is just supposed to be shot. So don't write it anything but other to be shot. And that's, that's not understanding what your job is at the beginning, which is to sell it. And I wish we live in that world. But that's the world we live in. And, and so it's on you to do that, you know. So I think both of those I think my screenwriting has made my novels better. I think my novels have made screenwriting better. I think it's their two arts that are complementary in the right ways if you let them do
Michael David Wilson 1:08:10
all right. Well, screenwriting again, is something that, you know, both Bob and I would love to unpack, we'd love to talk about in depth. So I think that's something we'll probably have to put in a kind of for later for a future episode, but I think he even you know what you've just said, there are some really invaluable takeaways for people writing screenplays, and, you know, dispelling some of these misconceptions about like, well, it's just an instruction manual. And as you say, it's initially you know, you're selling something. If you're selling something, but writing it like bland soup, it ain't gonna get very far.
Jordan Harper 1:08:59
I authentically believe that 95% of all writing advice, particularly the kind you encounter online or on Twitter, if you really boil it down, the real lesson is don't do it. Shetty. People will say, don't use voiceovers, but they mean don't use shitty voiceovers, nobody says, don't use voiceovers like they do in Taxi Driver. You know, like nobody says, like, you know, when it's done well, it's true for flashbacks it's through for technique it's through for anything is the actual, the only that's why I don't do a lot of concrete writing advice because it's useless because I think most writing advice is don't do it shitty. You know? And and that means just work on your craft and figure out what's shitting what isn't and then execute like, that's kind of, frankly, it I think you can talk about, if you give me a script, if you give me a specific script and ask me what's wrong with it, how to make it better, I can do that. And I can talk very abstractly about storytelling as an idea, but that middle ground of just like kind of specific advice is useless I think most of the time.
Michael David Wilson 1:09:58
Yeah. Well Where can listeners connect with you?
Jordan Harper 1:10:04
I have a newsletter called Welcome to the hammer party that I update so infrequently that I'm I'm thinking I need to face facts and figure out maybe I need to cancel it and start doing a podcast of my own or something. Or the way to actually find me though online is on Twitter, Jordan underscore Harper that is that is the place where I can be found and at most reliably, so please sign up for my newsletter. I swear to God, I will update it someday. But like, I've now reached the stage of not updating it, but it's starting to feel like okay, what's going on? So yeah, yeah, find me on Twitter.
Michael David Wilson 1:10:40
All right. Do you have any final thoughts around listeners?
Jordan Harper 1:10:45
Um, no. I mean, I, you know, I would love to impart some grand wisdom at the end. But I think that stuff about writing advice, and don't do it shitty is really about as profound as I'm going to get today. So I really think that stuff's really important. And just, you know, I guess if I had a life lesson about art, that I really, in, I don't know where you guys are in this, like, the, I want to abolish the phrase guilty pleasures, I, I don't have any guilty pleasures, I have things I like, and I'm not embarrassed by any of them. You know, and I would encourage everyone to, to abandon that idea and just feed your brain what it wants and challenge yourself with new stuff. But if it doesn't resonate with you don't pretend that you like it. Don't you know? And, and, and keep just just feeding the thing that's inside you that needs arts?
Michael David Wilson 1:11:37
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It just stems from snobbery and elitism and shaming people for liking what they like and yeah, like, there's enough negativity in the world. Why the hell would you feel shame for enjoying something you genuinely enjoy?
Jordan Harper 1:12:01
What exactly? And again, I do think it yes, it's all it's all snobbery. But in snobbery can come from any direction. And yeah, and you know, that's not real, or that's fake, or that's, you know, or real fans love this. If you don't love this, you're not a real fan of the genre, or any of those, any of that stuff is garbage and Baloney, and just like what you like and don't apologize for it, and, and, but again, I do believe like challenge yourself, try and find interesting things. And if you watch an art film that resonates with you, then chase that too. Like don't don't get weak about it. Don't Don't Don't calcified, but like but don't like I've watched three or four Ingmar Bergman films in my life, right, and I get that it's art. I get that he's brilliant. It does not resonate with me, and I feel like four is enough. And I'm moving on. There's lots of art films I do like but like, and that's fine. I think that's, that's acceptable. Like you can't, life is short. You can't just keep trying to make yourself like Ingmar Bergman or jazz or whatever it is that you think you're supposed to, like, if you like, again, I'm not a cop, if you like Ingmar Bergman and jazz, but more power to you, but like, that is by way obviously my catchphrase at this point in my life is I'm not a cop. So but I do that's how I live you know, if you're not hurting somebody else, I don't care. Like so. So go Go on, watch. You know, I I when I have like a cold or something I'm going to rewatch Legally Blonde. Which nobody would suspect that I'm a guy who watches Legally Blonde or whatever, but I don't know something about that movie I like so I watch it, you know? And I'm not embarrassed by it. Like you know what I mean? Like, what a silly thing to be embarrassed by like so yeah, that that's where I'm at in life.
Michael David Wilson 1:13:46
Yeah, yeah. I just imagine you know your fruits that strategy and then you're like, god dammit, I'm gonna get ill but Legally Blonde baby.
Jordan Harper 1:13:59
No, I bring that up. Back when I before I was sober. I just remember being insanely hungover and going to a movie theater right? This is back you would go to the movie theater to see anything you know and and being like hungover having a giant soda. And watching Legally Blonde and being just like this was exactly what I needed. Yes, that's exactly the level that my brain is at today. And so that has stuck with me. So that's why I picked that one. But
Michael David Wilson 1:14:26
yeah, that movie is comfort food for you.
Jordan Harper 1:14:30
Michael David Wilson 1:14:36
Thank you so much for listening to Jordan Harper on This Is Horror. Not a next episode of This Is Horror is very special indeed. In fact, it marks the start of a series of special episodes or This Is Horror Podcast. Because we are finally announcing the winners of the This Is Horror awards and And not only are we announcing the winners, but we will be speaking to some of them. So I anticipate that this will be happening over four episodes. So next episode, we are announcing the novel of the year and the novella of the year. So if that sounds exciting to you, if that sounds like something you would like to listen to ahead of the crowd, well, the best way that you can do that and support the podcast is to become a patron at patreon.com. Forward slash, This Is Horror. So head over to Patreon. Have a little look at what it is we offer. See if it's a good fit for you. I'd love to see you on Patreon. I'd love you to join our writers forum on Discord. So I look forward to seeing a number of you there. And of course if you want to advertise on This Is Horror, send me an email Michael at this is horror.co.uk. And if you want to take your story to the next level, and get a little bit of professional editing, then you can also email me, Michael at this is horror.co.uk and you can check out my editing rates at Michael David wilson.co.uk. Okay, before I wrap up, it is time for a quick advert break.
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Michael David Wilson 1:17:33
What about does it for another episode of This Is Horror. I hope that your week is off to a fantastic start. I hope you are being kind to yourself and celebrating the writing and the creativity that you are managing to achieve rather than berating yourself for the things that you haven't achieved because you're doing your best and life is hard creating as hard so you got to be kind to yourself, folks. So with that said, I will see you in the next episode. For the first in a series of This Is Horror award episodes. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.