Mr. Cortez studied creative writing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lives in California with his wife and two children. A GANGSTER'S GARDEN is his first novel. (Amazon.com)
MC: I’ve been writing all my life actually, from the time I entered and won a school writing contest in third grade. So I’ve always had a passion to write and craft stories. Even in engineering school, I was always the one who would put together my team’s presentation and give it to the class. And then when I became an entrepreneur, storytelling became my lifeblood: I was convincing people to invest in me and my company by the story I was telling. So writing A Gangster’s Garden feels like a natural progression from the stories I’ve been writing all my life.
BBB: How did you come up with the idea for your book, A Gangster's Garden?
MC: I’m fascinated in the rich worlds that grow in the cracks of society, especially when those hidden worlds crash into our everyday lives. I grew up near Oakland and there was a significant gang presence around, and while I was only minimally exposed to it it always bubbled just under the surface. So I became interested in the intricate rule systems, the hierarchies, the warped-yet- -consistent loyalties in the gang world, made all the more fascinating because they developed exactly because society had failed them. Many of the characteristics found in gang-life would be huge assets in the real world – things like loyalty, faith, and family – but because of the situation these assets end up misplaced. It’s very similar to the Corleone family in The Godfather movies: an intricately fascinating crime world that exists in parallel to the everyday world. And when those worlds collide it’s tragic and explosive.
BBB: Tell us about your one of your main characters, gang-leader Benicio de los Santos?
MC: Benicio de los Santos is both a general and an assassin, all wrapped up in a complex and charismatic package. He’s blessed with the intelligence and cunning of a CEO, yet he happens to live in the middle of Denver’s ghetto. So his natural gifts are actually, in many ways, the things that cause his conflict: he can see the world as he wants it to be, yet his only tools to achieve the change are violence and thuggery. On the surface he’s a street gangster, leader of one of Denver’s most violent Mexican gangs. And yet, as we get to know him, we understand that all of his takeover plans are really meant to avenge his murdered family. So in his own, twisted framework he’s doing it all out of love, using the gifts he’s been given. He’s a gangster with a tortured, conflicted soul, and it’s what makes him so interesting.
MC: Stories are not always what they might appear to be on the surface. Stay open to new characters, new genres, and new types of stories, because you never know how a story will touch you. Does a story about a botched street-gang murder sound like your type of book? Maybe, maybe not, but you might be surprised at what the storyteller might be able to help you feel. Inspiration often comes from the strangest places.
BBB: Are you currently working on another book?
MC: I’m currently working on the sequel to A Gangster’s Garden, tentatively called Santos, Uncolored. Benicio de los Santos is a fantastic, charismatic and complex character, and I want to finish the journey he began in A Gangster’s Garden. I’m also working on a story of historical fiction, with a working title of Stalking Zodiac. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was always fascinated by the Zodiac killer, made all the more compelling because he was never caught. But what if someone knew who he was?
You can find out more about Marc Cortez by visiting http://gangstersgarden.com.