Tuesday, November 6, 2018

In the Shadow of Zero Saints? Hell No.

Scott's Note: Not that I should have to tell anyone who's reading this, but Gabino Iglesias has a new novel out.  It came out about a week ago, his follow up book to 2015's Zero Saints, and it's called Coyote Songs.  The publisher, as for his first book, is Broken River Books.  

For this guest piece, I had a simple question for Gabino.  After all the acclaim and attention he received for Zero Saints, what kind of pressure did he feel, if any, working on his next book?  How did he deal with the high expectations he now, with his second book, would have to live up to?

Let's see what Gabino answers:

In the Shadow of Zero Saints? Hell No.

by Gabino Iglesias

Zero Saints was praised by Jerry Stahl, Brian Keene, David Joy, Jeremy Robert Johnson, and other outstanding authors. It received rave reviews in places like the Los Angeles Review of Books and a plethora of important crime fiction sites. It made best-of-the-year lists in a few venues. It was nominated to the Wonderland Book Award, optioned for film, and translated into Spanish and published in Spain by Dilatando Mentes Editorial. In fact, it’s still selling three years after its publication. When you take all of that into account, you’ll understand why I felt my writing career only existed in the shadow of that book. Well, my new book is here, and Coyote Songs will make barrio noir even bigger and hopefully continue to get my message out there while proving that I live and work in the interstitial space between horror and crime. I love Zero Saints. It’s the book that made me. But now Coyote Songs is here, and it would appreciate your attention. Oh, and I was wrong about the shadow thing.

When I started writing Coyote Songs, only one thing was clear to me: it couldn’t be Zero Saints II. A lot of people asked for Zero Saints II, but I never planned to make Zero Saints into a series. More than anything, Zero Saints was the book that would help me introduce barrio noir to the world, and it did its job very well. That being said, I was afraid of the reactions to anything I wrote after that. Would it live up to readers’ expectations? Would they understand that the elements of barrio noir belonged to a multiplicity of genres? Would readers go for a barrio noir narrative without Fernando at the center? I won’t lie to you: those thoughts cut into my already reduced sleeping hours. Then, on a day like any other, I was scrolling through Facebook and read a post by horror author Josh Malerman in which he stated that every book was a different part of our body of work, an entirely different limb that could have nothing in common with the next one or the previous one and still be important. It sounds silly, but that post, now lost in the ether forever, made me see the light. Zero Saints was a book with zero chances. It was too political, too weird, and full of Spanglish and syncretism. It was too much of a horror book for the crime readers and too packed with crime for the horror lovers. And yet it worked. After reading Josh’s post, I felt free. I was going to write whatever I wanted. If my readers went with me, great. If they didn’t, maybe the one after that would get them back. In any case, getting new readers is always the goal, so I was going to write the story I wanted to write and forget about Zero Saints while doing so.

Now the book is out and the comparisons to Zero Saints are starting to come in. You know what? I don’t care. Just like I don’t think Stephen King cares that people still talk about Cujo or The Shining. I don’t care because I wrote a book that has enough blood and pain and mayhem to call attention to itself whether readers dig it or not. I don’t care because Zero Saints is my baby and will always be special, even if it now has to share heart space with a new sibling. I also don’t care because I’ve learned a lot in the past couple years, and when folks are talking about my work, I happily accept their attention even though I still don’t think I deserve it.

So, how exactly am I getting away from that shadow? Well, I’m not. I’m taking it with me. If folks want Zero Saints again, they can read it again. I’m here to bring more death and mayhem now. Here’s how I’m doing it:

1. I looked at some of my favorite writers. Laura Lee Bahr. Paul Tremblay. Josh Malerman. Brian Keen. Roxane Gay. The Slaughter Sisters. Carlton Mellick III. C.V. Hunt. Brian Allen Carr. Scott Adlerberg. You know what they have in common? They never wrote the same book twice. Hell, their books often have nothing in common. I’m more than happy to be like them.

2. I placed women at the center of the narrative and I’m getting women to blurb the book. The amazing four-time Bram Stoker award winner Linda D. Addison, the Sisters of Slaughter, and Egdar Award winner Meg Gardiner already said wonderful things about it. More of that is coming.

3. I have new goals. I only wanted to get on the map. I had two small novellas with indie presses. One of them is out of print. Zero Saints changed that. Mission accomplished. Now my goals are to get better with every book and to gain new readers.

That’s it! The best thing Zero Saints did was give me confidence. It taught me a lot. Now I’m here with Coyote Songs, and that means I’ll hustle harder, do more readings, and plug it every chance I get. Oh, and I will do it all while writing the next one. Because the hustle never stops. Because if you think my best book was already written, you are wrong. Because I have much more to say. Because diverse voices need to scream louder than privileged ones. Because barrio noir is in my blood. Yeah, go read this one. I promise not to make you wait so long for the next one. And I promise you it will be a weird mix of horror, crime, and bizarre. That’s my interstitial space. Hope you join me every time.


You can buy Coyote Songs right here.

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