Monday, June 04, 2007

INTERVIEW WITH MARIO ACEVEDO

Mario Acevedo notes that he will never be known as a quick study in the publishing biz. One day he bought a computer to write a book and seventeen years and six manuscripts later, he finally sold his first novel. Acevedo writes a series featuring vampire private detective and Iraq War veteran Felix Gomez, featured in, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and the recently-published X-Rated Bloodsuckers, both published by Rayo, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Acevedo kindly agreed to answer a few questions for La Bloga:

DANIEL OLIVAS: Felix Gomez has taken on a decidedly darker personality in this second installment. For example, he seems to be embracing the joys of bloodsucking on humans rather than fighting it. Why did you decide to have Felix evolve in this way?

MARIO ACEVEDO: In the first novel, Felix came to terms with the blood sucking aspect of his vampire nature. Since fanging and sucking blood are the central characteristics of a vampire, why not have him enjoy it?

OLIVAS: You set this novel in the mean streets of L.A., more specifically the porn industry of the San Fernando Valley. How did you choose this setting? Have you lived in L.A. before?

ACEVEDO: I started with the title. X-Rated Bloodsuckers. Bloodsuckers meant vampires had to be involved (as opposed to lice and ticks—not my genre). X-Rated of course implied porn. Then I had to plot a story involving the two subjects. I wanted Roxy Bronze to be a proud woman who was railroaded by her superiors and then chose a life making porn as way to provoke her enemies. The idea of a surgeon turned porn star was a compelling hook. Considering the porn angle, I set the story in the San Fernando Valley because it is the moldy bread basket of the adult industry. As a boy I used to spend summers with an aunt and cousins who lived in Pacoima. Last year I did the couch surfing thing when I researched the book and even got to tour the LA County Morgue but what I learned ended up in book three.

OLIVAS: The character of Coyote is a wonderfully odd, colorful vampire, sort of a broken down Pachuco who loves to feast on rats. Who (or what) was the inspiration for him?

ACEVEDO: Actually, Coyote likes rat chorizo. Felix needed a character who was both mentor and foil. I wanted the archetypal barrio vato, someone who seemed down on his luck and outside the ken of the greater American society, yet comprehended well enough his situation and the world around him.

OLIVAS: Felix falls hard for Veronica, his love interest in this novel. How did you walk that fine line between tough-guy noir and romance?

ACEVEDO: So Felix is a vampire? What, he can’t have love? As a vampire he has the power to take any woman but if he forces himself on her, then it’s longer love but something ugly. Felix may be a bloodsucking killer but he’s still the good guy. I bent the romantic story arc to emphasize Felix’s estrangement from humanity. Immortality, transmutation, and enhanced visual powers may be wonderful but they come at a price and I want to show that Felix’s existence is a bitter compromise between the mortal and undead worlds.

OLIVAS: The plot is, to say the least, complicated and takes all kinds of twists and turns while remaining entertaining and engrossing. How do you make certain your readers don’t get lost? How do you keep track of the plot threads yourself?

ACEVEDO: I have Felix review the story questions, sometimes alone, sometimes with Coyote to keep the reader and the characters oriented on their story goals. I outlined the different plot developments to make sure the story evolved in a logical sequence (considering this is a fantasy novel).

OLIVAS: What has been the response of your readers to your novels?

ACEVEDO: My books are selling. I don’t know the numbers but my agent is pleased and my editor returns my phone calls.

OLIVAS: What is your writing process like? Do you have friends who read drafts?

ACEVEDO: I try and write a couple of hours every day. I’m fortunate in that I have a critique group. After years of meeting, three of us have had contracts with the big NY houses. We study the genre market and push one another to be better writers and to market ourselves.

OLIVAS: Who are your literary idols? What are you reading right now?

ACEVEDO: I just finished Junot Diaz’s DROWN, put this on top of your must read pile. I’m reading ALREADY DEAD, a hard-boiled vampire PI story by Charlie Huston. It’s an excellent fantasy noir with a tight narrative. I’m also going through Tim Dorsey’s zany and kinetic novels about Florida.

OLIVAS: You have another novel coming out next year involving Felix. Do you plan on moving on to another protagonist after that?

ACEVEDO: My agent wants me to keep the Felix Gomez vampire series going as long they sell. I have other stories and characters I want to explore, either in different series or as stand alone novels.

OLIVAS: Has becoming a published author changed your view of writing? Any advice for beginning writers?

