Author Interview – Richie Narvaez
We are so happy to introduce you to another new author for us. Richie Narvaez. He definitely has a perspective I can get down with.
Richie Narvaez is the author of Hipster Death Rattle and the award-winning anthology Roachkiller and Other Stories. His work has appeared in Latinx Rising: An Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mississippi Review, and Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder, among others. He lives in the Bronx.
Interview Conducted by, Sherry Terry
TNR: You write crime fiction. In your novel Hipster Death Rattle, are there dangers your characters face that you couldn’t handle yourself? How would you respond instead?
Richie: Good question! Well, I’m not going to pretend I’m a tough guy. My protagonist gets kidnapped and left to die on a roof in New York in August, he gets guns pointed at him, and is chased by a man with a machete. I might react the my main character does and just throw whatever I have at hand or run away. But I think that is one of the reasons for writing — to play in a playground you might not dare to in real life. Certainly, people don’t want crime in their lives. It’s one of the most disruptive and upsetting things that can happen to you. But in writing about it, you can experience it safely and envelop it in a way and solve things and find justice. In that way, it’s a different kind of fantasy writing.
TNR: Great way to look at things! Do you write in other kinds of genres?
Richie: Not at the novel level, so far. But with short fiction, I write horror, speculative fiction, literary. In all my writing, I use humor as contrast to what’s going on or to highlight an emotion. At least I think I’m being funny. And I’ve got a YA book I’ve done, a mystery, coming out next year called Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco.
TNR: Your titles are hilarious. When you develop characters, do you already know who they are before you begin or do you let them develop as you go?
Richie: Sometimes I do know who they are, or at least I think I do. I might know their voice, their looks, their habits. But, as you suggest, as the story goes along they may evolve, develop, mature in ways I never would have predicted at the start.
Take Tony “Chino” Moran, from Hipster Death Rattle. At first, he was a mashup of some of my quirks and the personality traits of one of my best friends. I thought I knew him pretty well from the start and figured he would do the typical hero’s journey by the end. But he doesn’t. He found his own path. That is, in his growth on the page he revealed to me the path he should take.
By the way, I gave him a name and then changed it several times. I ended up giving him three ethnically ambiguous names to signal him a real New Yorker, a kind of urban every-person.
TNR: How much research do you do? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched?
Richie: Quite a bit actually. For crime fiction, I research laws, police procedure — I’m lucky enough to have a few police friends to turn to for that. I also like to make sure I get my street names, traffic flow, location feels right, so I use Google Earth but I also get up out of my chair and go visit places because it really helps when describing setting. For Hipster Death Rattle, I researched how to play petanque, how to escape from zip ties, and how to make a machete on YouTube —and that’s the video the antagonist in the book uses to make his machete.
TNR: How interesting! How are you publishing your writing and why?
Richie: I’ve self-pubbed in the past, but my most recent books are published through traditional publishing through tiny indie presses. The advantage there over self-pubbing, of course, is that somebody else is working on the cover art and design, so I don’t have to muddle through, and there’s somebody else’s eyes looking over the text, so the billion typos I’ve missed on my own can be caught.
TNR: How much do you like or dislike marketing?
Richie: Ah, that’s the thing whether you’re self-pubbing or indie published, isn’t it? When your book comes out it’s like a fart in a hurricane in terms of getting anyone’s attention. You have to work really hard to get readers and reviewers to notice you. It’s like going to a dance and there are 500 million other people there and, no matter what, you never feel like you wore the right shoes. Sorry, I don’t know where I went with that.
How about this? Marketing, particularly on social media where we all live now, is like going to a party the size of a planet where they’re playing bad music at a very high volume and trying to make sure you make a lasting impression on everyone there.
TNR: I love your description! I laughed out loud and might steal the “wearing the wrong shoes” in a book. So, do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Richie: Well, I would say this: Make friends with other writers, support each other out there, be each other’s wingpeople. Whether or not we become Lee Child or Stephen King or Mr. Two Books on the Shelf Nobody Read, we should have as good as time as possible at the party.
TNR: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to reviews, good or bad?
Richie: Here’s my advice: Read good reviews, remember them, post them to social media. Copy and past terrific reviews to a personal file, so you can look at them again in dark hours of self-doubt. Scan bad reviews, never respond to them, try to forget them. And try not to cast evil spells on the trolls.
TNR: I like how you look at life. What is your favorite quote?
Richie: “Beyond a certain point there is no return. That is the point that must be reached.” By Franz Kafka. Don’t ask me what it means. I just love the sound of it.
TNR: If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead), who would they be and why?
Richie: So many! But I’ll pick three in crime fiction to narrow it down. One, Raymond Chandler. To enjoy gimlets together, and I would give him a hug because I think he needs one. Two, Edwin Torres, who wrote Carlito’s Way and its sequel. He was on the first big Puerto Rican crime fiction writers and a hero of mine. Three, Sara Paretsky, because she gave me such a nice blurb for Hipster Death Rattle. I owe her a night on the town. Call me, Sara!
TNR: What a fun interview! Thanks so much for stopping by and giving us a peek into your world. It was a fun ride.
Check out Richie’s catalog:
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