Successful Hills Author at Work on Second Book
Joe Borri hopes his formula for success with "Eight Dogs Named Jack" will work again.
Joe Borri has always been good at telling stories, and in 2007, he proved he could write them.
His book Eight Dogs Named Jack: And Fourteen Other Stories from the Detroit Streets and Michigan Wilderness was awarded the Ben Franklin Gold Award for Best New Voice in Fiction in 2008 by the Independent Book Publishers Association. There were other honors, including ForeWord Magazine's 2007 Book of the Year Silver Award for Short Stories.
It was pretty heady stuff for a first-time-published writer who draws upon friends, family and his Italian heritage and uses his talent as an illustrator to make his work unique. Borri designed the book's cover and created the illustrations for the 320-page book.
Combining his talents seemed like the right thing to do, he said. "It's part of who I am, and being a first-time writer, I figured the more unique it could be, the better."
His instincts were right, and the book's reception proved it. Now Borri is writing a second book and hopes that drawing on his heritage and background will be another winning combination.
Three Can Keep a Secret is based on the old Benjamin Franklin quote that three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead. The book takes place in 1983 in Copper Corner, the Detroit neighborhood where Borri grew up. The area got its name because so many policemen lived there.
It's the story of a dying hit man from Chicago estranged from his son, who is a Detroit policeman. When the policeman's own son is carjacked and held hostage for a brutal night in February, that son is left shattered. He reconnects with his grandfather, who has 50 murders under his belt, and the two go out to find their own justice and exact revenge.
Family, friends provide inspiration
Like many of Borri's stories, this one is inspired by a couple of true-life events and quotes many of the Italian proverbs he grew up with, including "a useless watchdog barks but stays far away" and "God made things straight, but the devil came and twisted them."
Borri sees writing as a creative release, but he became serious about it just before his youngest daughter was born. "I've always been one of those guys who is good at telling a story. I do the inflections and talk like one of the old Italian guys in the neighborhood."
"'You should write that down,'" people would tell him, and after a while, he did. Borri discovered that by using the "spine" of a real-life event, he could let his imagination go.
Being a good father came first, however, and writing was put off until 10:30 or 11 at night. He'd continue until 2 or 3 a.m.
"It sounds mystical, or maybe it's because it's late at night or the coffee, but the characters start talking and doing things," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen."
Although the characters in his books aren't patterned after people he knows, his family and friends provide plenty of inspiration.
"I think to some extent I draw a lot from my relatives, my father, my wife's uncles and cousins and a little bit of me," Borri said. "You try to find yourself in every story and try to figure out which parts of that person you might be. You always end up with a little bit of yourself with the decision making in what the characters say and do."
He wants his readers to enjoy the time they spend in his books, but if they're looking for a message, they may find one.
"I'm always hoping that they'll have an escape and that they find a little deeper layer to the story than what's on the surface," Borri said. "The stories deal with atonement and revenge and violence, and that's all part of the human condition, but it's in all of us."
The author lives in Farmington Hills with his wife, Maria, and their children, Gino, 18, Marina, 16, Julia, 12, and Ava, 9.