Please welcome Alex Segura to the blog. It’s looking to be a big year for Alex, a reissue of his debut novel, Silent City; the release of the follow-up, Down the Darkest Street; an Archie meets Ramones comic; AND a new baby! Thankfully, I was able to convince the sleep-deprived author to answer a few questions for us.
Hey, wait a minute – Silent City? Wasn’t this already out? What are you trying to pull here, Segura? I kid, I kid. What’s it like finding a new home at Polis Books for Pete Fernandez?
It’s been great. I can’t say enough good things about Polis Books and the company’s founder and publisher, Jason Pinter. I’m extremely thankful that Codorus Press took a chance on Silent City a few years ago and helped get it out in the world, but the opportunity to move to a place like Polis, with so many great tools at its disposal, was impossible to ignore. Jason very smartly realized that it’d be best to have the entire series under the Polis umbrella and here we are. The OCD/collector in me is excited to see Silent City and its sequel, Down the Darkest Street, set up together. It’s great to be part of a team that includes writers I read as a fan – people like Patti Abbott, Todd Robinson, Rob Hart, Dave White – the list goes on. It’s the ideal home for the Pete books.
So, while the big push is gonna be Down the Darkest Street, we wanted to give readers and fans who didn’t get an opportunity to pick up Silent City the chance to start from Pete’s first adventure, which I think makes a ton of sense.
Now, you’ve said it yourself; your series lead Pete Fernandez is a complete mess when we meet him and that status doesn’t shake off easy. What’s it like putting pen to paper for a character like this?
It’s not easy, to be honest. Pete, from the moment we meet him in Silent City, is a disaster. Readers discover and learn he’s a good guy who’s smart and has good instincts, but he’s a train wreck, not in the funny way. He drinks too much. He defies authority. He follows his gut into dangerous situations. That spills into the second book, too. I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that the first time you see him in Down the Darkest Street, he’s getting his ass kicked.
There were a few scenes – especially in Down the Darkest Street – where I had to step away from my desk and take a walk when I was done. They were just brutal and you feel bad because these characters grow on you. I like Pete. I like his supporting cast. I hate to torture them. But at a certain point you let the characters go off the path you’ve set up for them and they start doing stuff that puts them in harm’s way – the literal, gun-pointed-at-you harm and the more psychological, internal kind. I think, if I ever reach a point where these books are easy to write – where Pete is all A-OK, together and happy, then it’s probably time to move on to something else. The conflict and tension and drama keep me interested, so I imagine it’s what keeps people reading, too.
And Silent City isn’t enough. We’re getting two Pete Fernandez mysteries this year with the debut of your follow up, Down the Darkest Street, in April. Are you excited to have a double dose of Pete out there? It’s about as close to live binge-reading (that’s a thing, right?) that you can get.
I am. I think it’s great that new readers get two books at once and can really mainline Pete and his Miami. The books are different enough, too, that you feel like you’re Netflix’ing a show. That’s a legit term, right? Down the Darkest Street is like a new season, one that finds Pete with a new status quo, trying to get his life in order after the chaos that was Silent City. He’s really trying to go underground almost and rebuild himself. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t wait around patiently for people to do that, and Pete’s not exactly a poster boy for good decisions. So, once he latches onto the case of a missing girl he and an unexpected partner are pulled into a case that takes them deep into the Miami underworld, including the city’s dark past. Pete has to not only overcome this case, but his own demons, if he wants to survive. Not an easy feat.
I just remembered that you’ve got a little extra out there for fans with the short story you co-wrote with Rob Hart called Bad Beat – a team up between Pete Fernandez and Ash McKenna (of New Yorked and City of Rose). How did that collaboration come about?
Over dinner! Not to spoil anything, but you were there. It was after an event at The Mysterious Bookshop. We were all chatting about comics, and how cool it was when your favorite character crossed over with another book, turning you onto those characters and pulling in potential new readers. Aside from the Face/Off anthology from a while back, we also wondered why it hadn’t been done much in mystery fiction. By the end of the night, Rob and I had emailed Jason Pinter and were rolling. Jason, to his great credit, jumped on the idea immediately and saw it as a great way to hook people into both series. So, when you get the eBook short story that is Bad Beat, you also get a few chapters from Silent City and New Yorked. Cool, huh? The story itself was a lot of fun because it’s a prequel to both – you meet Pete before Silent City and Ash before New Yorked. I got to write Pete as a sports reporter in Jersey and we see Ash before the events that kick off Rob’s New Yorked. Rob was supremely easy to work with. It was a fun collaboration that let us cut loose in fun ways. Plus, there’s football, gunfights, gambling and Jersey. Wait. I don’t know if Jersey is a selling point.
Can we expect more Miami Noir this year?
Well, Bad Beat just came out, Silent City hits on March 15 with Down the Darkest Street arriving April 12 – that’s a lot of Pete in 2016! Next year will see the release of the third Pete novel, Dangerous Ends, which widens the scope of Pete’s world a bit and includes some really unexpected new characters and elements.
But who knows. Bad Beat came together quickly, so there’s always room for a sequel if Rob (and Ash) are game.
So stepping away from your writing, I’ve got a question for reader Alex; tell us what books or projects you’re amped about this year. Any hidden gems to look out for?
I’ll read anything Megan Abbott, Lauren Beukes, Chris Holm, Duane Swierczynski and Laura Lippman write. So, 2016 should be a very good year for me. Not so much for my wallet. I really loved Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, too, so I’m excited for another book from him. In terms of hidden gems, I’ve loved the first two Sully Carter novels by Neely Tucker. Surprised more people aren’t talking about him. Really solid, well written and compelling PI fiction (minus the formal PI). Neely knows DC, knows writing and consistently gets it right. Do yourself a favor and check those out.
Also, if you haven’t pre-ordered Todd Robinson’s Rough Trade, I don’t know what to tell you.
Last question. You’re a comic book guy, so tell me, isn’t it about time to bring back foil-embossed covers?
Only if they’re gate-folds, too!