It made sense for Mario Acevedo and Marta Acosta to launch a blog together last year. After all, Marta writes, when she was shopping around her debut novel, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, “it got declined by someone who said he already had a similar project. And I was like, yeah, sure, there’s another comic Latino vampire novelist out there. Then I found out that Mario had a three-book deal for wacky Latino vampire novels. Whoda thunk?”
Since both of them have recently come out with their second novels—X-Rated Bloodsuckers for Mario, Midnight Brunch for Marta—I thought it would be a fun idea to bring them together for an Author2Author chat, even though the blog they created with fellow vampire novelist Jeanne Stein, Biting Edge has evolved into a new permutation, with Marta leaving to concentrate on a new blog called Vampire Wire. And here they are!
Mario Acevedo: Marta, you’ve written a contemporary novel about a Latina and a vampire, but what binds the story is your humor. How hard is it for you to use humor as a literary device? Are you a naturally funny person? If someone was reading your book and started laughing, what would be your reaction?
Marta Acosta: I grew up in a family with three boys, and we all told funny stories and jokes. I didn’t realize that “chicks aren’t funny” until I got older. As much as I love serious literature, I also love jokesters, from Mel Brooks to Monty Python, Richard Pryor to Dave Chappell, Will Shakespeare to P.G. Wodehouse. I will make a joke about anything, and humor is absolutely essential to the way in which I deal with the world and its attendant sorrows and tragedies. Or maybe I’m justifying my essential silliness, whatever.
I was always trying to reconcile my compulsion to make jokes with my love of good writing. I’m from the working class, and I dislike the elitism of some in the literary world who often seem more interested in internecine battling over who is the most sensitive when sleeping on 20 mattresses set atop an Oprah Book Club selection than in books themselves. I really honed my comic voice when I wasted my work time on a company e-forum. My greatest thrill was when wrote something that entertained everyone, from the young receptionists to the Ph.Ds. It was an easy step going from there to writing humorous columns in newspapers.
What I didn’t anticipate is the resistance to women as humorists. Guys are all, “Women don’t have a sense of humor. It’s chick lit crap.” So I’m all, “Yeah, we do, but our humor extends beyond the scatological, you jackass.”
Marta Acosta: Mario, your series of novels featuring soldier-turned-vampire Felix Gomez is filled with shapeshifters, elves, and other supernatural creatures. It could be categorized as a paranormal story, crime fiction, Latino lit, vet lit, fantasy, and comic fiction. There has been lots of nasty discussion (the best kind) on various blogs about genre fiction vs. contemporary fiction. How do you define your writing, and are there any misconceptions about your writing that you’d like to clarify?
Mario Acevedo: The big difference is that genre writers know how to tell a story and entertain the reader. I’m firmly in the genre camp. I describe my books as satire which means I don’t take any subject too seriously. I use vampires and the supernatural as foils to express that satire. I throw in a lot of subjects that interest me: women; sex; hard-boiled crime; Latino-ness; more women; military vet-ness; sex; government corruption; political liars; and finally, more sex and women. Any misconceptions about my books that I’d like to clarify? That I’ve written a brainy, thoughtful book.
So, why vampires? Where do you see your vampire stories going? Is there a thread you’re following or is every story independent? What would be the difference between your first book and, for example, book four?
Marta Acosta: Having vampires in my novel was sheer whimsy. I was ranting, as I am wont to do, to the husband about the lack of Latinos and other ethnic groups in sci-fi films. I think I was enduring a Tom Cruise movie at the time, and all the characters were running around in Lycra jumpsuits, which is so wrong. Anyway, I thought why not write a story with vamps with a Latina protagonist, and let them argue about who was the most oppressed by The Man? I selected vampires because I find the standard vampires to be ridiculous as romantic characters. They never use contractions even though they’ve been speaking English for hundreds of years. They’re recreationally morose. They’re always looking for the trophy girlfriend, and they never have any interesting hobbies or jobs.
I didn’t expect to be writing a series, and I have no idea where it’s going, but it will feature the same protagonist, Milagro De Los Santos. She’s a lively, clever, good-natured graduate of a Fancy University, F.U., who writes political horror stories that no one wants to read. (That’s my shoutout to Kurt Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout.) As for the journey, I just gassed up the car, filled a few thermoses with margaritas, and I’m hitting the road, baby.
You’re also a painter and have taught painting to prisoners. Tell me a little about your painting. Are you trying to express different things with painting and writing?
Mario Acevedo: I’m a representational painter, mostly urban landscapes, and strive to capture a moment in time. My writing and painting are different mediums that I use to express myself. I’d like to produce a work that uses both, maybe an illustrated novel.
24 May 2007 | author2author |