• Gaby Triana

Una Entrevista with GABINO IGLESIAS

Hello, and welcome to Friday, mis amigos! If I'm being more bilingual today, it's because I'm proud to share my interview with an author who shares my nickname, Hispanic upbringing, and a love of all things horror. Please welcome the talented GABINO IGLESIAS to the Witch Haunt!

WH: Hey, Gabino! Please give us a brief introduction of your fabulous self!

GI: Thanks for calling me fabulous! I’m Gabino Iglesias. I read, write things, and review books at a bunch of venues. I also teach high school at a public school in Austin and teach writing an SNHU’s online MFA program. Any time I have left, which isn’t much, is spent online, at the gym, and watching movies or playing the guitar.

WH: That's a full plate, and thank you for teaching high school. This country needs more passionate teachers who care about the world, such as you. Did you ever have a dream career besides writing/publishing?

GI: I’m a photographer and always dreamed on working for National Geographic. Any venue that would pay me to travel the world and capture the beauty of other cultures and geographies would definitely be a dream gig.

WH: It's never too late. Maybe in the next phase of your life. Gabino, you tell stories about migration and looking for a better way of life. Do you think this country has shifted from a proud, give-me-your-tired-your-poor heritage to one of “let’s build a wall” because of the current administration, or has fear toward immigrants always been in our national fabric?

GI: I think it has always been around, but the current administration has made it okay for folks to be openly racist. The orange buffoon invented a crisis and spurred racists into a frenzy. Sadly, this has always been around. Ask any person of color. This is a country where we talk about freedom a lot, but what most people talk about is the freedom to be wealthy and white and to hate anyone who falls outside of those parameters. The saddest thing is that this fear of the Other doesn’t come from Native Americans, which means it comes from folks whose families came in boats not that long ago.

WH: It always amazes me that most of this country's citizens forget that they all came from somewhere else. We have a lot to be proud of, for sure, but I feel our racism is by far our biggest embarrassment.

Your newest release, COYOTE SONGS, has been getting spectacular feedback and a Bram Stoker nomination. Congrats! Tell us why you are proud of it.

GI: I’m proud of it because it is a timely book, and I said what I wanted to say. I don’t think many publishers would’ve picked it up because getting too political is seen as dangerous. Broken River Books doesn’t give a fuck about that. After Zero Saints, my previous novel, I decided to do more of what I had done. More bilingualism. More horror. More multiculturalism. More extreme violence. More message within entertainment. More of everything. I’m proud to have pulled that off. Every books brings a lot of insecurity, but with the help of positive reviews, the love of amazing bookstagrammers, reactions from readers, and the recent Bram Stoker Award nomination, the insecurity is somewhat under control. Now I’m just nervous about the next one.

WH: That's normal, but I always tell myself, Look how far you've gotten. You know what you're doing! You recently talked about the few one-star reviews you received from readers who weren’t aware that ZERO SAINTS was largely bilingual. Do you think those reviews were a case of customers upset by product misrepresentation, or people who just wanted to give you shit for including so much—gasp—Spanish?

GI: If you pick up a book about an undocumented Mexican in Texas written by a guy named Gabino Iglesias who says his work is barrio noir and you don’t expect some Spanish…well, maybe you’re the kind of person who needs to be told not to stick knives in power outlets (*Gaby spits her coffee here*). I think there is a chunk of the population that thinks every narrative is for them. Some are not. If you want a formulaic thriller, go pick one of the hundreds that get published every year. If you hate diversity, stay away from my work.

WH: Amen. If you don't like it, keep moving. Nothing to see here. If you could interview any horror author, gone or alive, who would it be?

GI: I’d love to interview Stephen King. I think he is the biggest living author. I said living author, not living horror author. I also said the biggest, and that doesn’t necessarily mean the best. I think the man is an inescapable figure. About 65% of Instagram book posts are Stephen King novels. I don’t think all his work is brilliant, but the impact he’s had on popular culture is undeniable. I’d love to talk to him about it.

WH: There's something about King's stories that appeals to almost everyone, and even people who claim not to like horror love his work, because he normalizes everyday fear.

How have you changed as a person from your early life until now?

GI: My anger is very different now. It used to be like a land mine: explosive, hyperviolent, and messy. Now it’s like a laser: focused, controlled, and more destructive. I’ve also learned that not everything is worth my time. For example, I don’t argue with people online. That has done miracles for my blood pressure and has kept me out of jail.

