Saturday, June 22, 2013

Acuña interview. Lit and news bits.

by RudyG

Interview with graphic novelist Ricardo Acuña

Last month I previewed The Realm by Ricardo Acuña, a Chicano screenwriter who blazed a trail of turning it into a graphic novel via a successful Kickstarter campaign. The book has received good reviews, like the one below from Latin Horror:

"Ricardo Lira Acuña's first illustrated novel combines fantastical Mexican folkloric traditions with the American pulp graphic genre for a visually stunning and suspenseful read. A thief searching for buried gold must overcome his greed in order to escape from a Mexican ghost town.

"The Realm is a suspenseful 82-page graphic novel chock full of stunning black & white illustrations that evokes a strong and palpable sense of nostalgia that crosses the borders of both golden eras of American and Mexican comic book landscapes and creates a new hybrid."

Acuña obliged us by giving us an interview. He's got lessons for those thinking of using the Kickstarter approach.

RudyG: Now that you've had time to think about it since finishing The Realm, what would you say that you haven't said before?
Acuña: On the surface, The Realm is a treasure hunt ghost story. But there are layers, metaphors and commentary about Chicano/Mexican history and politics, and the philosophical underpinning for existential horror. If all you want is a quick escape or bedtime story, it's there. If you want to dig deeper, it's there too.

RudyG: If you had anything to do over, is there anything you would have changed about the novel, the characters, the plot, the graphics, etc.?
Acuña: As a writer, I rewrite. So I've thought of things I'd tweak here and there. But in general, estoy feliz y satisfecho with the way the book turned out. Sure, I could've put out a full color comic book in a series with muscle-bound illustrations, but I couldn't afford it even if I wanted that. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this story had to be in black and white and that Stan Timmons' old school drawings should bring to mind the Mexican semanales (weekly pulp fiction), like the kind my mother used to read when I was growing up. The trick though has always been how to tell this story in a balanced way, with Twilight Zone structure and suspense and yet have grind-house moments a la Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.

RudyG: What kind of responses are you getting for the book? And is there an Hijo de Realm in your future?
Acuña: I just released it, and fans are telling me how much they love the graphics and the story itself. I'm curious to see how it fares with different audiences--Latin@s, comic book fans, diehard horror to name a few. It won't be everybody's cup of cafe. It's dark, gritty, and, Dios forbid, will make you think.

The Realm actually began as a script when I was at Columbia. I've had interest in it, but this is Hollywood, so you better know somebody and you better have money. I didn't have either. So I figured it made sense to convert it into a graphic novel as the story lent itself perfectly to the medium. And now, I have something that producers and companies can hold in their hands and look at. I also have a product and a credit which I didn't before.

The endgame for The Realm is to make it into a film. I fantasize about raising enough funds to shoot the film myself with a skeleton crew throughout abandoned haciendas in Zacatecas. As for Hijo del Realm, I'm thinking about a series with some of the characters returning with more ghost stories and cursed places.

RudyG: Now that you've got a Kickstarter under your belt, what surprised you the most or was the hardest to deal with?
Acuña: The most difficult for me was getting the Kickstarter perks fulfilled, which is something I'm still finishing up right now. I didn't plan on how long it would take to get printed copies and the other perks prepared.  I took much longer than I should have in delivering my perks. There's always pressure to get something done, but there's more pressure when other people's money is involved.

RudyG: Would you do it again anytime soon?
Acuña: A huevo! Maybe another Kickstarter campaign for the film?

RudyG: What advice do you have for gente trying the Kickstarter route for the first time?
Acuña: Kickstarter requires a helluva lot of preparation before launching your campaign in terms of what exactly you're going to use the money towards and what the perks will be. Kickstarter has a tutorial before you start with recommendations. Go over it many times. Follow their recommendations. Then plan, plan, plan! I got the most response from family and friends of course, but I was pleasantly surprised to get funding from total strangers. In retrospect, I wish I had personally contacted every person on my list in asking for funding. I sent mass e-mails and social media messages, but what paid off most was the personal contact. Updates are important, and I wish had sent out more of them to keep people in the loop. Get people to help you get the word out, and to help before, during and after the campaign. I went it at solo and feel I could've accomplished more in terms of raising funds and getting my perks out sooner had I sought the help.

