Interview with Christina Hoag
It’s called “Skin of Tattoos.” It’s sort of genre-defying – a noir-crime thriller written in a literary style. The setting is the gang underworld of Los Angeles, the U.S. capital of gangs, and the main character, Mags, is a gang member. We meet him as he comes out of prison wanting, as most parolees do, to go straight and never return “behind the wall.” To do that, he has to get away from his gang, the Cyco Lokos, but the “clica” has undergone some changes since he’s been locked up, namely his rival Rico, who set him up on the charge that got him imprisoned, is now the “shotcaller” or leader. It’s a story of revenge and rivalry, but there are also other layers: Mags’s quest for his father’s approval, the hardships faced by a poor immigrant family, as well as the larger picture of the socioeconomic factors that drive gangs in our society in general.
Probably my all time favourite is Graham Greene. Many of his books are about the concept of being a foreigner, an outsider/observer, which I relate to on a personal level since I’ve lived in many countries both as a child and as an adult. That influence comes through in “Skin of Tattoos,” where Mags was born in El Salvador but left with his family fleeing the civil war when he was a child so he doesn't really feel Salvadoran, doesn't remember anything about the place, yet that is his identity. He’s an outsider to El Salvador, yet as an immigrant he’s an outsider to mainstream American society, as well. He finds his home in a gang with others from similar backgrounds.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Believe in yourself and that you have something worthwhile to say. Don’t let anyone steer you from your path. Use adversity to develop strength. And just don’t give up!
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Probably my website www.christinahoag,com has the most complete bio and portfolio of my work. I’ve also got author pages up on Amazon and Goodreads, while LinkedIn is a bit more of a professional CV. Facebook.com/ChristinaHoagAuthor is where I post news and updates.
Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
I have to say it is Magdaleno. He really struggles to do the right thing, but his pride and ego get in the way. He’s just so humanly flawed. But I also love the antagonist, Rico, even though he’s a bit mental. He’s like that because of his childhood, therefore I have a great deal of sympathy for him.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
It’s got a bit of everything. There’s a mystery that Mags has to puzzle out, a romance, action/adventure, as well as a thriller-style game between Mags and Rico where the stakes really amp up toward the end. It takes place in a setting that is unknown to most readers so that’s a new world for people to learn a bit about. Readers have also told me they like the secondary characters a lot – the other homeboys and Mags’ family.
Years! I wrote an outline for it in 2006, and started working on it in earnest in 2008. I originally wrote it as a YA, then after some feedback, changed it to an adult novel, which gave me a lot more leeway as far as plot and character and tone. It’s gone through countless revisions and wholesale rewrites. I’m still pinching myself that it’s finally published.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I’ve got two novels both in the final stages. One is called “The Revolutionaries,” a literary political thriller based on the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, where I was living at the time and working as a freelance journalist. An expat couple are the protagonists and they get wrapped up in opposite sides of the political debate, which drives a wedge in their marriage. The other is called “Angel’s Lust,” a detective mystery set in Los Angeles with a Latin American twist to the mystery. I’ll say no more!
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I prefer to go with a publisher because it’s third-party validation of your work. Somebody has read your book and deemed it worthy of publication. On the other hand, anyone can self-publish anything, which means there’s a lot of subpar stuff out there. However, if I were a big bestselling author, I think self-publishing is a very attractive option. You keep all your profits, all your rights and all your control!
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I won a prize for “writing interesting stories” when I was six years old so I guess writing was always there. It came out as soon as I literally learned how to put pen to paper. I discovered journalism in high school so I knew that’s what I wanted to do as a career. I’ve written fiction on and off my whole life.