Today I am interviewing Nathan Crowder, author of the new novel, Ride Like the Devil, second book in the De la Vega Mysteries series.
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DJ: Hi Nathan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Nathan Crowder: I’m a child of the deserts of the southwest, living I exile in the Pacific Northwest. My love of music, books, film, and history are all intermingled into a huge stew of influences that has driven my writing. Another huge influence is gaming. I started playing D&D when I was twelve, and it has taught me a lot about compelling story structure, and has helped inspire several of my more memorable characters. Though many of my novels take place in the Cobalt City universe of superheroes that I created, my better known novels are more traditional contemporary or Gothic high fantasy, and my short fiction tends towards horror.
DJ: What is Ride Like the Devil and then the De la Vega Mysteries series about?
Nathan: The De la Vega Mysteries follow former homicide detective Manuel de la Vega and Snowflake, his panda sidekick, as they leave the stability of Cobalt City to travel the backroads of North America fixing problems. Manuel had been a motorcycle-riding vigilante named Gato Loco before an accident savaged his legs a year earlier, leaving him with a long period of rehab. This series gives him a reluctant second act to reinvent who he is both as Manuel de la Vega, but also as his mysterious alter ego.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the De la Vega Mysteries series?
Nathan: The huge central influences on de la Vega himself would be Zorro by way of Batman in many ways, with the motorcycle out of Akira and smart-assed panda sidekick to give him someone to talk to. As for the series, I’m heavily influenced by a lot of the episodic hero television programming of my youth, like the A-Team, Knight Rider, the Incredible Hulk, and Kung Fu, where someone goes from place to place righting wrongs around the country. It’s a fun formula that lets me tell all kinds of stories wherever I want without being tied down to a single location.
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 with sympathize with them?
Nathan: Manuel de la Vega is a guy who thought he had it all figured out and then had it blow up in his face. When he was younger, he used to race cycles for fun (and the Gato Loco identity is an outgrowth of that), but his professional career was with the police. After a year of rehabilitation, leaving him with forearm crutches to get around, he is wallowing in what could have been until circumstances put him out on the road with his friend and mechanic, Snowflake. There, he decides to embrace the nomadic lifestyle, blurring the lines between Manuel and Gato. Snowflake is the mechanic/pilot for a team of superheroes that recently broke up. He had a strange team up with Gato Loco previously, so when I was thinking of someone to pair with Manuel to play off of, he was my first choice. His enthusiastic smart-assery is a great complement to Manuel’s sincerity. Like me, my characters love music. I frequently put them in band tour t-shirts, and I put favorite songs on the jukeboxes in a few of the stops along the way because they were in my writing playlist and I want them in the novel.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the the De la Vega Mysteries series like?
Nathan: The world of the Cobalt City universe is very much like our world, just with superheroes. The hub of all things superhuman, Cobalt City itself is south of Boston, and most of the novels in the universe take place there. The De la Vega Mysteries are a chance for me to explore a world where heroes and such are far less common. The first novel was set in a fictional factory border town in Mexico and had no other superheroes, while Ride Like the Devil takes place all up the West Coast and has a few surprises tucked away in there.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first book of the De la Vega Mysteries series? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
Nathan: Fan response has been really positive, with some of my more avid readers claiming the de la Vega Mysteries to be their favorite Cobalt City books. I’ve long teased a direct follow-up to Ride Like the Devil called The Panda Sanction, and there are several readers who keep poking me to write it.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Ride Like the Devil?
Nathan: Plotting high-speed motorcycle races through several iconic West Coast cities was a delight. Even better, I had the insight of cycle-riding friends who lived in Portland and San Francisco who helped advise on the courses.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Nathan: If the streak holds, they’ll be talking about wanting more of Manuel and Snowflake together. Their friendship and banter is really something special. Even if I hadn’t written it, they’d be one of my favorite pair of partners.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing the De la Vega Mysteries series? The series is not yet complete, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Nathan: I’m a big believer that a hero is someone who doesn’t know how to quit. Maybe that’s my stubborn Taurus nature. With Manuel de la Vega, I had the chance to take a guy who thought a crippling accident ended his life and show him the path towards a great new one. That representation was important to me. I was also greatly looking forward to playing with the “hard-travelling heroes” trope.
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 Ride Like the Devil that you can share with us?
Nathan: “They ambled off together into the mix of racers, Manuel’s eyes taking in every detail. One of them, he knew, was a killer. And time was running out.”
DJ: Now that Ride Like the Devil is released, what is next for you?
Nathan: Since I just released Cobalt City: RESISTANCE in October, I’m switching it up to write a sequel to my Gothic high fantasy Of Rooks & Ravens. Meanwhile, I plan to turn out new Cobalt City short fiction for my Patreon to hold me over until the next De la Vega novel.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Ride Like the Devil and the De la Vega Mysteries series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Nathan: Manuel de la Vega is who I want to be, while Snowflake is who I’m sometimes afraid I am. That makes these books, weirdly, more honest than most books I’ve written.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Nathan: Somedays, it is only kind reviews or notes from fans that keep me writing. Few things make me as happy as hearing that someone enjoyed something I enjoyed creating. Shared joy connects us and makes the world a better place.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Ride Like the Devil is published by DefCon One Publishing and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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Once a year, thirty racers gather from all over the world to compete in an illegal cycle race from Mexico to Canada. Big money and bigger bragging rights go to the winner of the Devil’s Run International. Some would do anything to win–even murder.
It falls to Manuel de la Vega and his vigilante alter ego Gato Loco to find this murderer among madmen. Or his friend Xander Tesla might be the next victim.
Follow de la Vega and his panda sidekick Snowflake for a high-octane thrill ride up the Pacific coast, where danger waits around every bend, and death comes at you at 200 miles an hour!
The eldest child of an existentialist librarian and a teacher/child-care specialist, Nathan had always tended towards the literary. Lurid ghost stories and big books chock full of pictures from classic horror movies captured his imagination early on, and nothing was ever quite the same again. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, he wanted to be a writer from as far back as the age of 10 This career dream was later replaced by chef, paleontologist, teacher, and any number of things, but he would find himself being drawn back to writing again and again.
Due largely to his love of movies, his first serious writing was screenplays, of which he’s written five over the past several years. He has also written over a dozen novels, including the super-hero novels Chanson Noir, Cobalt City Blues, Greetings from Buena Rosa, and Ride Like the Devil. His short fiction has appeared in such places as, Byzarium, Crossed Genres, Absent Willow Review, , and in the anthologies Close Encounters of the Urban Kind by Apex Books, Cthulhurotica, Rigor Amortis, Cobalt City Christmas, Human Tales, Rock ‘N’ Roll is Dead, Space Tramps, and Cobalt City Timeslip. His ghost story “None Left Behind” won the Hauntings competition at the prestigious Hugo House in 2007, and his urban/sci-fi story “Deacon Carter’s Last Dime” has appeared on the long-list for storySouth Notable Stories 2009. And “Frames of Reference” was an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Years Best Horror 2010.
Nathan currently lives in the Bohemian wilds of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood where he blogs about writing, film, fringe candy, and social justice. He is known to haunt the local coffee houses, comic shop, dives, and karaoke stages. Nathan lives alone with his cat, Shiva, who is currently managing his career in exchange for fresh kibble.