Alex Segura of the Faulkner Detectives on Writing First Novel Silent City and Working With Kiss
We first met Miami native Alex Segura when reviewing his band the Faulkner Detectives's EP (Livid Records) The Modern Handshake back in 2012. Since then, his career in journalism and comics publishing has kept him bouncing between South Florida and New York City. His most recent, nonmusical musical endeavor: He penned the script for a surreal issue of Archie Comics in which the gang from Riverdale meets Kiss.
With that in tow, Segura just published his debut novel, Silent City, a gritty crime noir steeped in the decadence of a bygone era of hard-drinking journalists with mild poetic inclinations who can manage a little pearl in the swine before giving in to the personal demons. A speedy read and a solid first novel, Silent City is imbued with enough music to have you humming along and visualizing all those places in Miami you'd rather not set foot in.
New Times: First, let's talk Faulkner Detectives; any upcoming gigs, recordings?
Alex Segura: We're on a bit of a hiatus, to be honest. We all love playing together and have written a few new songs, but we're all very busy too. It sounds whiny to say, "Being in a band is hard," but it is when you're all in your 30s -- except our drummer, who's a spry 20-something -- have jobs, spouses, and other stuff going on, like novels and other writing projects. We took a longer break last year and reconvened recently in the new year to polish the set and write some new songs. So, we're on pause for a bit. No big news to report. We all love playing together and hope we can gather the forces sometime soon, but we're all slammed with other stuff too.
You slaved at the Miami Herald for a number of years before relocating north for Wizard Magazine, right? I'm unclear as to what happened in between then and now, but now you've recently injected some much-needed new blood (namely Kiss) into the Archie Comics canon. Tell us how that came about and how music will figure into Riverdale now alongside Josie and Screeching Weasel's devotion to the strip.
I ping-ponged a bit. I was at the Herald international edition for a few years as a copyeditor/page designer and then moved to New York to work at Wizard Magazine, which was a big deal in comics back then. After a couple of years there, I moved back to Miami to work for the Herald website as a "news producer," which is a fancy way of saying news editor. I also did some copyediting on the desk. It was a good experience -- long hours and weird hours, no doubt, but I made some great friends.
After that, I moved to NYC to work at DC Comics for about five years, and then I came to Archie. I left Archie to go back to DC... Lost yet? And just came back to Archie a few months ago to run their PR/marketing, but also to supervise the editorial of their superhero books, which has been a lot of fun so far.
The Kiss thing came about very randomly -- I was sitting in the CEO, Jon Goldwater's, office and he mentioned that Gene Simmons wanted to work with him and do an Archie meets Kiss crossover. At that point, I'd written a regular Archie issue, so they knew I was familiar with the characters and able to put a script together, so I threw my hat in the ring. It was a surreal and awesome experience. I got to meet Gene and Paul a few times -- we did a few signings together -- and I got to work with Dan Parent, who is the artist at Archie and has been working at the company for years. The book turned out great, and it was a ton of fun to write. I treated it like a wacky crossover. It was fun, bizarre and did not take itself seriously at all. I think the end result is an off-the-wall read that kids can enjoy as an adventure comic but parents will also find entertaining because of all the nods to Kiss' music and pop culture.
As for music in Riverdale now -- well, the Archies are still around, as are Josie and the Pussycats. I'd love to do a straight rock band comic one day. I think it could be a lot of fun. But we'll see.
Silent City is your first novel, and it is a solid crime novel, a Miami crime novel. What obstacles did you encounter in bringing Pete to life within the Miami you grew up in? As a native, do you find it hard selling Miami for its grim reality?
I just found that the perception of Miami is really skewed. A lot of people, when I mention I'm from Miami, just default to the Burn Notice/Miami Vice idea of it -- palm trees, umbrella drinks, beaches. I wanted to write about the Miami I know and grew up in. There's crime. There's violence. There are good parts of town and bad parts of town. And you can go months without taking the time to hit the beach because you're working or going to school or living your life.
Miami has a lot of stuff bubbling under the sunny exterior -- culture clashes, shady politics, crazy criminals -- you name it. I wanted to show that, but not in a TV movie way and also not in a, "Hey! Look! It's Miami! We crazy!" tongue-in-cheek way either. I just tried to be as realistic as I could be while still telling an engaging story that took some artistic license. It's a darker, seedier town, but still Miami.
How much of Pete's character is in you? There's clearly a journalistic line there and plenty of music. Do you fantasize about solving crimes? Seems like you have multiple avenues (novels/comics) to play these fantasies out.
I think, as a writer, you impart bit of yourself to every character you create, from the bit players to the star. So yeah, there's some of me in Pete. Though we're very different. I like to describe him as someone I wouldn't mind getting lunch with or someone I could have seen myself going to school with; we probably ran in the same circles, but he got into a lot more trouble than I ever did.
I never really fantasize about solving crimes, no. I'm a true crime buff, and I keep up with local Miami news, but that's mostly just fodder for my writing. I find that most of my best fiction is somehow tied to reality. It helps keep me, and Pete, grounded.
Comparing the novel format to a comic, how much cinema or rather, how much of a cinematic quality have you envisioned for the novel? Any plans in shopping the rights around?
Comics and prose are fun for different reasons. Comic books are collaborative. You write a script, the artist interprets it, the editor tweaks it, and hopefully the end result is something unique and greater than the sum of its parts. Prose writing is all you. You're in a room by yourself, and you are completely in control. Eventually, down the line, others get involved. But for the most part, you're the final word on what these characters do. I like collaborating, jamming, and riffing off other people, so comics are great for that. But there's also a lot to be said about being totally in control of what's going on, and I love that about novel writing.
It's funny you bring up the cinematic side, because in writing Silent City, I always thought of it in terms of a film: What's the opening scene? How would the car chase look? I'd love to see a Silent City movie. Fingers crossed.
I haven't finished it yet, but Pete's a guy I'd like to follow around in the future, especially if his inner demons manifest themselves. Any idea where we will encounter him next? NYC maybe?
The next book, Down the Darkest Street, is in the pipeline. I'm hoping to have some news on it soon. It's a sequel to Silent City and takes place in Miami. It's a much darker book, if you can believe it. It takes what little hope you've got at the end and squashes it on page one. That being said, it's about the struggles we all face and the gray areas of relationships and deals with some pretty gruesome crimes. I can safely say Down the Darkest Street really pulls Pete into the depths of despair. I'm not very nice to him. Poor bastard.
If the novel were to materialize into a film, what songs would you like on the soundtrack?
It's funny you ask. I put together a playlist for this great book blog, Largeheartedboy. It's basically all the songs that inspired me while writing the book. I'd love for the film to kick off with Against Me!'s "Miami" and feature Lou Reed's "Street Hassle" in some way. Throw in Neko Case's "Red Tide" and we're golden.