The Angel Luis Colon Interview

angel-head-shotNote: Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Dan & Kate: Congratulations on the release of your second novella, NO HAPPY ENDINGS! What can readers expect from the adventures of your newest creation, Fantine Park?

Angel Luis Colon: THE GREATEST STORY EVAH.

Oh, sorry. Excited. Well, thanks for the kind words for one! As for Fantine, man, she gets put through the ringer a bit, what with having to rob a sperm bank that’s a front for a much more insidious (and gross) operation while trying to ensure her senior citizen father isn’t perished by her late mother’s old partner.

Real family friendly stuff, basically. Can’t wait for the Lifetime Original starring Valerie Bertinelli (she’s still alive, right? *Googles*).

D&K: While nothing like Blacky Jaguar from last year’s THE FURY OF BLACKY JAGUAR, Fantine is just as strong and memorable as he is. Both characters refuse to fit into anyone else’s mold, and we’re sure that readers are going to want to see more from them. When starting a new project, do you prefer to start with a character and build the story around that particular character? Or do you start with the plot and then develop a character to fit the action?

ALC: Funny enough, you described the process for Blacky and Fantine with both methods respectively.

Blacky was a product without a story at first. Everything is built around him. Fantine was actually crafted after I outlined the story of No Happy Endings. There was a lot of reworking and tweaking with this one since I wanted to approach a few portions differently. It was at times a very tough nut to crack but not for the obvious reasons. I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go but for a while I don’t think I quite nailed down the character relationships. It wasn’t until Fantine that things started to gel in a way that made me satisfied (well, as satisfied as any writer can be).

D&K: You’re an editor for Shotgun Honey, a flash fiction website and publisher. Considering how tight your writing is, there are no wasted words and everything serves to move the plot forward. Do you think your editing work has influenced your concise writing style?

ALC: Absolutely.

At Shotgun, we want 700 words, no muss no fuss. A lot of folks who submit to us think that means we want a scene or a first chapter (please stop sending us those – IT IS OBVIOUS AND YOU ARE NOT FOOLING US) but what we want is a fully realized story. That bad boy needs a beginning, middle, and end.

So yes, you gain an appreciation of how you can fit a lot into less. It’s probably why I gravitate a little more to novella-length as well. I can see some of these stories running longer, but then I also hate the idea of padding out a story that doesn’t require padding.

You wouldn’t know that word economy was so important to me by talking to me, though, I tend to rant and rant and rant…

Anyway.

D&K: The set-up of a sperm bank robbery and some of the ensuing shenanigans in NO HAPPY ENDINGS are cringe-worthy; however, the scenes with Fantine and her father are heartwarming with plenty of dark humor as a chaser. This resulting cocktail is so much fun to read. What is more fun for you to write, the action, humor, or heart?

ALC: I love the back and forth. If it were my choice, that would be all you got from me—talking head stories.

My first books were comics so while I think I have an eye for action I really do love dialogue. I idolize writers like Peter David for their ability to make two heads blabbing away infinitely more entertaining than energy blasts and bone claws (which is no small feat). And humor is the icing. Once I get a rhythm, smart ass remarks between characters feels easy to me.

Obviously, I tend to rewrite 90% of that dialogue because what’s funny to me is probably funny to six people out in Uzbekistan.

D&K: As fans, we tend to get invested in series protagonists and you have two fantastic ones. Can we expect more adventures staring Fantine Park and/or Blacky Jaguar soon? Or do you have yet another kick-ass character in mind?  

ALC: Blacky and Fan are both going to ride again. My publisher’s got the next Blacky sitting on their hard drive right now (Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult!!!) and I’ve actually written a one page synopsis for Fan’s next fiasco which I’m currently calling ‘Pull and Pray’—the goal with this one is to provide folks an actual Fantine Park heist, albeit with the same gonzo violence and unexpected issues as ‘No Happy Endings’.

As for other characters, man, there are three I’m hoping folks read one day. You can actually meet one character named Bryan Walsh in a little story I had posted in Spinetingler this year called ‘Doire’. He’s the lead in the novel that landed me my agent.

The other two are the protagonist and antagonist of something I’m finishing now called ‘Hitster’. I’m going to pass on naming and describing them since we’re still in first draft but this antagonist, man, I may be in love with her. She’s been a blast to write—very much my Joker.

D&K: In the spirit of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” and the Bernard Pivot questions asked of every guest, we have our own set of questions we ask of every interviewee.

When did you finally say, “Yeah…I’m gonna write stuff for a living. And it will be AWESOME.”

ALC: Wait…

I CAN MAKE A LIVING OFF THIS?????

Serious answer: I’m not entirely sure I’m quite there yet. The initial desire was to write again for fun. Coincidentally, the week of No Happy Ending’s release is the 3rd anniversary of my very first ‘real’ publication. I never planned on getting here in such a short time.

And mind you, there’s still SO much I’ve yet to accomplish, but so far, it has been awesome.

D&K: What was your favorite moment in mystery writing? The moment that when you read it on the page, you smiled and said, “That was so cool!”

ALC: As a writer: it hadn’t happened until the tumblers clicked on the latest Blacky. That novella was a bear to write and was stalled, rewritten, and even given up on over the summer. When I finished the major edits and read through it, I had three of those moments and it felt pretty amazing to see I could put that on the page after so much effort and stress.

As a reader (because that’s how you learn to write): when I finished Todd Robinson’s ‘The Hard Bounce’. That book helped me get over my fear of writing with my own voice. For a long time, I think I was almost ashamed of hearing myself in my writing. Reading a book that was that damn good and unabashedly in Todd’s voice was vital in getting me to embrace my style and my voice.

D&K: What was the moment that made you say, “Writing books is amazing”?

ALC: When I finished the first book I ever set out to finish. It sits in a drawer. It is 98,000 words. Nobody will ever read it.

It is my favorite thing I’ve written because it is the first thing I finished.

D&K: The standard Beatles or Rolling Stones question: Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett?

ALC: Neither, Ted Lewis.

But if I had to choose, I do prefer reading Chandler’s work. May have more to do with Altman’s adaptation of The Long Goodbye, though.

D&K: Parting thoughts?

ALC: Buy my book! It’s got dick jokes and sad stuff and the lead is named after a goddamn character from Les Miserables.

How much more interesting can I make that?

Are we done?

I’m hungry. Also, cold. I blame you, Dan.

Angel, Dan, and Kate are all business at Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans.

Angel, Dan, and Kate are all business at Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans.

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