JW: I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea of Secret Identity come from?
AS: I think so. There was never a moment where lightning struck, or a bat flew through my window and I realized “I must become…a writer!” I always loved stories – comics, novels, history. While consuming these stories, even as a kid, I’d try to write my own – either with characters I knew, or new ones. It just felt natural. Eventually, you discover it’s a profession and a business, but it all starts very innocently – it’s just something I did, and I’m lucky I can continue to do it.
The idea for Secret Identity came in different ways – the idea for comic book sequences in the novel was spurred by having read Michael Chabon’s stupendous The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which is one of my favourite novels ever. I loved Chabon’s first two novels, but this book really hit home for me – for obvious reasons. But the thing that I was left wanting was the comics. I wanted to read The Escapist books while reading the prose. The idea just stuck with me. At the same time, I was in a short story writing class in college, and I wrote a draft for a story that featured a comic book company employee discovering a lost comic book hero and writing their adventures. It was called “Sometimes Green,” and while I don’t have the story anymore – the idea, of a lost character – seemed to stick in my brain. A few years later, living in Miami and working as an editor for my newspaper’s website, I started dabbling with a superhero idea – called the Lynx. It was very different from the Legendary Lynx, but the name also stuck with me.
So, fast forward to around 2019, and I’ve finished up my PI series set in Miami and started working on a Star Wars novel. I knew my next crime novel would be something different – if not a standalone, then at least something tighter and more limited. I landed on the idea of doing a comic book noir – a murder mystery set in the comic book industry. But having read a ton of books about comics and the characters that populate that world, I knew I wanted it to be an era in stark contrast to today. That’s why I landed on 1975 – and that’s when Carmen walked into my mind, and when the other ideas – comic book sequences, the Lynx, and the basic plot – appeared again, ready to be pulled off my mental shelf.
JW: I loved Secret identity and the fact that Carmen (lead character) is so complex and a lover of Comics. Did you base her on yourself?
AS: Carmen and I have a lot in common, for sure – I believe very strongly in writing about people like me. For most of my childhood and well into my twenties, it was hard to find books and stories that featured Cuban-American people in the starring role – not as a sidekick, or funny friend, or drug dealer/villain. It was tiresome. So once I started creating my own stories, I wanted to really show that there was real flexibility there. Heroes and protagonists didn’t look just one way. Many if not all of my characters – Pete Fernandez, The Black Ghost, the Dusk, Carmen – are Cuban-Americans from Miami. I really believe that identification is such a powerful force, and as a kid, it meant so much to me to see people like me in movies or books or comics. That said, Carmen and I are also different – she’s a queer woman living in 1975. I’m a straight man living in 2022. I had to be mindful of that and do the work – sensitivity readers, research, everything. I had to make sure that my interpretation and story resonated and felt true to her. It was very important for me to try and get that right. That said, it’s a mystery, and that’s the goal first and foremost, and I wanted to present her the way she appeared to me in my mind, but I also took that job very seriously. It was all about striking that balance and being thoughtful and transparent. I’m proud of the character that’s on the page and I’m thankful to the many people who read the book at various stages to give me feedback and insight, to make sure it landed properly.
JW: Who would you like to see playing the part of carmen Valdez if Secret Identity was turned into a TV series? (I could SO see this happening!)
AS: Great question! I often do a running “cast” document while writing a book – where I drop in pictures of actors and places. I guess it’s a mediocre vision board, haha. For Carmen, I cast Ana de Armas, who I think is an amazing actress.
JW: As a child growing up, were you an avid reader or was television your thing? Do you have a favourite childhood book or television programme?
AS: Oh, I loved all kinds of entertainment. In terms of books, Bridge to Terabithia stands out – it was the first book that dealt with death that I read, and it was so thoughtful and intensely written, that it sticks with me today. As far as TV – I loved cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series, He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and lots of Star Trek.
JW: Which book, that you read in 2021, has been your favourite?
AS: I absolutely loved Like A Sister by Kellye Garrett. Kellye is a dear friend and our publishing journeys have run parallel – so it was great to see this book launch alongside Secret Identity. It’s an amazing, taut, sharply-written, and evocative – loaded with great characters and the kind of family drama that really makes it propulsive. I loved this book.
JW: Who do you most admire?
AS: My maternal grandfather was a great person – try to be like him every day.
JW: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
AS: My kids! Professionally, it’s probably SECRET IDENTITY.
JW: If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
AS: A great question! The music nerd in me would love to be on that rooftop in London for the last Beatles live performance.
JW: What is something you are passionate about aside from writing?
AS: Music. I obsess over different artists, played in bands for a long time, and just love that world.
JW: If you could invite four people to dinner, living or dead, who would you invite and why?
AS: Jose Marti. Patricia Highsmith. James Baldwin. Robert F. Kennedy.
JW; What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
AS; “”Finish what you start and treat writing like the job you want it to become.“”
JW; Whats next? What are you currently working on??
AS; I’m working on a sequel to SECRET IDENTITY set in the modern-day.
Some absolutely great answers there from Alex Segura, and I am so looking forward to the Sequel to Secret Identity!
To find out more about Alex Segura head over to his website HERE