Creator: Alex Segura
Alex Segura is a novelist – the author of the Miami crime novels SILENT CITY and DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, both featuring journalist-hanging-on-by-a-thread Pete Fernandez. He’s also written comic books, including the best-selling and critically acclaimed ARCHIE MEETS KISS and ARCHIE MEETS RAMONES, along with the “Occupy Riverdale” story.
On top of all that, he’s the editor for Dark Circle Comics, home to the fantastic THE BLACK HOOD (seriously, if you’re not reading THE BLACK HOOD, check it out) as well as THE SHIELD, THE HANGMAN, and THE FOX. Best of all, he’s a great guy.
You write novels and you edit comic books. How do the two complement each other?
I think wearing both hats allows me to see each job from the perspective of the other, if that makes sense. As an editor, I can put myself in the writer’s shoes and try to predict how they’d react to any notes or ideas I might have. My philosophy as an editor is to basically “do no harm.” We’ve brought these people on these books because they’re talented and because we want to hear what they have to say. If I’m micro-managing, I’m not letting them do what they’re good at. My role is to amplify and augment what they’re already bringing to the table.
As a writer, it allows me to step back and look at my own work more critically. How would I react if this crossed my desk? Does this scene work? It also helps me think more visually. I always strive for my prose to feel cinematic and fast, so when you’re reading it all feels very clear and moving. I think a lot of that comes from comics and how I visualize story.
Let’s talk openings – how important is page 1? Is it different in novels versus comics?
I think the opening page of a comic might be more immediately impactful because it features an image, so it’s immediately in front of you, but both are important. You have to start strong. Which doesn’t mean violence or action. You just need to establish your story out of the gate.
My novels don’t start with explosions or buildings being destroyed, but they do start with a spark – the moment that the story starts. Which isn’t the same thing as the beginning of the story for the characters. You want to pull readers in so they’re wondering what’s happened and what’s going to happen. It’s tricky and not scientific at all, but both comics and prose really benefit when there’s a strong, meaningful opening.
SILENT CITY opens with a woman making microwave popcorn – a very ordinary event. But it quickly moves to a much less ordinary attack. Everyone can relate to the first part, the making of the popcorn. Was that intentional?
Sort of. I wanted to lull the reader into thinking the scene was going to be more expository than it ended up being. In that scene, you learn a ton of important stuff - I won’t spoil it, but if you go back and read it, there’s a lot of key info that plays out in the book. But then there’s some violence and that distracts a bit while also getting the blood pumping. So there was a bit of a bait and switch.
Your protagonist is Pete Fernandez. Did you build his entire character first, or did he develop as you wrote the novels?
I don’t write detailed life histories for my characters, but I try to jot down basic ideas and milestones. I want the characters – especially Pete and Kathy and other key players – to evolve from book to book. It’d bore me if things just remained static and my one job was to come up with an adventure for them to experience.
That said, I felt like I had a good handle on Pete when I put pen to paper on Silent City, and I also knew where I wanted him to end up on the last page.
Were there any moments when something Pete did surprised you, something you never saw coming?
All the time. As much as I think I know him, or have him figured out, he still does stuff that I don’t expect. From quips to action. I think that’s when books start to write themselves. When you hand over the wheel and let the characters run around the field you created. Things get jammed up when you try to put them back on the path you created. The fun stuff happens when you let them do what they want.
What’s next on the Alex Segura work schedule?
I’m polishing off the third Pete Fernandez mystery, DANGEROUS ENDS, which hits next April from Polis Books. Then I’m diving back into the fourth one. I have a few comic book ideas floating around and I continue to edit the Dark Circle Comics line for Archie. I’ve also got a story in Jay Stringer’s Replacements anthology out from Down & Out Books.