Anyone who’s followed this blog knows about Gabino Iglesias. Gabino is a voracious reader, a formidable reader. He’s also a reviewer for HorrorTalk and Out of the Gutter, among a host of other sites. He’s also quite the accomplished writer on his own, with the publication of his first novella, Gutmouth.
I’ve come to respect and like Gabino quite a lot. He’s reviewed my work and had a lot of nice things to say about it, specifically naming Little Deaths the No. 1 horror collection of 2012. I read his Gutmouth a while back, and enjoyed it extremely. And I think you will, too. So, I thought introducing you to Gabino would be a good thing…a great thing…for everyone!
So, here are some questions I slung his way and that he was kind enough to answer.
Tell us all about yourself–who you are, where you’re from, what you’re like.
I’m Gabino Iglesias, journalist, writer, and book reviewer. I was born in Puerto Rico, did a bit of growing up in Spain (thankfully, no maturing), and ended up in Texas. I enjoy the best things in life: books, music, writing, friends, laughter, nature, beer, and tacos.
You’re down in Austin at college, right? What are you studying and why? What’s the ultimate career goal?
I’m fighting my way to a PhD in journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. I was a journalist for a couple of years during and after getting my masters, but money was tight (as always!) so I started teaching communication courses at the University of Puerto Rico in Arecibo and fell in love with teaching. The plan is to get this degree so I can eat and pay the bills while I write. If you ask me, college professor/author is the most unique and unheard-of combination ever.
You’re an avid reader. Wait, that probably doesn’t do it justice. You’re a voracious reader. First, tell me what it is you enjoy about reading.
Nothing moves me like the written word. Books are great and talented authors can make you feel things, powerful things, new things, amazing things. There’s nothing like a good book, and most readers know it. However, just like me, they can’t tell you exactly why. I like booze, but books are my drug of choice. Movies are great, but books allow me to create my own versions of them and play/read them at the speed I want. Plus, books can be taken anywhere, shared, and even used as weapons if the need arises. The space some folks fill with television, movies, videogames, or talking on the phone, I fill with literature.
What genres do you prefer and why?
Noir. Bizarro. Horror. I dig literary fiction, genre-bending stuff, anything weird, and defend alt lit. I guess it’s easier to name the genres I don’t generally read: romance, YA (I said “generally” don’t read), historical novels, and erotica.
What authors do you prefer and why?
I like authors that do their own thing without thinking about what will sell, what genre formulas dictate, or what others will think of them for writing what they want. I like to read authors who have a voice and the writing chops to make it work. I also enjoy authors who are smart enough to take genre tropes and use them, but twisting them into a new thing. Mediocre literature that placidly goes with the status quo is very easy to find, so what I crave is literature that packs a punch, has something to say, and flips the bird at the status quo while grabbing its crotch.
You do reviews for sites like HorrorTalk and Out of the Gutter. How did you get into that?
I started reviewing professionally for the Austin Post in early 2011. Then I had too many new horror books and new ones were coming in the mail regularly, so I had to start writing for places like HorrorTalk, Horrorphilia, and The Horror Review. Since I also enjoy other genres, I soon found myself writing for other venues as well. Then I blinked and I was a professional reviewer with my work showing up on places like Verbicide, The Rumpus, Word Riot, Necessary Fiction, The Coffin Factory, Buzzy Mag, The Lovecraft eZine, HorrorTalk, ManArchy, ZOUCH Magazine, Crime Factory, Out of the Gutter, Revolt Daily, and other print an online venues. It’s a sweet gig. I get to read the best indie lit out there and only need to send an email to get any book for free. I’m poor, so that’s an incredible advantage. Almost like a superpower. I get to share my love of books with the world and help authors in the process. It doesn’t get any better than that. If I found a way to make money doing it, I’d quit my job and do it full time.
As a far-ranging reader, are there things you’re seeing these days that you really would like to read more of? And things you’d like to see less of?
I’d like to read more of the same smart, unique, genre-bending fiction that the top indie presses are putting out. I’d love to see less self-published books that haven’t gone through the capable hands and eyes of a professional editor. I should probably use this space to say I’d love to see less crappy, formulaic books in the best-sellers list, but I don’t read that shit anyway, so I won’t waste everybody’s time.
You’re from Puerto Rico. What aspects of your life there informs your reading…and your writing?
That’s a hell of a question. I think it informs both, but it impacts my writing more powerfully than my reading. Puerto Rico is a ridiculously violent place. In fact, we beat Mexico in per capita murders in 2012. I grew up surrounded by crime and as soon as I started hitting the street as a teenager, fights, drugs, and violence were always part of the equation. When I started writing, it all came out. During my first year in Austin I wrote a 150k word novel about a drunk PI in Puerto Rico. It turned out so long because I tried to put most of the incredible/dangerous/awful/ultraviolent things I’d witnessed or had been involved with back home. There are reasons I have so many broken teeth. I’ve been shot in the leg and had a guy try to stab me in the ear in a bar. My writing gets better with time, and it’ll get to the point where I have the skills to take all that and turn it into good crime fiction. Give me a few years and you’ll see!
As for the reading, you have to keep in mind that there weren’t many book stores around me when I was a teenager. Part of my addiction to books has to do with growing up with somewhat limited access to new books. I didn’t have regular access to a computer with Internet until I was a junior in high school, so Amazon wasn’t an option. Most of what I read very early on was stuff my dad handed down to me. He knew I enjoyed the dark stuff and had no problem with it. He handed me my first Richard Laymon book when I was about 14.
