Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Hector Duarte, Jr. to discuss his new short story collection, Desperate Times Call (Shotgun Honey).
Firstly, congratulations on the publication of Desperate Times Call! How hard was it to select the stories – and indeed the running order?
So, this collection was my thesis for grad school and it was a three-year process batting back and forth with my advisor and having her tell me she didn’t like this story because… or, maybe I should revisit this story here… As far as the order, it’s actually almost chronological in the order I wrote each piece.
Do you have a favourite story in the collection? If so, why is it your favourite?
Probably ‘Cabernet’, because it’s the longest short story in the collection and I really feel it’s the best job I did in the whole thing, where I actually created this little world that twists and turns into itself. That’s the fun part of writing, when you can do something like that.
What is the oldest story in the book? How do you think your style has evolved since then?
The oldest story in the collection is ‘Accounts Payable’, which I wrote for a fiction workshop I took in the grad program. That’s from 2009. I’d like to think my writing style has improved since, in that I can write a tighter story and I’m not trying to impress anyone with my words and language, which I think is a huge rookie mistake.
How have your editorial duties at the Flash Fiction Offensive impacted on – or even influenced – your own short fiction?
I am forever grateful to Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts for trusting me enough to pass the FFO editing over to me, which helps me understand the importance of every single sentence, word, and letter. It’s taught me the importance of writing something that does not drag or waste the reader’s time. Get to the point and just raise the stakes from there.
Do you think crime fiction is too safe? Do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?
All kinds of crime fiction exists out there, the stuff that is afraid to offend and, on the other side of the spectrum, stuff that tries to be too edgy but doesn’t really have anything to deliver as a proper story. It’s all good to me. Mainstream or independent, as long as I’m entertained and being taken for a ride. Like right now I’m reading The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell, which many might categorize as mainstream, but the way he opens up that novel, man, is fucking brilliant. Can I curse on here? He writes a grisly crime scene to open a near 600-page crime novel that just gets the thing rolling on all cylinders.
Your collection has been published by Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books – do you have any favourite Shotgun Honey/D&O authors or titles you would like to recommend?
Go on the site and check out the latest by Angel Luis Colon, C.S. Dewildt, Nick Kolakowski, Rusty Barnes. There are a ton of others up there. Can’t go wrong with that crew.
Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?
This is a tough question because it could make me sound like an overconfident douche but the following are writers I started off admiring and emulating, and eventually met and realized they were very down to earth, cool people who I’d like to think I can call friends. M.J. Fievre, the aforementioned Joe Clifford, Beau Johnson, Jose Ignacio Valenzuela. This is just naming a few.
If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?
I’ll just answer this by saying my main goal with writing is to just keep writing. If the day comes when I can finance my life solely by writing. And, I mean a very simple life, enough to not have to stress over money and just be comfortable (I’m not looking to make “fuck you” money or anything like that), then that would be the best outcome.
Do you crave mainstream success, or is developing cult status satisfying enough?
I think a solid following is better than mainstream success. Like I said before, the type of career that allows me to keep writing, and in different forms. I’d love to try my hand at screenwriting. I listen to a lot of jam bands, Phish and Umphreys McGee being my favourites. If there is anything to learn from those bands, it’s the work ethic: constantly produce and give back to the audience because without them there is no career.
Finally, what are your future publishing plans?
I’m currently working on a first novel and after that I have an idea that I’m going to keep tucked under my sleeve until it’s done.
Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer and teacher out of Miami, Florida. He’s current editor at The Flash Fiction Offensive. His work has appeared, among many others, in Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, HorrorSleazeTrash, and Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction inspired by the songs of Johnny Cash. His first full-length work, the short story collection Desperate Times Call, was published by Shotgun Honey books in 2018. He loves his fiancée Samantha and his cat Felina very much.