I haven’t had the chance to really get out there and talk SILENT CITY much until very recently, and – like these things tend to do – they all seem to have hit at once. I had the pleasure of interacting with some great writers who were willing to take the time to not only chat with me, but read my book and ask really wonderful questions. Here’s a quick roundup of the recent ones that have hit over the last week or so.
I spoke to Savas Abadsidis over at The Huffington Post – who very kindly called the book “a gritty murder mystery/detective story set in Miami among the ruins of the old guard media” – about how media is portrayed in SILENT CITY and what’s in store for Pete next:
How much of your own life informed this story?
I think your life informs everything you write — from an email to a thank you card. But this book in particular features a lot from my life, but isn’t autobiographical. I knew I wanted to write a story about someone who was not a refined and developed detective or private eye. I wanted to show the origin of the protagonist, and see how he went from a “regular” guy to someone that is much more than that. I wasn’t interested in writing about a fedora-wearing, whiskey-drinking, smooth operator who has to find a femme fatale’s missing sister. I think that’s been done to death and much better than I could ever do. When I first got into reading crime fiction, after powering through the classics like Chandler, MacDonald and Jim Thompson, a friend of mine handed me a copy of George Pelecanos’ A Firing Offense — and it all clicked for me after that.
I had a lot of fun talking to my pal Dan Malmon over at Crimespree Magazine about the book, comics, Archie and lots more. This interview was a long time coming and I’m really glad I had the chance to talk shop with Dan, who asked really thoughtful and engaging questions:
Dan: I’ve said before how SILENT CITY just teems with mood and atmosphere. Who do you count as your literary influences?
Alex: I lean toward crime fiction that is more about character, setting and mood. I’m a fan of a strong plot and a big reveal – I think a good surprise is rare and special. But I want to read about characters that seem real and aren’t invincible that live in places that are evolving and have their own quirks. So, it’s no surprise I love The Wire, and the many great crime writers that helped that show – mainly Pelecanos, Lehane and Price. I love characters that jump off the page, who have quirks that make you feel like you’re sitting across from them at a restaurant, so I gravitate to anything Megan Abbott or Sara Gran write. I think Gran’s Claire DeWitt books are amazing, and strike such a wonderful mood and create a world you just want to live in. James Ellroy was one of the first modern crime writers I read and I love everything he’s done – the way he portrays his city, his frightening characters and just the way he puts words together. His use of omission and the way he makes you pay attention are so subtle – and I know a lot of people find his more recent work difficult, but I think that’s good. But I think it’s fine to have to work for something – to read closely or go back and double-check a passage. It shows you’re engaged. And he’s the master of that. Lastly, I think if anyone wants to take a master’s course in PI fiction, they should buy a stack of Lawrence Block’s Scudder and Reed Farrel Coleman’s Prager books – because that’s all you need to know. Classics, both of them.
Author Kristi Belcamino is a great talent in her own right and has been hugely supportive of my work, so it was a treat to be able to visit her blog and talk about process and my influences, among other things:
6. What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Read a lot. Write every day. Finish what you start. It’s easy to get enamored with the idea of being a writer – it happens to all of us, I think. But writing is about putting in the work and finishing things. Everyone says they have a novel in them or that they started one a few years back. But you have to finish one before it can be published!
Jochem Vandersteen runs a great crime fiction blog named SON OF SPADE and was one of the first reviewers that really “got” SILENT CITY – at least from my POV – and figured out my influences without me saying a word. This one was fun:
Q: What’s next for you and Pete?
Next up is the second Pete Fernandez book, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, which I hope will be out relatively soon. It’s – believe it or not – a much darker story, and shows what I hope is a natural evolution for Pete, considering where we left him.
Last, but certainly not least, I got to chat with Lizzy over at LIZ LOVES BOOKS – another excellent book blog that leans toward crime fiction. She’s been very supportive of the book since it came out and I’m glad we finally had the chance to talk about not only SILENT CITY, but what’s on my “bucket list”:
Favourite author/comfort reading?
This is a tough question! I have so many “favorites” it’s nearly impossible to pick one. I find great comfort in reading a really well-crafted PI novel, so I tend to burn through those while on trips or away form home – like the Lawrence Block Scudder books or Reed Farrel Coleman’s Prager novels. I’ll read anything by the following writers: Daniel Woodrell, Don Winslow, Megan Abbott, Sara Gran, Greg Rucka, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Laura Lippman and James Ellroy.