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Christopher Irvin talks FEDERALES

Mexican Federal Agent Marcos Camarena dedicated his life to the job. But in a country where white knights die meaningless deaths, martyred in a hole with fifty other headless bodies in the desert, corruption is not an attribute but a scale; no longer a stigma but the status quo.

When Marcos's life is threatened, he leaves law enforcement and his life in Mexico City behind for a coastal resort town—until an old friend asks him to look after an outspoken politician, a woman who knows cartel violence all too well. Despite his best efforts, Marcos can’t find it in his heart to refuse, and soon finds himself isolated on the political front lines of the war on drugs.

Inspired by true events,
Federales is a story of survivors' compulsive devotion to a cause in the face of ever-darkening circumstances. Available in paperback and Kindle ebook from One Eye Press.

I interviewed Chris as part of his Federales blog tour.

Gerald So: Give us some background on the true events that inspired Federales and what compelled you to write the book.

Chris Irvin: I began writing Federales in November of 2012. I'd been toying with a lot of ideas, intent on writing a horror novella but I kept drifting back into crime. I stumbled onto an article about a former Mexican politician who'd been murdered for speaking out against the drug cartels. Her story stuck with me—her heroism in the face of ever-present danger and the tragedy of her death. I don't recall how Federales initially grew from there, but I wrote out a scene that actually takes place in the latter stages of the book involving Marcos, who I knew would be the central character, and then outlined the rest from there. It was a grind (as always, right?) but I felt I had a story that needed to be told.

Gerald: Describe Federales' path to publication. How did you end up at One Eye Press, and how does One Eye stand out from the rest?

Chris: At first I wasn't sure what I'd do with the novella. There aren't many presses that publish novellas, though that seems to be changing with the accessibility and low cost of ebooks. For example, Crime Factory has a great thing going with their novella line (Fierce Bitches by Jedidiah Ayres and Saint Homicide by Jake Hinkson). Through my work with Shotgun Honey I got to know Ron Earl Phillips, Head Honcho at One Eye Press, and learned of the Singles line he was planning. Ron is a pro. One of my pet peeves is books that aren't put together well (cover, formatting, etc.) and I knew Ron would knock all of the above out of the park, so I feel very fortunate to be published by OEP. It's been a learning process throughout but already I feel like I have a much better grip on editing, promotion and the publication process as a whole.

Gerald: Describe your editorial process at Shotgun Honey. What do you find appealing about short fiction?

Chris: It's been a real pleasure to work alongside Jen Conley and Erik Arneson. Wonderful people (we met for the first time last year at Bouchercon in Albany, NY) and top notch writers to boot. I have great respect and admiration for both of them.

As for our process, we read each story and based upon our collective feedback, decide whether or not to accept. We pride ourselves (with 110% of the credit going to Erik for his effort) in providing feedback along with the rejections, and not a simple form letter.

On what I look for in short fiction—a story that sticks with me after I've read it is always a great sign. A tight focus, especially given that we are looking for 700 words and under at SH. Fresh ideas. Bury your gut instinct on where you desire to take a story and go with your second idea, or even third or fourth. Violence for the sake of violence, hitmen, drugs, husbands killing their wives, wives killing their husbands; they come in waves. Aim to be different.

I'm a huge fan of short fiction. As a reader, I love seeing work from a new author and short stories are a great way to get a taste of their voice before committing to a novel or longer work. As a writer, it lets me experiment with different characters and situations with very little risk (i.e. time) in comparison to an attempt at a full novel or even novella. If a story doesn't work, I haven't lost months agonizing over a project.

Gerald: What's next for you?

Chris: I have upcoming stories in the Springsteen-inspired collection, Trouble in the Heartland, edited by Joe Clifford, and online with Spinetingler Magazine. I'm a little over halfway through a new novel and working on a comic mini-series. I hope to get back to short stories this summer but it's been nice to make serious progress on some longer works.

Gerald: Thank you, Chris.


Earlier Federales blog tour stops:

Elizabeth A. White review
Paul D. Brazill interviews Chris
B.H. Shepherd (Lit Reactor) review
Sam Hawken review

To keep up with the tour, follow @chrislirvin on Twitter.


Christopher Irvin has traded all hope of a good night's rest for the chance to spend his mornings writing dark and noir fiction. His short stories have appeared in several publications, including Thuglit, Noir Nation, and Shotgun Honey. He lives with his wife and son in Boston, Massachusetts. For more, visit christopherirvin.net.

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