I’m not sure exactly how I first “met” Alex online but he always was talking about something interesting and seemed like a great guy — so I wanted to support him by reading his book, but the clincher for me was seeing one of my very favorite authors, Sara Gran, give it a blurb — “SILENT CITY is a noir page-turner I couldn’t put down. A race through the Miami tourists don’t see. I loved this book. And can’t wait for the next one.”
I bought the book (which incidentally has the most gorgeous cover) and it most definitely lived up to all the good hype. Here is Alex in his own words:
1. Describe your writing routine and/or schedule?
It really depends. One of the best bits of advice came during a casual conversation with a fellow author. He said “Today’s the first day in years I haven’t written at least a sentence.” And he seemed totally bummed about it. That really resonated with me. So, the goal for me is to always try and put at least a few words down – whether it’s part of the current work-in-progress, or a note for a new piece. Even that’s a challenge with a day job and the ever-present desire to relax a bit after coming home. I try to get 1-2 days a week where I can sit in front of my computer and crank out a few thousand words. And even that’s not enough.
I write better during the day, no music on, distractions at a minimum. I work better at home than in a cafe or around others.
I keep a notebook with me at all times, so I can jot things down. I often just email myself plot ideas – if you saw my Gmail inbox you’d see subject likes like “After Pete gets shot in Chapter 3” or “Villain reveal,” or stuff like that. The initial draft phase, for me, is about getting a jumble of ideas on paper in some kind of order and seeing how they fit, with revision shaving off the confusing and nonessential stuff.
2. What do you do if you get writer’s block?
Maybe this is slightly pretentious, but I don’t believe in writer’s block. I think you have to power through it and just go with the expectation that some days it’s just not gonna flow as easily or as well. No one said this would be painless – if it were, everyone would be doing it. I don’t claim to have coined that phrase, but I think its logic is very strong.
3. Who do you read, or recommend other writer’s read, in regards to craft?
I devoured Stephen King’s On Writing. I think his books – like The Shining and It – are great examples of strong craft. I’d point to anything by Megan Abbott, James Ellroy, Laura Lippman or George Pelecanos as good examples of solid craft, for very different reasons. As far as books about the craft, some essential ones for me include Lawrence Block’s Telling Lies For Fun and Profit and Robert McKee’s Story. But I feel you can learn as much from reading a great book than reading a good book about how to write good books, if that makes any sense.
4. Who do you read for fun?
I think even reading I do for work or research is fun in its own way. I hate to classify anything as a guilty pleasure because I feel like I get something out of it as a writer. I’m a fan of fiction that doesn’t feel beholden to one specific genre, or that takes tropes from one genre and injects them into another. I love the Chris F. Holm Collector books, Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black novels and Adam Christopher’s work. They’re very well-written and thoughtful, but also punch you in the gut from the first page. I read a lot of comics – both for my day job and for fun. I love LAZARUS, FATALE, HINTERKIND, BATMAN, TRILLIUM – plus the core Archie books.
I really enjoy a good true crime book. I don’t do it with a novel in mind, but for they eventually end up informing my own writing at some point. PEOPLE WHO EAT DARKNESS by Richard Lloyd Parry, A WILDERNESS OF ERROR by Errol Morris and NOTES ON A KILLING by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie come to mind – nonfiction books written so well and with such an eye for building drama that they read like great fiction.
5. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Tell us about it.
I don’t recall a heavens-parting moment, but that’s mostly because telling stories or making things up came naturally to me. It was just something I did for fun as a kid. Reading comics really helped spur that in my brain. Then I got older and went into journalism and that’s probably when it first crystallized that this could be a career of some kind. At that point, I’d written short stories, poems and scripts, but it was still a pipe dream. But to answer your question – I think it was something I always wanted to do, so to have the chance to spend some of my time each day coming up with stories for people to read, is amazing and really fulfilling.
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!
7. What do you think is the most important skill to have to succeed as a writer?
I feel weird speaking about this just because it implies that I’ve made it in some way others haven’t, but I will answer anyway! I think it’s important to leave your ego at the door, because it is going to get severely bruised. You’re going to get rejections – from potential agents, editors, fellow authors…everyone. You’re going to get bad reviews. You’re going to be dismissed. You have to be tougher than that and write because you love it, not because you anticipate an epic payday. So, resilience would be my choice – assuming you’re putting in the time and have the chops to be a writer. That’s gotta come no matter what.
8. What is your favorite food and/or drink?
I’m vegan – have been for a few years now – which means I don’t eat meat/dairy/animal products. Ironically, I am NOT a picky eater. Put me in a vegan restaurant and I’m in heaven. I’m also Cuban, so I love Cuban staples like picadillo and rice and beans. Vegan versions, of course. Maybe I should write a Cuban Vegan Cookbook?
As for drinks…I’m boring. Seltzer is my drink of choice. Love it. Not big into the flavored stuff, but I drink it a lot. I’m fun at parties, I swear.
9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?
I will always watch WRATH OF KHAN, GOODFELLAS or THE GODFATHER movies (even III!) if they pop up while channel-surfing.
Book-wise, my favorites are probably A FIRING OFFENSE by Pelecanos or DARKNESS, TAKE MY HAND by Lehane. Honorable mention goes to MIAMI PURITY by Vicki Hendricks.
10. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share?
Just a quick slice of self-promo, if you’ll allow me. My first novel, SILENT CITY, hit late last year. It’s the first in a series starring washed up journalist Pete Fernandez – who seems to stumble more than investigate and drink more than plan. He’s stirred from his descent into darkness when a coworker asks him to find his missing daughter. Unfortunately – she’s entangled in the hunt for one of the deadliest underworld killers in Miami history. I hope you’ll give it a try.
Thanks for having me, Kristi! It’s been a pleasure.
EDITORS NOTE: If you do pick up Alex’s terrific book, be sure to pop over and leave a review on Goodreads and/or Amazon — that is the best way to support authors you like! : )