Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Twenty Questions With Javier Marquez Sanchez

Javier Márquez Sánchez (born in Seville, Spain in 1978) is Editor-in-Chief of the Spanish edition of Forbes magazine. He has been Editor-in-Chief of the Spanish edition of Esquire Magazine and Deputy Director of Cambio16, and has written several novels, short stories collections and non-fiction books on film and music. Sometimes he plays music with his two bands, Rock & Books and The Last Drink.

Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo, out now from 280 Steps, is his first novel to be translated into English. 

PrintOne Bite at a Time: Tell us about Lethal as a Charlie Parker Solo.

Javier Marquez Sanchez: It's the first novel about Eddie Bennett, a ‘problem solver’ in Las Vegas.

OBAAT: Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you? (Notice I didn’t ask “Where do you get your ideas?” I was careful to ask where you got this idea.)

JMS: It's about a true story: the shooting of the film 'The Conqueror'. Well, not the shooting, but the consequences of it, with the death, directly or indirectly, of thousands of people, including the great star John Wayne. That story gave me the opportunity to talk about the dark side of the government. And along that way, I met my new character: Eddie Bennett.

OBAAT: How long did it take to write LASCPS, start to finish?

JMS: Not long, the story came very easily, and the writing process was really fast, too. I guess it was that way because I really enjoyed writing it. Maybe three months. After writing it, I read, rewrote and revised the manuscript for almost a year and a half.

OBAAT: What’s the back story on the main character or characters?

JMS: The main character is Eddie Bennett, a 'problem solver' in Las Vegas. He works for the hotels in the city and is responsible for making sure its most important guests (music and movie stars) do not have any problems. Eddie makes sure that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas". He has good friends on both sides of the law, including the most dangerous mobsters, such as Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli. He spends much of his time too with the best bartenders in town, as well as with some of the stars of the day, like his good friend Dean Martin.

OBAAT: In what time and place is LASCPS set? How important is the setting to the book as a whole?

JMS: We are in Las Vegas, 1955. No other time was possible, no other place. The time and the city are part of the story, as ‘special characters’.

OBAAT: How did LASCPS come to be published?

JMS: I meet my editor at ‘The Noir Week in Gijon‘, an annual meeting of noir writers, the most important in Spain. We just talked about the story, I sent it to him, he read it...and here we are.

OBAAT: What kinds of stories do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, in or out of that area?

20140402 - Javier_Marquez_02 JMS: I love noir stories. Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Ross Macdonald, George V. Higgins... and of course, the Spanish authors Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, Juan Madrid and Andreu Martín. When I have enough deaths, I go back to Hemingway, Cheever, Carver, Auster...

OBAAT: Who are your greatest influences?

JMS: In literature, I think Ernest Hemingway, Vázquez Montalbán, and Juan Madrid. My influences are not just literary, but also cinematographic. The Spanish director José Luis Garci, the emotional view of Sam Peckinpah... Even music influences me, most of all the narrative songs by Kris Kristofferson.

OBAAT: Do you outline or fly by the seat of you pants? Do you even wear pants when you write?

JMS: I always outline. I spent almost ten years writing several things just flying by; and I lost my time... and my pants.

OBAAT: Give us an idea of your process. Do you edit as you go? Throw anything into a first draft knowing the hard work is in the revisions? Something in between?

JMS: When I write, I just write. I put all the doubts or the things I should check in a notebook, but I like to write directly, and as fast as I can, to keep the feeling. This way is more natural to me, and less artificial.

OBAAT: If you could give a novice writer a single piece of advice, what would it be?

JMS: Write what you would like to read, or even better: write what you would like to live. And, of course, as Hemingway said: Write drunk, edit sober.

OBAAT: Favorite activity when you’re not reading or writing.

JMS: Play music with my friends. I have two bands: Rock & Books and The Last Drink.

OBAAT: Which do you take to bed at night, the money earned or the good review?

JMS: The good reviews, I guess. You spend money, not thinking about it. Although I would enjoy much more the good reviews if they came with some money...

OBAAT: Would you stop writing if someone paid you enough money so you’d never have to work again, on the condition you could also never write again?

JMS: You can’t stop writing. It’s something so natural as breathing. You can stop publishing, but you can’t switch off your imagination or your feelings. But if you pay me enough money so that I can live on an island and write my stories in the sand before the next wave clears it, I won't cry.

OBAAT: If you were just starting out, which would you prefer: 1. Form your own indie publishing house and put your work out in paper and e-book yourself? 2. Go with a small or medium traditional house that offers very little or no advance, a royalty that is only a fraction of what you'd get on your own, and also makes no promise of any type of publicity push, keeping in mind that you also will lose the publishing rights for a period, sometimes indefinitely? 3. Go with a Big Six or legacy publisher that offers a larger advance, legitimate review possibilities, entrance to industry literary awards, and exposure on the shelves of brick and mortar stores. Pick one and say why.

JMS: I think the second option is the best one for a new writer starting out. The big publishing house will forget you and the indie one is too amateurish.

OBAAT: Beer, mixed drinks, or hard liquor?

JMS: Beer by day, hard liquor by night. Vodka martinis anytime.

OBAAT: Baseball or football?

JMS: Boxing.

OBAAT: What question have you always wanted an interviewer to ask, but they never do?

JMS: Which published book do you wish you had written?

OBAAT: What’s the answer?

JMS: A short story: ‘The Killers’, by Ernest Hemingway.

OBAAT: What are you working on now?

JMS: I’m working on two different stories: an international political thriller and a noir story from my hometown, Seville (Spain).

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