Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Conversation with Angel Luis Colón

By Alex Segura

Angel Luis Colón is a writer's writer - he's the guy other writers look forward to hearing read at Noir at the Bar and an all-around good guy. He's also fun to banter with on Twitter. I'm psyched he agreed to let me grill him for a bit here.

Angel's novella, The Fury of Blacky Jaguar, is an insane, noir, high-octane, nonstop read featuring a memorable and entertaining protagonist in Blacky. Don't wait to read the rest of this - you can pre-order the book now, courtesy of the One Eye Press team. When not writing like mad, Angel also seems to find the time to review mystery/crime for My Bookish Ways and edit flash crime fiction at Shotgun Honey. I can't imagine he has much free time. Thanks to Angel for carving out a few minutes to talk with me.

Elevator pitch time - what's The Fury of Blacky Jaguar?

Blacky Jaguar is a cartoonish, narcissistic ex-IRA Provie with a hard-on for Elvis, the 50's, and making things explode.

Someone made a really shitty call and stole his '59 Plymouth Fury. Now he wants it back. Heads will roll.
How'd you hook up with the gang at One Eye Press? How've they been to work with?

One Eye Press has been killing it from the start. Federales, their first one shot by Chris Irvin grabbed me. From there; White Knight by Bracken MacLeod, The Gospel of the Bullet by Chris Leek, Knuckleball from Tom Pitts, The Gunmen by Timothy Friend - all fantastic single sitting reads from some of the best writers on the crime and western front. When I sat down and wrote The Fury of Blacky Jaguar, it was with complete intent to have that story pubbed by One Eye and nobody else.

I lucked out, huh?

As for the working relationship? Ron Earl Phillips is amazing. He's got an eye for talent and an open ear in case I moan (which I don't do a lot of, thankfully...hopefully). I'm so thrilled that this is a great home for Blacky and I couldn't be happier working with a guy like Ron.

You've built a rep as not only a great short story writer, but someone who's really precise when it comes to flash fiction and, for lack of a better word, presentation. I would never want to read after you at Noir at the Bar, for example. How important is that to you - being a strong short story writer?

Well, first, thanks for the compliment. That means a lot, especially from a writer I respect (it's a love-fest!).


Being a short story writer is incredibly important to me and I believe it should be important to any writer - beginner or pro. It's like weightlifting or marathon training. The short circuits with the sudden bursts of speed or strength help improve conditioning for the big stuff. Flash and short fiction writing is how you work your writing muscles for the marathon sessions. They provide you with the challenge of word economy and of learning basic narrative structure. Without those skills, you're rambling just like I am now.

I know Blacky isn't just a one-and-done character. You have a lot of stories to tell in his world. Can you zoom out a bit and let us know why this character keeps poking at you? Maybe tease what's in store?

He is certainly not a one and done. Matter of fact, his first appearance was in the recently released Shotgun Honey Anthology, Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Book 3 in a story called 'Love At First Fight'. He's also got a role in the novel I'm working on and will be returning later this year in 'A Very Blacky Christmas'. That story pits him against a very mean lady known as Krissy Kringle and her muscle; Krampus and Attis.

This stuff writes itself, man.

Honestly, I just love the son of a bitch. Not that I want to do anything he does, but it sure is fun to imagine it. I feel like I can get out of hand without explaining it in detail when it comes to Blacky because, for Christ's sake, the man calls himself Blacky Jaguar.

In addition to writing, you also edit Shotgun Honey with a killer crew. While the seat isn't warm yet, can you talk a bit about what that's been like? Has it made you a better writer?

It's been incredible. An absolutely vital learning experience for me. The best part about Shotgun Honey is we demand our stories be short, like, super short (700 words, kids) so it's a manageable task to read through our submissions. What I've learned and been inspired from has been very instrumental in making me a more deliberate writer. I try my very best to listen to my criticism and praise of others. While, yeah, I won't let it get in the way of the voice I've built for myself, there's always room to learn.

Influences - who are yours? Can you see how they play a part in your final product?

My influences are surprisingly not very noir. Top of the head list: Clive Barker, Douglas Adams, Chuck Palahniuk, Ted Lewis, Hunter S. Thompson, Peter David, and Kurt Vonnegut. I'm not very conscious of the exact role they play in my final product, but I do know I do my very best to not ape them. I consider those guys to be geniuses in their own ways and they've influenced me even outside my writing, but I'd be terrified to ever be compared to them.

I think there's a lot of value in promoting the work of others and I get the sense that you feel the same. How important is it for you to be part of a community of writers? Can you share some experiences in the time you've been part of the crime writing world that helped your career?

Dead on. We have to support each other and watch each others' back in this business. I'm in total agreement there. I've been fortunate to have quite a few writers that I respect (and am genuinely a fan of)  give me an incredible amount of support and advice. It's not only been vital in any of my successes, but also in just improving my experience within this community. I know everyone says it, but I don't think I've ever been part of a scene as fostering and friendly as the crime-writing community. Though, you get what you put in, obviously.

Shifting gears - I know you like comics. I love comics, too. Who doesn't? What have you been reading? What did you read starting out? And which character would you kill to write?

I'm so behind on my comics, but Secret Wars has been pretty amazing. I JUST nabbed the first few issues of Black Hood, but haven't had time to dive in yet.

As for my first single issue: Web of Spider-Man vol 1 Issue 8 written by David Michelinie and interiors by Geof Isherwood. The cover, by Charlie Vess, is tattooed on my left arm. The ENTIRE cover sans typography.
So needless to say, Spidey would be my dream project.

Writer, editor and reviewer - you do the reviewing part for MyBookishWays, one of my favorite book sites. How did that come about and what kind of writing muscles does that flex? Do you find it tricky to have to review the work of people you may have to interact with in another role?

Funny enough, I asked. Kristin Centorcelli (editor in chief of My Bookish Ways) tweeted a call for reviewers, so I emailed and asked if I could lend a hand. Hopefully, I've been a help!

And yeah, it's at times tough to switch back and forth from fiction to reviewing, but it helps me more often than not. My brain likes to be bounced around.

You know, it's not like I haven't felt a little worried about my reviews, especially in light of the fact that I do know some of the authors, but I try my best to keep it professional and to put as much thought as I can into any critique or praise I provide. Thankfully, corporate dayjob trained me to flip that switch easy.

Give me some tracks that would be on the soundtrack to BLACKY JAGUAR. What did you listen to while writing this book?

To name a few:

Attitude by Bad Brains
Rebel Without Applause by Every Time I Die
Devil's Dance Floor by Flogging Molly
Woo Ha! Got You All In Check by Busta Rhymes
Buzz Bomb by Dead Kennedys
Lots of angry punk, hardcore, and hip hop.

In closing - name-drop a few authors you think deserve more attention and why.

I've got to give a big shout out to the Polis Books bench: Rob Hart, Terrence McCauley, Dave White, Patti Abbott, and that Alex Segura fella. Absolute beastly lineup of books from great writers coming out over there.
Other writers I think deserve attention: Jen Conley (my fellow Shotgunner), Chris Irvin, Bracken MacLeod, Renee Asher Pickup, Josh Stallings, Patrick DeWitt, Sara J. Henry, Thomas Pluck, and Todd Robinson (GO BUY THE HARD BOUNCE).
I also can't leave out Brian Panowich, Paul G. Tremblay, and Chris Holm. Good lord, these guys have written some fantastic, fantastic stuff this year.

Folks need to search all these writers out and consume their output, it's good for your brain - maybe.