12 May 2018

INTERVIEW: Alex Segura on BLACKOUT, Outlines and Writing the PI

I don’t remember how I met Alex, but when we did meet, over Twitter, we clicked immediately. We both wrote PI novels and shared a love of the Talking Heads and the Replacements. So when he invited me to read at Noir at the Bar (a series I have desperately wanted to be part of for years) I felt like I had finally made it as a mystery writer.

As you do at readings, I bought everyone’s books, and read his Silent City first. I was instantly sucked into Pete Fernandez’s world, right alongside him as he worked to solve the case of a missing journalist and the shadowy figure who haunted his detective father’s own caseload.

Blackout, Segura’s latest book, finds Fernandez, a Miami native, now living an isolated life in New York, pulled back to Miami after a politician hires him to find his wayward son in a case that connects to one Fernandez botched years ago. “He sees it as this opportunity to fix his mistake,” said Segura. “There are a lot of parallels to his recovery and embracing life.”

Though Segura started out in comics, rising through the ranks at DC to become the Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing and the editor of Archie imprint Dark Circle Comics, (to which he contributed Archie Meets Kiss and Archie Meets the Ramones) he soon turned to crime fiction. “When your hobby becomes your day job, you need a new hobby,” he said. “I started reading the classics – Chandler, McDonald – but what I really liked were the more contemporary ones, like George Pelecanos, Lawrence Block and Dennis Lehane.”

He was drawn to the “textured, messed up,” protagonist over the Golden Age detectives. “I didn’t want to write the detective with the fedora and then the dame walks in,” he said. “I love the enterprising hero who doesn’t have the resources of the police or the FBI. He’s chosen to do things on his own.”

With New York, Chicago, Boston and LA all strongly represented in the genre, he set out to bring his Miami hometown into the scene. “I wrote the book I wanted to read,” he said. “I can’t just have hobbies!”

But with four books under his belt, he doesn’t romanticize the writing process. “You have to really make writing easy for yourself,” he said. “You can’t wait until the sun is shining just right. You have to get in there and crack open the laptop and just do it.”

“I don’t believe you have to write every day,” he said. “People have jobs, they have kids. As long as you’re reading, you’re engaging, you’re thinking about your writing, that’s part of the process.”

Segura doesn’t outline, but writes detailed bios of the characters before he sits down to write the book. “I’m not a great outliner,” he said. “But when I write these bios, I know the characters are coming from a genuine place, not just a way to move to the next outline post. I ask myself ‘What would Pete do?’ and just let it spring forth from the character.”

(Alex is my hero.)

Blackout launched May 8 to strong reviews—Megan Abbot called it “A series not to be missed”— and a book tour that takes him from Texas to Florida.

And the two of us—alongside fellow crime fiction rock stars Lawrence Block, Reed Farrell Coleman and Lyndsay Faye—will reunite at Noir at the Bar on Friday, June 8 at Kew & Willow Books in Queens.

He promises, there is a fifth Pete Fernandez book in the works, with plans to release it next year. “This is where you’ll see Pete at his full power,” he said. “This will be the PI novel I’ve always wanted to write.”


  1. I couldn't agree with Alex more when he says, "You can’t wait until the sun is shining just right. You have to get in there and crack open the laptop and just do it." Even if what you write doesn't make it into the book or story it keeps the juices flowing and something will eventually come of it. I'm not saying there's no such thing as writer's block, but mostly I think it's an excuse.

    And congratulations on Blackout. Sounds good.

  2. I'm ashamed I wasn't familiar with Alex Segura, but I'm about to correct that. The way it sounds appeals to me.

  3. Libby and Alex, I very much identify with ordinary heroes/heroines with ordinary resources facing extraordinary circumstances. The girl/boy next door is always accessible while the superspy/supercop seems too remote to me.


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