Wednesday 27 April 2011

Steven Torres interview: Lucy Cruz And The Chupacabra Killings

Lucy Cruz And The Chupacabra Killings by Steven Torres
£2.10, $2.99
Amazon UK, Amazon US

Steven Torres was born in the Bronx, spent part of his childhood in Puerto Rico and has authored six previously published novels. He teaches English in Connecticut where he lives with wife and daughter.

Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?

Photojournalist Lucy Cruz stakes out a farm where Chupacabra is likely to attack. Instead, she captures a murder on film. The murderer finds her and...

What was your motivation for writing it?

Besides money? I wanted to portray a strong female lead character – not at all the bimbo that runs through the woods in high heels. A version of Lucy showed up in my first novel, but I changed her quite a bit. I also wanted to make use of a Puerto Rican legend, El Chupacabra (literally, The Goatsucker, though John Rickards has had fun with that translation…). Not every country has a mythical beast, and not every mythical beast leaves dead livestock in its wake. Lucy’s not much of a believer, but as the series progresses (Did I mention this was the first of about ten planned? If it sells, of course.) she’ll run into more and more strange phenomena.

Who designed your cover?

I did. That might show in the thumbnail at Amazon. I arranged the elements, took the photo, and my sister-in-law, Jessica Carrero, used Photoshop to put in the title and my name, then I resized things to fit Amazon’s parameters and if I went wrong anywhere, it would be there. Or in not hiring a professional…

Do you have any other projects on the go?

Absolutely. THE PRECINCT PUERTO RICO FILES – a collection of about a dozen short stories centered around characters from my PRECINCT PUERTO RICO series, should be coming out around the end of April or the start of May this year. Most of them are previously published. I will hopefully be bringing THE CONCRETE MAZE, a hard-boiled, noir affair, to Kindle in the summer. I have another novel, THE CONCRETE HEART, that I hope will also see light of day this summer as well. 

How important is a book’s central character?

From a marketing point of view, I begin to think it is more important to choose things like the character’s name, age, race carefully if you want big sales. Unless you’re Alexander McCall Smith. Then you can make every mistake in these regards and come out richer than a king.

I think you need a sympathetic character (hopefully more than one, but at least one) to carry a novel. Trollope says this is the key to writing a good book – with a good character, the reader will be happy to watch him do just about anything. With a poorly drawn character, nothing he does matters. I think of THE SUM OF ALL FEARS movie when I say that. It was about the possible destruction of millions of lives and an entire city, but I don’t think I ever saw a more pointless film. I wasn’t attached to any of the characters.

On the other side is a movie like SIXTEEN CANDLES – you like the characters and watch them though their troubles are relatively minor.

Of course, that may all just say something more about me than about readers in general. I’ve always tried to create believable characters, characters readers will care about. My Stoop the Thief character from my second short story collection seems to have resonated with readers. Readers have cared about my Sheriff Gonzalo and about Luis Ramos from THE CONCRETE MAZE.

What are the biggest problems facing writers these days?

Besides the usual – finding time, promoting, figuring out compelling plots, etc – I find there is a bit of an added pressure to write big stories. People tell you that readers only want to hear about DAVINCI CODE type plots that threaten to overturn millennia worth of beliefs or about nuclear weapons being stolen by angry jihadis (as opposed to the gregarious jihadis…). The small story is out, depending on who you speak to. A romance can’t just be a man and a woman, it has to be a man and a woman on a hijacked airliner. Even a hijacked airliner isn’t enough – a hijacked airliner filled with angry jihadis… and snakes… maybe.

How do you feel about the ease with which anyone can publish?

It doesn’t bother me in the least as a writer – what I’m writing is either quality material or it isn’t. If it is, I expect that I’ll have steady sales (steady doesn’t mean spectacular). If it isn’t, I suspect sales will drop and eventually Amazon will ask me to pay to be on their site. Things haven’t changed all that much except in degree (as opposed to in kind). The good remains, the bad fades out of view. It’s instructive to look at the bestsellers lists from 30 or 40 years ago or more. Or consider that Winston Churchill and Benjamin Disreali were both bestsellers in their day (I think Churchill won his Noble Prize for Literature) but who reads their novels now? (If there is a fan club for either author, please leave me in my ignorance.)

As a reader, I suspect I’m similarly unaffected – I’m such a slow reader that I pick books quite carefully. You can read the first chapter of a book, see what the reviews are (precious few of those for ebooks just now, but that will change… and isn’t so different from paperbacks or even hardcovers nowadays) and decide whether the book is for you.

Which author should be much better known?

So many. I’d nominate three. Manuel Ramos who wrote the Luis Montez series and a stand-alone noir novel called MOONY’S ROAD TO HELL. The prose is silky, the characters are human, and the plots satisfy. It’s difficult to ask for more. (Though I wish he had a better website.)

Will Thomas wrote the Cyrus Barker series which I thought was better than Sherlock Holmes though much in the same vein. I’m not sure if there are plans for the series to continue, but I’d be first in line to buy a copy of the next book. Plot, pacing, characters, these books have it all and make for tremendous fun. Pick up THE LIMEHOUSE TEXT if you don’t believe me.

IJ Parker writes the Akitada series. This is set in 10th century Japan. Aside from being well written with a great cast of sympathetic characters and wonderful plots, there is also a completely foreign historical background that is really fascinating to me. RASHOMON GATE is a smash.

Lucy Cruz And The Chupacabra Killings by Steven Torres
£2.10, $2.99
Amazon UK, Amazon US


  1. Informative interview. It's always interesting to read how an author creates a character. As a reader I like characters I can identify with and root for. Definitely a book I'll look forward to reading!

  2. Thank you, Steven! I'm a big fan of yours also.