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Interview with James R. Clifford, Author of Double Daggers

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Double Daggers is a fascinating story about a cursed coin and the four men who are affected by it across the ages.

Welcome to Blogcritics, James. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about your book, and what inspired you to write such a story?

Double Daggers is a story about a curse that spans the ages. The curse begins with the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March. The chief conspirator in the assassination is Marcus Brutus, a man long rumored to be Caesar's illegitimate son. Immediately after Caesar's murder, Brutus mints a coin celebrating his role in the heinous plot. Today, that coin is known as the Eids of March or Double Dagger Denarius, and it is the most famous coin in all of ancient antiquity. Double Daggers is the story of four men's unrelenting obsession to acquire the coin, and what befalls them once they finally have it in their possession.

The four men are: Marcus Brutus, a knight traveling on the Crusades, an SS lieutenant under Hitler, and a modern day Wall Street trader. But these men have something more in common than just their obsession to possess the famous coin — and that is the true mystery and curse of the Double Daggers.

My inspiration for this story came from the fact that I collect ancient coins, especially ones that have historical importance. Double Daggers originally was published as a short story set in the present. Then I got the idea that it would be neat to go back in time and write a novel that begins with the assassination of Caesar and follows four men through very different time-periods throughout history.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this novel? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline? How long did it take you to write it?

I would describe it as haphazard. Double Daggers was a challenge to write because it is set in four different time periods: the Roman Empire, The Crusades, World War II and New York City in the present. But the characters in each time period are similar, at least in their motivations, flaws, and obsessions.

The book took about three years to finish but that includes many stops and starts and even months of not working on it at all. Double Daggers took me a little longer to write than others because of the research that was necessary do to the different time periods in history.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

No, I really haven’t. I’m just happy to find any time to write which seems to be my biggest problem. So when I do find some time to work on a story, I’m generally so excited the words just come out without much difficulty. Like many writers today it is a difficult balancing act — pursuing the literary endeavors while working a full-time job, promoting your book, and keeping the family happy.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

I’m not good at giving advice but I would say to anyone struggling to find a publisher— get your books out in the public domain anyway possible, and then, probably more importantly, get out and promote and sell your books because no one else is going to do it for you. And, of course, keep writing new material.

My publisher (who has been around for forty years) has a interesting take on what it takes to get published now-a-days. He says, “Don’t believe in that old Writers Digest mantra that if you can only become good enough then the big NY publishers will publish your work. In today’s corporate publishing environment if you create a following and establish a proven sales record then the big publishers will find you.”

The closest author, I can think of, that would be considered a long-lasting overnight success is John Grisham. Yet, his first book was rejected by everyone and his second book was published by a small Mississippi press. He went out and sold his books out of the trunk of his car and one got into the right hands and, of course, the rest is history. Another example is Tom Clancy. He received something like 43 rejection letters until a tiny Naval Press gave him a shot.

As writers we are all at different levels and have different aspirations and ideas of what success is, but whether you are interested in finding a small press, a more pretegious “small” publisher, or the “big-time” NY publisher, the bottom-line is you have to be directly involved in promoting and selling not only your work but yourself.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

My books are fiction but I have numismatic elements to them so I have a bit of a niche market. We do a lot of targeted marketing through mailers and placing ads in trade magazines. I also have booths at coin shows and I spend a lot of time trying to come up with non-traditional ways to sell my books. An example of the non-traditional market that has worked for me is that a relative of mine owns an auto-repair center and they sell a couple hundred copies of my books ever year.

What is your favorite book of all time? Why?

Wow! I guess the easy way out this question would be to say that is almost impossible to pick just one and to say that it is a body of all the authors and their works that comprise my favorite. But I know that is no fun, so I will say (at least at this very moment) that my favorite book of all time is . . . Justininan by H.N. Turtletaub.

I think the reason I liked the book so much was the way the Byzantine ruler Justinian was portrayed in the story. Unlike how the present media portrays events and people, everything in life is not simply black and white. People are complex and fascinating both in good and bad ways, and so is life.

I loved this book because with every chapter I experienced different feelings towards Justinian. I think he was a lot like most of us—He tries to go through life and do the best he can with what he has. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but no matter whether Justinian was on the top of the world or at the bottom, he lived his life with a great passion and a love of just existing.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work? www.jrclifford.com

Do you have another novel on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Double Daggers is my second novel and I just finished a new one that I am excited about.
The story is about what happens when a successful family man who has more cracks underneath his surface than a shattered mirror collides with a Cherokee curse, a fortune in gold coins stolen before the Civil War and the discovery of his family’s darkest secrets — Ten Days to Madness.

The book is set over ten days and like Double Daggers it is a work of fiction with a numismatic element to it. In Ten Days to Madness the chief character discovers a diary written by one of his ancestor and the diary makes him obsessed with finding an ancient burial cave in the Appalachian Mountains that, according to his ancestor, contains a fortune in Bechtler gold coins.

The Bechtler coins really existed and they were produced at a mint in Rutherfordton, North Carolina during the mid-1800s.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.