Author Jim Clemente: “Take your time, work hard, stay focused and take some time off — and everything will work out in the end”
Take your time, work hard, stay focused and take some time off — and everything will work out in the end. I grew up dyslexic but wasn’t diagnosed until I was in college. I always admired writers who could put all those words together to write books. When I retired from the FBI, I wanted to become a Writer/Producer — everybody said it couldn’t be done. I began as the Technical Advisor for Criminal Minds. I read every script I could get my hands on. I studied the other writers, then in Season 2 I became a freelance writer and when I retired from the FBI, I became full time Writer/Producer and I’ve written 14 episodes of Criminal Minds — the most streamed show in the World. I’ve also written 5 audio docuseries, 9 episodes of an original audio dramatic scripted series I created, and I’m writing my own pilot for CBS.
I had the pleasure to interview Jim Clemente at the SPYSCAPE Festival’s ‘Bullsh*t! or Bullseye!’ Event in New York City, New York. SPYSCAPE is a contemporary experiential museum which aims to inspire people to discover their own superpowers through spy and superhero narratives, and experiences. Its seven main galleries are each themed around an aspect of espionage.
Jim Clemente is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent/Profiler and former New York City Prosecutor. During his 22-year career with the FBI, he investigated cases from bank robberies to serial killers. He also investigated public corruption in the White House, white collar and violent crime, and has worked as an undercover agent posing as everything from a street beggar to a broker on Wall Street. For over a decade, he was an FBI Profiler investigated violent and sexual serial crimes. He is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of sex crimes and abduction/homicides. Today he is the Founder/CEO of XG Productions, a cross-platform development and production company. He co-hosts the WONDERY podcasts: REAL CRIME PROFILE, BEST CASE WORST CASE. and hosts LOCKED UP ABROAD. He is a Writer/Producer for Criminal Minds and The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey on CBS, as well as the Co-Creator of Manhunt: Unabomber on NETFLIX. He also Executive Produced the upcoming series: TRUTH & JUSTICE and COLONIAL PARKWAY MURDERS on OXYGEN Network. Clemente authored his first novel, WITHOUT CONSENT, based on his true story and co-authored the non-fiction Audible series, EVIL HAS A NAME.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in an Italian/Scottish family with my parents, two brothers and three sisters. We were a close family and I was very fortunate that both my parents embraced people of all cultures and walks of life so I was raised to do the same. My Mom died when I was young but my Dad lived to his 91st year. One of the greatest things I was able to do with my Dad was to take him to Rome, Italy for the first time in his life as a gift for his 80th Birthday.
Can you share the most interesting story that has happened to you since you started?
When I was assigned to the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit and was ordered to travel to Guantanamo Bay Cuba to evaluate the detainee interrogation program I discovered that they were mistreating and torturing the detainees. I tried to stop them by teaching them the best way to get accurate and reliable information in an interrogation through building rapport. When they refused I alerted the authorities and made sure they no longer hurt the detainees.
Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was on my way back to Washington D.C. from a conference I ran in Manila, Philippines with a stop-over in Hawaii. There was a storm coming so I rented a car and drove up to the North Shore. As I was walking away from my car that I parked across the street in a lot, I got a very strange feeling in my gut. So after I put my things down on the beach, I went back to move my car to right alongside the beach. But as I moved the car, a work truck took the spot I wanted to park in. So, I moved it further down the road behind a stand of trees. I was uncomfortable but I left it there anyway. And when I came back 30 minutes later, it had been broken into and all of my luggage and my FBI Credentials were stolen. This is a serious violation for an FBI Agent. It was a terrible life lesson to learn… Listen to your instincts.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m in production right now for my very first Audio Dramatic Series — BLUEBEARD, the story of the first serial killer in Los Angeles. And I have written multiple Audible Original series like, Evil Has A Name, Call Me God, and Where The Devil Belongs. Also, I have 400 episodes of my podcast Real Crime Profile and 300 episodes of Best Case Worst Case anywhere you listen to podcasts.
What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Take your time, work hard, stay focused and take some time off — and everything will work out in the end. I grew up dyslexic but wasn’t diagnosed until I was in college. I always admired writers who could put all those words together to write books. When I retired from the FBI, I wanted to become a Writer/Producer — everybody said it couldn’t be done. I began as the Technical Advisor for Criminal Minds. I read every script I could get my hands on. I studied the other writers, then in Season 2 I became a freelance writer and when I retired from the FBI, I became full time Writer/Producer and I’ve written 14 episodes of Criminal Minds — the most streamed show in the World. I’ve also written 5 audio docuseries, 9 episodes of an original audio dramatic scripted series I created, and I’m writing my own pilot for CBS.
