If any writer has paid his dues, it is Richie Narvaez. From men’s magazines to kid’s books, from his award-winning short story collection “Roachkiller” to the buzz of his new novel, “Hipster Death Rattle,” from aspiring student to respected writing teacher, the Brooklyn-born Narvaez has covered a lot of ground in his career. We sat down recently to talk about his work, the landscape for Latino writers in today’s publishing industry and the joys of finally seeing his very first full-length novel hitting the shelves.
Open Mic: I loved “Roachkiller,” in part because of the great writing but also because no matter how grim the circumstances the characters all had a base element of humanity to them. Do you generally develop characters first and then figure out a story for them, or do you focus on plot and figure out characters to match?
Narvaez: Well, it’s funny that you ask that because I teach creative writing, and the way I teach it is to always start with the characters because that grounds a story much more than starting with plot. Start with a character and then plop them in a situation that destroys their status quo. And if you know the character well enough, they’ll move along the whole story for you. So, yes, I’m always focused on character first because that’s more interesting to me with mystery and crime fiction writing. You’re dealing with a lot of familiar tropes, so you know the story is going to end up in certain ways. But what would really make your story interesting or unique are the characters.
Open Mic: Tell me a bit about “Hipster Death Rattle,” which comes out next year? Is it also noir?
Narvaez: It is not, no. I define noir rather narrowly. Noir to me is a very sad ending. It’s a bad ending, a fall from a low height, you know, off the street curb and into the gutter. It’s a corollary to Oedipus falling from a great height and into the gutter. The stories in “Roachkiller“ are for the most part noir; almost everybody ends up badly. But Hipster Death Rattle is not noir. It’s not completely depressing at the end. Though it certainly has violence and crime and mystery flow through it.
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