ACEVEDO: You’re never there. You get published, lose your cherry as a debut novelist, and then everyone expects a lot more of you. Writing is always a struggle to improve. As Somerset Maugham said, “Only a mediocre writer is at his best.” I’m always learning and surprising myself that despite my experience, writing continues to be hard work. I wish I had little elves to dance on the keyboard while I did “research.” My advice? Have faith. Write what you love. Read as much as you can. Write some more. And don’t ever give up.

POSTSCRIPT: Over at the Biting Edge, the blog that Mario Acevedo shares with Jeanne Stein, they announce the blog's writing first contest:

“It’s no ordinary writing contest. Forget the Pulitzer. The Nobel Prize for Literature. How can that fame and money compare against what you can win from us? All you need to submit is the first paragraph of your original vampire story. A limit of 75 words. Enter any genre or style. Gothic. Romance. Humor. Urban fantasy. Anything as long as it’s good. Deadline, June 15, 2007. Unpublished writers only!”

For more details, go here. The prizes are very cool.

◙ My review of Gustavo Arellano’s first book, ¡Ask a Mexican! (Scribner), appeared in yesterday’s El Paso Times. Also, in today's Houston Chronicle, Eyder Peralta offers this interesting profile of Arellano.

◙ Daniel Hernandez has an interesting post on his blog concerning the hot button issue of immigration reform. Hernandez, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, is a writer for the LA Weekly where he is getting rather nice honors.

◙ Over at our favorite magazine, Tu Ciudad, the new June/July issue covers the best people and places around Latino L.A. relying on a readers poll (I voted, did you?). There’s no “best blog” listing but we’re a virtual world out here…this time, Tu Ciudad focuses on things that you can touch and taste. There's also a handy, one-page index that can be cut out and kept in your car for future reference. For information on where you can buy Tu Ciudad (or do as I do and subscribe), go here. They've also added a blog to the newly-revamped website. The magazine continues to get more and more beautiful.

◙ Well, some great news: Kevin Roderick over at LAObserved reported yesterday that due to public outcry, Al Martinez might be coming back to the Times on a once-a-week basis. More on this breaking story later…

◙ Though Luis Alberto Urrea is currently on a little vacation, his blog is a joy to read. And if you haven’t read his magnificent novel, The Hummingbird’s Daughter (Back Bay Books), get thee to a bookstore!

◙ Next Monday I will post my interview with a wonderful new writer, Myriam Gurba, whose first book, Dahlia Season (Manic D Press), is a must-read for anyone who loves edgy, soulful, sexy short stories.

◙ I’ve been reading (and loving) Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration (University of New Mexico Press) by Sam Quinones. More later.

◙ Some nice news concerning me: Bilingual Press has just accepted for publication my newest short-story collection, Anywhere but L.A. More news later. My first full-length novel, The Book of Want, is still making the rounds with publishers.

◙ All done. By the way, if you missed Saturday's wonderful post by René Colato Laínez, go here. Anyway, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Felicidades--for the continued success of LB and the acceptance of your book. Well Done, hombre.
Vato c/s

Lisa Alvarado said...

Another great column, and Mario seems like quite the noir character himself!


And many, many good wishes for the news about your book...You are an amazing storyteller and IMHO, someone who has left their mark on the short story.

Lisa

Daniel Olivas said...

Mario is quite the success story with excellent advice. And thanks for the kind comments, both of you.

Rebel Girl said...

congrats all around - and thanks for the great news about Martinez.

Lisa Alvarado said...

Daniel - It was also clear to me how savvy Mario is and how disciplined he is about the writer's life....

Anonymous said...

How come Dan Olivas who lives in So. Cal interviewed Mario who lives in Denver, instead of those vatos in Denver?

What? They got garlic breath?

Manuel Paul Lopez said...

What's up, Daniel, congrats on your latest collection.

Daniel Olivas said...

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. And as for this Angeleno interviewing a Denverite, Mario is a vampire who flies from barrio to barrio each night doing interviews about his novels.

Manuel Ramos said...

To the anonymous vato who wondered why the Denver guys didn't interview Mario: you haven't been paying attention. I did such an interview with Mario for La Bloga back when Mario's first book came out. Check the archives.

Let me add my congrats to Daniel -- can't wait to read the new book.

Daniel Olivas said...

Actually, I do remember that Mario was interviewed for his first book and I apologize for not mentioning that. And thanks for the congrats.