Interrogation—Danny Gardner

 Who: Danny Gardner

What: Danny Gardner enjoys careers as a comedian (HBO’s Def Comedy Jam), actor, director, and screenwriter. His debut novel, A NEGRO AND AN OFAY, is published by Down & Out Books. He is a proud member of the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers and is a regular blogger at 7 Criminal Minds.

Where: Los Angeles (by way of Chicago)

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the rebirth of your excellent debut novel, A NEGRO AND AN OFAY. For readers who are new to Elliot Caprice, tell us about the book.

In 1952, we find disgraced Chicago police officer Elliot Caprice in the St. Louis County jail after being on the run from his old employers and the Chicago Outfit. He wants to remain on the move, for obvious reasons, but also because he doesn’t want to return to the small town where he was raised by his uncle. Circumstances obligate him to go home, take a gig as a process server and try to save the family farm from foreclosure. That puts him on a path where murder, mystery and social change confront him at every turn. Eventually, his past catches up with him, but he’s not the same man when it does. Oh yeah, and the effect of race, class, and politics on a mixed-race guy from the Midwest sort of play a part in there, too.

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Interrogation—Danny Gardner

gardner_ck2Who: Danny Gardner

What: He impressed audiences with his performance on the 3rd season of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam (All-Stars Vol. 12). He has enjoyed a career as an actor, director and screenwriter. He is a recent Pushcart Prize nominee for his creative non-fiction piece Forever. In an Instant., published by Literary Orphans Journal. A NEGRO AND AN OFAY is his first novel.

Where: Los Angeles

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just finished your debut novel, A NEGRO AND AN OFAY. Elliot Caprice is a flawed and troubled character, but I rooted for him throughout the story. How did you come up with the concept for this character and story?

Elliot Caprice came to me a long time ago, when I first tried my hand at screenwriting. Early on, he was almost a novelty—a setup for culturally-referential, purposefully anachronistic comedy. That never saw the light of day. It was all just exercises, really. Then, as life grew more and more serious for me, he became more and more serious. It’s been suggested that he’s an amalgam of me from a few different periods of my life. I’m not so sure about that, but perhaps there are parallels in our emotional fields.

perf5.000x8.000.inddWhen I was very young, and my life was ill-defined, I got off to a big start in stand-up comedy. Through all of that, I grew up a lot, and realized I wanted my creativity for me. Not to impress anyone else. Not to become rich, or famous. Yay me! Except then, I had to reconcile real life against desire. After doing television and a few movies, I wound up back in Chicago sitting on a help desk, not doing what I felt I was meant to do. I felt things were over for me before I really got started.

In an IT support capacity, there’s a lot of waiting around for the phone to ring. Left alone with my own thoughts in my own cubical, I’d write screenplays. The one that stuck in my wakeful consciousness was about Elliot. Elliot’s world is very real, visual. Palpable. I’d retreat in there when life was really roughin’ me up. Perhaps that’s how I built it. Seeking emotional solitude.

The story unfolded moment to moment. I make loose outlines about situations, but the rest comes from visceral experience. There are some realtime current events that influence the plot, of course. It just kind of folds in, like ingredients in a cake. Otherwise, it happens for me experientially, not empirically. I’m a witness. I hope that makes sense.
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