Which segues, of course, into your writing. How did being a voracious reader lead to your writing?
I’ve been a writer for as long as I’ve been a reader. I was writing stuff in school, writing stories for classes, penning shorts and poems. Back then, everything I read blew me away. H.P. Lovecraft. Oscar Wilde. Edgar Allan Poe. Richard Laymon. Federico Garcia Lorca. Bentley Little. Stephen King. Charles Bukowski. Arthur Conan Doyle. Ray Bradbury. Isaac Asimov. Mario Benedetti. August Derleth. Antonio Machado. There was no way I would ever be that good. Then I read more. I kept reading newer stuff. Some of it was just as good. Some of it wasn’t. Some of what I read was worse than my own work. I decided to share my words. I won a poetry contest at my university and then placed third on a national short story contest. My story was published in the country’s largest newspaper. I dug the feeling. I wanted more of that. Reading and writing go hand in hand, and I crave more of both constantly.
What genres do you write in and why? And when do you find the time between studies, reading, reviewing and life?
I write bizarro because no other genre is as free. When it comes to doing whatever you want, pushing boundaries, and creating new things, there’s nothing like bizarro. The genre is also tied to the most amazing tribe in the world, so my genre is also my family. I also write crime because it’s always appealed to me. I love noir. If you give something violent and pulpy, I’m happy. Neo-noir is exploding and some of the authors working in it keep me inspired and writing. Plus, as I mentioned above, I have plenty of material to draw from. Last but not least, I write horror because it’s one of the first true passions I ever had. When my friends were into movies, sports, or videogames, I was into Cthulhu and serial killers.
Your latest release is the novella (I guess it’s a novella?) Gutmouth. What’s the story about? And where did you get the idea?
Gutmouth is my latest release as well as my first release (not counting anthologies). It’s a nice little story about love gone wrong in a world ruled by an evil corporation where mutations are common and drugs turn pain into pleasure. You could say it’s a dystopian tale, but I had a lot of fun writing about kleptomaniac cockroaches, fetus tacos, torture, and a woman who gets turned into a bicycle, so I just call it fun. The idea came from a lot of places. I wanted to write a bizarro that paid homage to noir, sci-fi, and horror. I think it came out okay.
I guess Gutmouth falls into the Bizarro category, but there are noir elements, scifi, fantasy, dystopia, even some Burroughs. And it’s no secret that I really dug the book. Is it indicative of your writing style in general?
I guess so. I try to keep my writing weird and dark, and Gutmouth packs a lot of both.
What are you working on now? What’s in the pipeline?
I’m working on a crime novella. The working title is Broken Mojo. It’s about a bouncer/drug dealer who has some trouble with a South American gang that shows up in Austin wanting to take over. There are a few weird elements in there, but I’d call it pure noir. I’m also working on my next bizarro book. In bizarro, it’s all about the hustle, so I want to be ready. Always. I’m also working on a straight horror novella about cannibals. Last but not least, I’m working on a novel that started as a literary experiment and it’s slowly turning into something I’d really love to see published. It’s about a guy who loses the ability to feel emotions. I know it sounds like a bizarro premise, but it’s not. When I have time, I work on crime, horror, or bizarro short stories. I recently had one published at the Flash Fiction Offensive and that gave me a push to carry on. On the pipeline are stories in two anthologies I’m really excited about: Bizarro Bizarro, from Bizarro Pulp Press, which comes out next month, and Long Distance Drunks: A Tribute to Charles Bukowski, from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.
Give me a few of the books you’ve just read/are reading that have really stuck with you.
Too many! Here are some from the last couple of months: The Laughter of Strangers by Michael J. Seidlinger, The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale, Sociopaths in Love by Andersen Prunty, Hill William by Scott McClanahan, Out of the Black by John Rector, Peckinpah: An Untraviolence Romance by D. Harlan Wilson, The Sound of Loneliness by Craig Wallwork, Quicksand House by Carlton Mellick, You Are Sloth! by Steve Lowe, Tampa by Alissa Nutting, The Deep Whatsis by Peter Mattei, Drinking Until Morning by Justin Grimbol, The Girlfriend Game by Nick Antosca, The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson, Taipei by Tao Lin, the Jeremy Robert Johnson’s samplers, and Cha-Ching! by Ali Liebegott. There’s also some poetry, but I don’t want to make this too long. Right now I’m digging Country Hardball by Steve Weddel, The Abominable by Dan Simmons, and Kill/Off by some dude named John. F.D. Taff. I’m always scared when a horror writer puts out a crime novel, but he pulls it off nicely.
Hey, that’s me. Thanks! Finally, what advice would you give readers these days?
Spend some time looking for books. Don’t buy your next read at the grocery store. Support small and indie presses and authors and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best literature out there.
What advice would you give writers these days?
I’m a newbie, so won’t start pontificating about writing. However, I would say this: some writers need to spend more time writing and less time writing about writing and how fantastic their WIP is turning out.
Thanks for doing this, brother!
No probs, Gabino. If you don’t know Gabino (how could you not?) or haven’t read his work (how could you not?), check Gutmouth out here. It’s a ballsy, trippy story that just works so well on so many levels. It’s horrifying and fun and has something to say, all at the same time. Plus, Gabs is a helluva guy.