- Rely on your instincts — they were honed over decades of life, education and experiences. In one case I got called by the local police 23 hours after a 6 year old boy was abducted. The statistics are grim — of the kids who are abducted and killed, 43% are killed in the first hour. 73% in the first 3 hours and 99% in the first 24 hours. I got all the details they had. The boy had been in his apartment parking lot playing with his friends when the man approached and said he lost his kids, can anyone help him find them. No one went with him and he left. Then he was seen at the school down the street, then back at the parking lot and he tried again and the boy was last seen walking off with the man saying he will help him find his kids. The witnesses were 5 and 6 year olds. They said the man was White, between 20 and 50 years old with a bump on his head and he drove a white truck. They had no other information and no leads. I told them to change their media strategy to say they were looking for a hero who lives in the neighborhood who last saw the boy. Not the “monster predator” they had announced earlier. They got calls about two men in the area who drove white trucks and one of the trucks had recent body damage. I asked if that guy answered his door during the neighborhood canvass and they said no. I told them to kick in his door. I had a strong gut feeling that he took the boy. They said they didn’t have enough info to get a warrant. I told them they didn’t need one. They can search ANY child-sized place for the safety of the child. I eventually convinced the Police Chief and District Attorney. They did a SWAT raid on the apartment and the boy was there tied to a bed, and he was alive 28 hours after he was abducted.
- When terrible things happen, take a few deep breaths, collect yourself, dust yourself off and move ahead… It may work out that it was actually a blessing in disguise. I was a first responder on 9/11 and I got cancer from it in 2004. I was in shock for the first three days after getting diagnosed. Then I realized that I could have been hit by a truck and killed instantly, at least with cancer I have a chance to fight. Six years later I had a massive heart attack due to the chemo I went into cardiac arrest — my heart stopped. They had to revive me three times before I was out of danger. A week later I threw a pizza party for the nurses at the ER and took the doctor out to lunch. While there he said, “It’s amazing sitting here talking to you.” I told him if felt the same. He said, “You don’t understand… I could have pronounced you dead after 28 minutes. But I worked on you for an hour and three minutes before I got you back in rhythm.” I asked why he worked on me so long. He said it was because I fought him so hard in the beginning. He knew I was strong. I asked what was he doing when I was fighting him. He said, “I was trying to intubate you.” I said, “When I had cancer, I had a tumor in my throat and my trachea collapsed from the tumor. So, you must have been choking me with the tube.” He said, “Then… cancer saved your life.”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you keep looking down at your own feet, you’ll never discover the amazing people and experiences that are passing you by…” Jim Clemente
Many times, I have made an effort to break the ice when I’m in an uncomfortable social situation — like in an elevator or walking into a meeting where no one knows anyone else — and each time I have been surprised how wonderful the people I meet are. By breaking the ice and introducing myself and commenting on anything from the weather to the day’s news events it allows everyone else to relax and start communicating. One time I did this, I met a woman who was diagnosed with the same cancer as me, on the same day but on a different continent. And we ended up having bone marrow transplants at the same hospital on the same day. They helped me through the toughest ordeal I ever endured.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Detective Joe Gelfand was the Detective 1st Grade on the FBI/NYPD Sexual Exploitation of Children Task Force who worked on my case when I went after the offender who molested me as a teen. Det. Gelfand went on to be my investigative partner on that very same task force when I became an FBI Agent and was assigned to the same squad which just investigated my case. He taught me most of what I know about relentless investigation and interviewing victims and offenders. He was the most dedicated colleague I have ever worked with and I’m honored to call him a great friend.
I also had a writing mentor, Philip Friedman. He’s a best-selling author of books like Reasonable Doubt and Inadmissible Evidence. And he shepherded me through the writing of my first book, Without Consent. Without his tireless help and guidance, I never would have had the confidence to become a writer.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. ;-)
I would start a movement to encourage cross-cultural community building. I believe that racism and bigotry are driven by not seeing the humanity behind the people who are targets of hate. If we can rid the world of negative stereotypes, two people at a time, and each of them go out to two other people, and so on and so on… Then we can change the world in no time.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!