Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Interview with Marc Cortez, author of 'A Gangster's Garden'

Marc Cortez began his storytelling career in the third grade, when he entered a school writing contest and won with his story THE ANT WHO STOLE EASTER.

Since then he has become a marketing writer and frequent blogger, leveraging his writing skills into success as a business executive and entrepreneur.With A GANGSTER’S GARDEN, he has turned his lifelong passion for storytelling into a full-length novel.

Mr. Cortez studied creative writing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lives in California with his wife and two children. A GANGSTER’S GARDEN is his first novel.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I’ve always been interested in the 4 L’s - language, loyalty, lineage, and legacy – and how those mix and interplay throughout a person’s life. I grew up in Oakland, and was exposed to gangs and the street’s dynamics from an early age. I remember watching my uncle, whom I loved dearly, chase a thug down an Oakland street with a baseball bat. So I was always interested in what goes on in the streets, and how it was different than the regular world. And then growing up as part of a Mexican family, there was always a language conundrum: do you speak English, assimilate, and betray your own, or do you commit to Spanish and limit your opportunities? So language as a powerful force in one’s life became an important theme for me.

When I moved to a mostly-white Denver suburb in high school, I experienced racism first-hand, and I became very protective of myself – not only of my lineage, but also of how my past would show up as I moved forward. And so the fundamental ties between my past and present and future have always been there for me, and these are themes that resonate throughout my book.

What books have influenced your life the most?

John Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH. It gets better every time I read it. I love how he paints a visual picture of this dark world that few of us were exposed to, and creates characters we believe in and root for.

What are your current projects?

I’m working on the sequel to A GANGSTER’S GARDEN, tentatively titled SANTOS, UNCOLORED. Benicio de los Santos is a fantastic, charismatic, complex character, and I want to finish the journey he began in A GANGSTER’S GARDEN.

I’m also working on a story of historical fiction, with a working title of STALKING ZODIAC. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was always fascinated by the Zodiac killer, made all the more compelling because he was never caught. But what if someone knew who he was?

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I would fall in love with my characters sooner. Early on I concentrated so much on plot, plot, plot; and it wasn’t until the characters came to life that the plot points crystallized. Create the characters, and they’ll fill in the blanks.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

That they don’t like my subject matter or that I’ve somehow glamorized gang-life. Yes, street gangs are murderous and a drain on society, but they’re also fascinating in their own twisted way. There’s no glamor in A GANGSTER’S GARDEN at all. It’s incredible what rises to fill in the holes that society leaves behind, and that’s what I tried to show.

What has been the best compliment?

That they fell in love with my main character, Benicio de los Santos, and could relate to his losses and his desire for revenge. Having readers relate to and feel compassion for a gang-leader is no easy task, and so I took that as a huge compliment. I wanted to capture the complexity of this lifestyle, and I hope that I was able to do so.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Write! Don’t edit, criticize, theorize, strategize, or editorialize. Don’t write as if trying to be good. Just write. Sit down and write whatever comes to mind: your grocery list, your bank balance, the indigestion you’re feeling, whatever. Writing is about momentum, and momentum can only be created by getting things in motion. Worry about liking it later.



What is your favorite quality about yourself?

Sometimes I invent people and make up stories.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

Sometimes I invent people and make up stories.

About the Writer

Novel Noise is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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