WH: *laughing in Spanish* Okay, quick break... How do you like your coffee? Do you have a favorite libation? What’s your favorite dessert?

GI: Depends! Sometimes black is the only thing that does the trick. However, to have a few cups in the afternoon while reading, a latte is the way to go. I like dark beers and rum. Vodka kinda goes well with everything. Desserts? Too hard to pick! Brownies and cookies are at the top of the list, followed by cake and M&Ms.

WH: I never set out to be known as a “Latina author,” even though all my books include Hispanic people from different countries and levels of fluency. I simply aim to write a good story, throwing in what I know from experience being the daughter of Cuban exiles living in Miami. Do you think it’s important to make your “Hispanic-ness” a selling point in order to represent Latinos in literature, or do you just “do you?”

GI: I think it loses authenticity when you set out to make it part of what you do. When it happens organically, it has power. I was a writer back home. I won contests back home with things I wrote in Spanish. When I moved here, I wrote three books in English before I found my voice again, my bilingual voice. I don’t think I would have been as successful in finding it if I had tried to play up my identity from the start.

WH: Organically is the key word. Let’s imagine the horror genre/industry is high school. Where do you fit in?

GI: Haha. I think it would be very much like my real high school experience! I’d be an outsider who tries to get along with everyone. I’d also be the guy knocking out bullies, because fuck bullies. My work is crime and horror and bizarro and, I’m being told now with Coyote Songs, literary. I do what I want and am thankful for writers from every genre. Any asshole can be your enemy, so I focus on making friends.

WH: What is the witchiest thing about you (we’re all a little witchy)?

GI: My grandma was a bruja. She carried her milagritos inside her clothes and lit candles for the spirits. She prayed to different saints and embraced syncretism. Growing up in the Caribbean almost makes you a brujo if you pay attention. There is Christianism and Catholocism wherever you go, but also Santería, Palo Mayombe, Voodoo, Mesa Blanca, and other religions. They are everywhere. They mix and look like different things. Growing up in the middle of all that makes you embrace all of it, and that sort of makes you part of it. I’m the guy lighting candles to Santa Muerte before every book…

WH: Your grandma would be super orgullosa de tí! I'm proud of the fact that my mother never enforced a religion on me. She let me experiment and be drawn to whatever I felt was right. What do you feel makes a compelling horror novel?

GI: Likeable characters you can connect with going through horrible things. I think that’s one of elements that makes the novels of Paul Tremblay so successful; they are about normal people on horrible circumstances. And those circumstances don’t have to be things like ghosts and monsters. You want to feel horrified? Let me tie you to a chair, grab someone you love, and slowly cut off their fingers in front of you. See? No need for demons or monsters!

WH: Indeed, and fear is so subjective. What is the most awesome thing happening in your life right now that you’d like to share with us?

GI: The reception of Coyote Songs has surpassed my expectations. Readers and reviewers and book bloggers and bookstagrammers and everyone in between have been incredibly supportive. I’m poor and rarely get to go anywhere unless someone pays me to go, but this year I will be travelling to promote this book to a bunch of cool places and I’m very happy about that. I sold the rights to Sonatine Editions in France. That felt like a huge step forward as well.

WH: That's so freakin' awesome. So happy for you! What’s next? We can’t wait to see what you have coming up!

GI: I’m working on the next one. Always. I will get it done soon so I can jump on my collaboration with the late, great J.F. Gonzalez. I’ve done a lot of research for both, so I’m eager to get all of it together and send them out into the world. I’m also working on an anthology of stories inspired by Biggie Smalls for CLASH Books and I’m reading pitches for a border noir anthology I’m working on for Polis Books. I’m very excited about those projects as well.

That's inspiring, man. Thank you so much for sharing your time with me and letting us get to know you a little more. Good luck with the Bram Stoker and all your upcoming events!

To follow Gabino, visit the following links:

* Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Gabino-Iglesias/e/B00AEBI0T8/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

* Latest release: https://www.amazon.com/Coyote-Songs-Gabino-Iglesias/dp/1940885493/

* Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gabino.iglesias.7

* Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gabino_Iglesias

* Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gabino_iglesias/

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, professor, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. His work has been translated into three languages, optioned for film, and nominated to the Wonderland Book Award and the Bram Stoker Award. His nonfiction and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, NPR, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Collagist, Los Angeles Review of Books, Criminal Element, and other print and online venues. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.

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