Today I am interviewing Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of the new urban fantasy novel, Certain Dark Things.
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DJ: Hi Silvia! For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Silvia Morena-Garcia: I am a Mexican writer now living in Canada, English is my second language. My first novel, Signal to Noise, came out last year and was nominated for the British Fantasy, Locus, Aurora and Sunburst Awards. I am co-editor for the magazine The Dark and also co-editor for The Mexican Literary Review. I have been nominated for a World Fantasy Award for my work on the anthology She Walks in Shadows. Certain Dark Things is my second novel.
DJ: What is CERTAIN DARK THINGS about?
Silvia: Atl, a descendant of Aztec vampires, is on the run from a rival vampire cartel. She hides in Mexico City where she meets a street kid called Domingo, hoping to evade her pursuers, but they are hot on her tracks and now there’s a cop also looking for her.
DJ: What were some of your influences for CERTAIN DARK THINGS?
Silvia: I wrote the book as a love letter to Mexican noir and to the movie El Vampiro. I loved when Ninón Sevilla appeared in movies and lured men to their doom.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
Silvia: I think sympathy is overrated. I mean, people watch shows about cannibal killers and that doesn’t sound sympathetic to me. Atl is a vampire inspired by Mexican folklore, so she doesn’t necessarily follow the “rules” of stuff like Dracula. She can’t turn people into vampires and she doesn’t give a shit about crosses.
Domingo is a kid from the streets of Mexico City. He’s smart and resourceful, and he’s in awe of Atl. There’s also Nick, the member of a rival vampire clan who is out for revenge, and Ana, a cop trying to survive in a corrupt system.
DJ: I understand that CERTAIN DARK THINGS is told from multiple POVs, but I have always wondered how writers approach writing these types of stories? How do you POV to jump to next when telling the story and how did you actually write the story? Or, when this situation occurs, how do authors decided which POV to tell each scene from?
Silvia: I don’t generally outline much. I have an idea of what will happen, in general, and then I piece it together chapter by chapter. It’s chronological. I don’t write a batch of Domingo chapters, then Atl. I tell the POV that is most interesting for what is happening next, or what is necessary to know. Sorry, I don’t know if I’m explaining it too well.
DJ: What is the universe/world [name your universe in answer, please] for CERTAIN DARK THINGS like?!
Silvia: It’s Mexico City, slightly altered. In 1967 vampires were authenticated as real and different countries took a variety of measures to deal with them. Mexico City is a vampire free-zone. Vampires control the cartels in the rest of the country. It’s a corrupt and violent world, and the vampire families are all different. Atl descends from Aztec vampires but Nick is a European vampire. His biology is different, and so are his beliefs. So while she hails from a family where women wield power, Nick is a sexist bro vampire.
DJ: What are your vampires like? Anything particular unique that you’ve done to them to make them you own?
Silvia: In Tlaxcala, people believe there are these type of vampire-witches called tlahuihpochtli, they prey solely upon children, can transform into animals (mostly in the form of a bird, a turkey is a common shape), and they are born, not made. I based my Mexican vampires on that folklore. Atl drinks the blood of young people, transforms into a bird-like creature, and she comes from a family of vampires.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing CERTAIN DARK THINGS?
Silvia: I wrote the book in part because I am from the north of Mexico and the stories about narco violence had me a bit on edge. It sounds weird, but the fictional violence of vampire gangs was comforting. And playing with the noir elements was fun too.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Silvia: People seem to be interested in the world-building, but to me that’s the least interesting part of a book. Personal interactions and character psychology are what attracts my attention. To each their own.
DJ: What is your goal in writing CERTAIN DARK THINGS? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when it is finally told?
Silvia: Writing didactic stories that hope to teach a lesson or impart a message seems so dull to me. I wrote Certain Dark Things because of my love for Mexican noir and I hope some of that shines through.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Certain Dark Things that you can share with us?
Silvia: Mexico City was an apocalyptically dysfunctional place at the best of times, but with the pollution, the flooding, the teetering concrete slums, and the city sinking into the lake bed upon which it was built. However, that day, with the sun hiding behind the clouds and the rain coming down so heavily, it was damn hellish
DJ: Now that CERTAIN DARK THINGS is released, what is next for you?
Silvia: Thomas Dunne Books will also be publishing my third novel, The Beautiful Ones, a romantic fantasy.
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Collecting garbage sharpens the senses. It allows us to notice what others do not see. Where most people would spy a pile of junk, the rag-and-bone man sees treasure: empty bottles that might be dragged to the recycling center, computer innards that can be reused, furni- ture in decent shape. The garbage collector is alert. After all, this is a profession.
Domingo was always looking for garbage and he was always looking at people. It was his hobby. The people were, not the gar- bage. He would walk around Mexico City in his long, yellow plastic jacket with its dozen pockets, head bobbed down, peeking up to stare at a random passerby.
Domingo tossed a bottle into a plastic bag, then paused to ob- serve the patrons eating at a restaurant. He gazed at the maids as they rose with the dawn and purchased bread at the bakery. He saw the people with shiny cars zoom by and the people without any cash jump onto the back of the bus, hanging with their nails and their grit to the metallic shell of the moving vehicle.
That day, Domingo spent hours outside, pushing a shopping cart with his findings, listening to his portable music player. It got dark and he bought himself dinner at a taco stand. Then it started to rain, so he headed into the subway station.
