Mystery Thriller Week Author Spotlight: Christina Hoag

I’m thrilled to welcome thriller writer, Christina Hoag, to my blog. Sometimes you meet someone–either in-person or virtually–who you know for sure is WAY more interesting than you. Christina is one of those people. (Read her bio below if you don’t believe me!) I first learned of Christina through our mutual publisher, Fire and Ice, when they released her YA thriller, Girl on the Brink, last year. I’m excited to discover more about her debut novel, Skin of Tattoos, today!

christinahoagauthorheadshot2547Christina Hoag is a former journalist who’s been threatened by a death-row murderer, had her laptop searched by Colombian guerrillas and phone tapped in Venezuela, suspected of drug trafficking in Guyana, hidden under a car to evade Guatemalan soldiers, posed as a nun to get inside a Caracas jail, interviewed gang members, bank robbers, gunmen, thieves and thugs in prisons, shantytowns and slums, not to forget billionaires and presidents, some of whom fall into the previous categories. Kirkus Reviews praised Christina as a “talented writer” in her debut novel Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown Publishing, 2016), a gangland thriller. Her YA thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice, 2016) was named to Suspense Magazine’s Best of 2016 YA list. She also writes nonfiction, co-authoring Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence (Turner Publishing, 2014), a groundbreaking book on violence intervention used in several universities. She currently makes her home in Los Angeles. Learn more at: ChristinaHoag.com.

skinoftattooscover2546Back Cover Blurb:  Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frameup by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shotcaller in Mag’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything–and everyone–he loves.

View Skin of Tattoos on Amazon.

Author Interview:

When did you first know that you wanted 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.

What attracts you to writing in the mystery/thriller genre?

I love delving into crime–the seamy side of life and what drives people in that world, which is very different than mine! My characters do things that I never would so maybe that’s why I like writing them. I’m fascinated with the psychology behind the criminal mind and how people get to be that way, the risks they take. Other than that, crime makes great drama and conflict, the basis of any novel.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

Lamentably, my fiction writing does not yield a sustainable income–yet! In order to eat, I do corporate communications/public relations writing:  speeches, press releases, blog posts, that sort of thing. I also edit dissertations and do some journalism in the form of big reports for Congressional Quarterly Researcher. I work freelance so I can juggle my schedule to fit my novel writing into my schedule.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

Develop a thick skin. It takes courage to write and show your work to the world for judgment, but you have to remember that not everyone is going to like your work, and that’s okay. You have to learn to let criticism roll off you. The nastiest rejection I ever got was from the editor of a literary journal who scornfully said of my experimental fiction submission, “Why would anyone even read this?” I kept submitting it and got the piece and another like it published in other journals. I also allow time for the sting to wear off and then revisit the criticism in a more objective light. If someone says something in your piece doesn’t work, it’s only one person’s opinion. But if two people make the same observation, you need to pay attention to what they’re saying. More often than not, it’s something that needs fixing.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I’m a morning writer. I get up early, have my coffee, check the news and then sit down and write until I feel my brain turning squishy, usually early afternoon. Then I get some exercise and try to do some marketing and social media work. It’s amazing how much time that stuff consumes!

Which well-know authors have inspired your writing?

Probably my favorite all time author 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 the protagonist 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 an outsider to mainstream American society, as well. He finds his home in a gang with others from similar backgrounds. Having lived in Central and South America, I’m also partial to Latin American authors. One of my favorite books is The Goat’s Party by Peruvian Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa. This book is a fictionalization of the 1961 plot to assassinate Rafael Trujillo, the dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic for 31 years. I found it fascinating, like a window into an unseen world in the way it fleshed out historical events with the motivations and emotions of the real people. I also loved Queen of the South by Arturo Perez Reverte, which takes readers inside the world of large scale drug trafficking, and The Cartel by Don Winslow, about the current gang wars in Mexico.

Those all sound like intriguing books. You obviously know your subject well! Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your Author Spotlight answers with me. I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

Thanks for reading…I’m reaching the end of my MTW Author Spotlight series…just one more to go with Dawn Barclay. Stay tuned!

 

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