RudyG: Tell our readers about your next big project and other great stuff you want to get to.
Acuña: I write in various forms. I have two collections of poetry and photography. I just finished my first novel - Prodigal Son, about a poor Chicano who earns a scholarship to a private East Coast boarding school. I'm working concurrently on the film script for the book and editing both. Not sure which will get made first.

RudyG: What writers influenced you most?
Acuña: I grew up listening to ghost stories from my familia in Mexico. Watched a lot of horror films and The Twilight Zone. These influenced my writing The Realm. Also, books like Gabriel García Márquez's Eréndira, Carlos Fuentes' Aura and especially Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan. When I heard there was a book about peyote and sorcery in Mexico, I said to myself, I gotta read that book!

RudyG: You lived in Denver, but I don't remember seeing your ass in any of my bars. Where'd you hang out and what did you love best, if anything.
Acuña: I was only in Denver for about a year. My ex and I didn't know anybody, and we were poor with students loans and didn't go out much. What I loved best was meeting Cynthia Gonzales (Corky's youngest daughter) and Thia Gonzales (Corky's niece). They took us right in with their family and friends and showed us around. But then my ex dumped me, chale, and I headed to LA. But when I return to Denver, Rudy, I wanna go hang out with you at your bars!

If you want to check it out, you can purchase the soft cover here. Purchase the eBook here or from ITunes.

Two of La Bloga's favorite authors

San Antonio Express-News reviews Our Lost Border: Essays on Life amid the Narco-Violence, edited by Sarah Cortez and Sergio Troncoso (Arte Publico Press):

“Cortez and Troncoso are to be credited for assembling an exceptional array of contributors, encompassing professors, poets, students and journalists. 
They each eloquently and powerfully profile the border in both qualitative and quantitative terms — clearly fueled by strong personal and professional experiences….”

Respect Our Youth: Community Walk & Potluck

Poder Santa Barbara - Todo Poder al Pueblo!
Saturday, July 13, 2013

1:00pm - 4:00pm

Come join us in Ortega Park, Santa Barbara, California, to learn about what is the real purpose of a gang injunction and also come educate others in the community. We need positive solutions rather than punishing our youth. We don't need another Jim Crow laws in our liberal and progressive society!
Our current priority as a coalition is to challenge the proposed City gang injunction filed and endorsed by the: The City of Santa Barbara, The Santa Barbara Police Department, The District Attorneys, and The City Council.
The City of SB has not provided space for any community input, debate, or participation. This procedure is non-Democratic and we are demanding transparency!
Come join us to fight injustices! Injunctions are “a modern-day apartheid.”


The Mexican-American Encyclopedia is a database with biographies, videos, photos and digital collections that were made by or inspired by Mexican-Americans.
Our mission: It is our goal that the content posted in the Chican@pedia helps ANYONE that wants to research or is interested in topics were Mexican-Americans have or have had influence.

The Mexican-American Encyclopedia is a resourceful site for individuals, families, schools and organizations that are interested in the Mexican-Americans and the Chicano/a culture. Go here for more info.

Casi-Bloguista Lisa's essay, Light Sleeper, will be featured in Memoir magazine's 13th issue this September

Es todo, hoy,

1 comment:

Thelma T. Reyna said...

Hi, Rudy. I'm a fan of Ricardo Acuna's (poetry and photography mostly). So glad to read his interview here. Also so glad about his new graphic novel. Ricardo is very talented, and I believe this new book brings together his many artistic skills as well as formal education (which is very impressive once you hear it). I have no doubt Ricardo's works will be in film someday. Best wishes to him as well as you!