LJ Talks to Horror Writer Gabino Iglesias, Author of ‘The Devil Takes You Home’

LJ talks with Gabino Iglesias, author of The Devil Takes You Home, about publishing, reading, and book classification.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, professor, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He is the author of Zero Saints, Coyote Songs, and the LJ-starred The Devil Takes You Home, publishing this August. LJ’s horror columnist Becky Spratford talked with him about publishing, reading, and book classification.

Welcome, Gabino. Thank you for taking the time to talk to the library community. The Devil Takes You Home marks your first novel with a Big Five publisher, but you are definitely not new to publishing, with two small press titles under your belt, both of which received critical acclaim and major award nominations. What have you seen as the difference in the two experiences?

First, I want to say that indie publishing is a vital part of the publishing landscape. I wouldn’t have a career doing what I do if it weren’t for the things I was able to do with small presses. The same applies to many of my favorite authors, and a lot of other favorites are still working solely with indie publishers. Indie publishers are not afraid to fail, so they take bigger chances and tend to publish work that’s impossible to catalog. Other than the fact that visibility is everything, the biggest difference is distribution. Getting your work into the hands of readers is much easier when they can get your book everywhere. Big publishers have contacts that can get books reviewed and authors interviewed in big venues. With small publishers, most of that comes from word of mouth. Here’s a short list of “firsts” for me with The Devil Takes You Home that gives you a solid idea of the differences between small publishers and Big Five: first galleys, first bookplates, first time galleys are sent to booksellers across the country, first time readers can pre-order, first time librarians know about the book and have access to galleys months ahead of publication, first media event, first advance, first time working with a marketing team, and my first book to be published simultaneously in the U.K. It’s an entirely different game.

You have dubbed your work “barrio noir.” Can you explain what that means to you and why you chose that term to label your work?

My work always had speculative elements. When I was about to send Zero Saints to the publisher, I knew it had too much crime for the horror crowd and too much horror for the crime crowd. I knew I’d spend a lot of time explaining why there were so many speculative elements in my crime novel or trying to explain that all the crime elements belonged in a horror novel. The solution that came to me was to create my own thing: barrio noir. The barrio is your neighborhood, and my work brings all the Spanish, ghosts, and syncretism from back home. The noir comes from the fact that it’s dark, but it can be labeled crime, mystery, or thriller. Barrio noir is my own thing, which means I don’t have to debate with those who say it’s one thing or the other.

You are open and honest about what it means to be a writer of color, especially one who is vocal about marginalization and racism. Why is it so important for fiction to carry the voices of all people and experiences?

I want to know what it’s like to live as a trans man. I want to know as much as possible about the things Black women face every day at their job or college or neighborhood. I want to read love stories between two women or two men. I want to see the world as a middle-aged white woman who was born and raised in the Ozarks. I want to hear about the discrimination Appalachians encounter when they’re far from home. Reading is how I learn these things. Reading is how we expand our horizons and understand the things of our world that don’t belong to our immediate reality. Positionality is crucial, and that means that diversity, inclusion, and proper representation are crucial in publishing. I strive for that. I fight for that with everything I do and say. If those fights never happened, women wouldn’t vote, Black folks would drink from a different water fountain and wouldn’t be allowed to pursue an education in this country or work as a writer. I’m a nonnative English speaker, so I put a lot of Spanish and Spanglish in my novels. I don’t offer word-for-word translations. Does that make monolingual readers feel uncomfortable? All the time! I like that because it forces them to feel what others feel; it makes them, fleetingly, the Other, the outsider, the one struggling to understand. I go into every reading, podcast, class, workshop, and presentation knowing that my brain could forget a word in English at any time, and my English is good enough for me to make a living as a writer and professor in the United States. Do you know how others with less skills feel? I taught ESL classes to undocumented workers in Austin for two years. They lived in fear of being asked questions or suddenly finding themselves pulled into a conversation and not knowing what’s going on. If my Spanglish work does that to someone who’s never experienced it, mission accomplished.

Which authors are you most excited about right now? What should everyone be reading and adding to their library collections so others can discover it as well?

The list, no matter how long, would be incomplete unless you gave me six months to answer, but here are some contemporary writers everyone should read: Paul Tremblay, Cynthia Pelayo, V. Castro, Hailey Piper, Josh Malerman, Alma Katsu, Chuck Wendig, Eric LaRocca, S.A. Cosby, May Cobb, Joy Harjo, John Vercher, Nnedi Okorafor, Jennifer Hillier, Stephen Graham Jones, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Laird  Barron, Linda Addison, Alex Segura, Wanda M. Morris, David Joy, William Boyle, T. Kingfisher, Andy Davidson, Cassandra Khaw, Victor LaValle, Tommy Pico, Christopher Golden, Catriona Ward, Gemma Amor. . . Like I said I could go on and on, but that should be enough to get anyone started. 


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