He was a big fan of the subway system. He used to sleep in the subway cars when he first left home. Those days were behind. He had a proper place to sleep now, and lately he collected junk for an important rag-and-bone man, focusing on gathering used thermo- plastic clothing. It was a bit harder to work the streets than it was to work a big landfill or ride the rumbling garbage trucks, sorting gar- bage as people stepped outside their houses and handed the collec- tors their plastic bags. A bit harder but not impossible, because there were small public trash bins downtown, because the restaurants left their garbage in the alleys behind them, and because people also littered the streets, not caring to chase the garbage trucks that made the rounds every other morning. A person with enough brains could make a living downtown, scavenging.
Domingo didn’t think himself very smart, but he got by. He was well fed and he had enough money to buy tokens for the public baths once a week. He felt like he was really going places, but enter- tainment was still out of his reach. He had his comic books and graphic novels to keep him company, but most of the time, when he was bored, he would watch people as they walked around the sub- way lines.
It was easy because few of them paid attention to the teenager leaning against the wall, backpack dangling from his left shoulder. Domingo, on the other hand, paid attention to everything. He con- structed lives for the passengers who shuffled in front of him as he listened to his music. This one looked like a man who worked selling life insurance, the kind of man who opened and closed his briefcase dozens of times during the day, handing out pamphlets and explana- tions. That one was a secretary, but she was not with a good firm because her shoes were worn and cheap. Here came a con artist and there went a lovelorn housewife.
Sometimes Domingo saw people and things that were a bit scarier. There were gangs roaming the subway lines, gangs of kids about his age, with their tight jeans and baseball caps, rowdy and loud and for the most part dedicated to petty crimes. He looked down when those boys went by, his hair falling over his face, and they didn’t see him, because nobody saw him. It was just like with the regular passengers; Domingo melted into the tiles, the grime, the shadows.
After an hour of people watching, Domingo went to look at the large TV screens in the concourse. There were six of them, display- ing different shows. He spent fifteen minutes staring at Japanese music videos before it switched to the news.
Six dismembered bodies found in Ciudad Juárez. Vampire drug wars rage on.
Domingo read the headline slowly. Images flashed on the video screen of the subway station. Cops. Long shots of the bodies. The images dissolved, then showed a beautiful woman holding a can of soda in her hands. She winked at him.
Domingo leaned against his cart and waited to see if the news show would expand on the drug war story. He was fond of yellow journalism. He also liked stories and comic books about vampires; they seemed exotic. There were no vampires in Mexico City: their kind had been a no-no for the past thirty years, ever since the old Federal District became a city-state, walling itself from the rest of the country. He still didn’t understand what a city-state was exactly, but it sounded important and the vampires stayed out.
The next story was of a pop star, the singing sensation of the month, and then there was another ad, this one for a shoulder-bag computer. Domingo sulked and changed the tune on his music player. He looked at another screen with pictures of blue butterflies flutter- ing around. Domingo took a chocolate from his pocket and tore the wrapper.
He wondered if he shouldn’t head to Quinto’s party. Quinto lived nearby, and though his home was a small apartment, they were throwing an all-night party on the roof, where there was plenty of space. But Quinto was friends with the Jackal, and Domingo didn’t want to see that guy. Besides, he’d probably have to contribute to the beer budget. It was the end of the month. Domingo was short on cash.
A young woman wearing a black vinyl jacket walked by him. She was holding a leash with a genetically modified Doberman. It had to be genetically modified because it was too damn large to be a regular dog. The animal looked mean and had a green biolumines- cent tattoo running down the left side of its head, the kind of deco- ration that was all the rage among the hip and young urbanites. Or so the screens in the subway concourse had informed Domingo, fashion shows and news reels always eager to reveal what was hot and what was not. That she’d tattooed her dog struck him as cute, although perhaps it was expected: if you had a genetically modified dog you wanted people to notice it.
Domingo recognized her. He’d seen her twice before, walking around the concourse late at night, both times with her dog. The way she moved, heavy boots upon the white tiles, bob-cut black hair, with a regal stance, it made him think of water. Like she was gliding on water.
She turned her head a small fraction, glancing at him. It was only a glance, but the way she did it made Domingo feel like he’d been doused with a bucket of ice. Domingo stuffed the remaining chocolate back in his pocket, took off his headphones, and pushed his cart, boarding her subway car.
He sat across from the girl and was able to get a better look at her. She was about his age, with dark eyes and a full, stern mouth. She possessed high cheekbones and sharp features. Overall, her face was imposing and aquiline. There was a striking quality about her, but her beauty was rather cutting compared to the faces of the mod- els he’d viewed in the ads. And she was a beauty, with that black hair and the dark eyes and the way she stood, so damn graceful.
He noticed her gloves. Black vinyl that matched the jacket.
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*** Certain Dark Things is published by Thomas Dunne Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy eeking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life.
Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten.
Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm.
And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.
Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?
SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA is the author of the critically-acclaimed novel Signal to Noise and the short story collection This Strange Way of Dying, which was a finalist for the Sunburst Award in Canada. She was a finalist for the Manchester Fiction Prize, and a recipient of the Gloria Vanderbilt/Exile Award for Best Emerging Writer.