The following is an interview with author Ivan Infante of the Mike Chance novel series. In this interview, Fanboy Comics President Bryant Dillon chats with Infante about his latest addition to the series, Fixed Fight, his approach to novel writing, why he likes to use Los Angeles as the setting for his books, and more!
Bryant Dillon, Fanboy Comics President: What can you tell our readers about your creative background, training, and how it led you to become a writer?
Ivan Infante: I started writing and drawing short comics in middle school. My two main characters were Felony Mike and Misdemeanor Man. Felony Mike was really good at felonies, and Misdemeanor Man could get away with any misdemeanors. Somehow, this mattered to help them solve crimes in the books I wrote. Wish I still had these comics. They were a couple of pages long. I did about ten of them.
Later, I started working on a screenwriting career and finally books. Screenwriting is great and I enjoy it, but you don’t get a lot of readers. Even if your movie gets made, only several hundred people might read it. Meanwhile, I’ve sold thousands of books. If the goal is to get the writing out there, books and comics are the way to go. At least, that’s what makes sense to me.
BD: Can you describe what your writing process or attack plan is like when you’re working on a novel?
II: I practice the Narrative Push method. From my understanding, this means you outline your main character and understand who they are and what they do. Then, you put them in a situation and just write. Once the process starts, it takes its own shape, and, pretty soon, you’re at the ending.
For me, this means a lot of editing for details and logic afterward. It allows you to get a lot of words on the page and get the bulk of the writing done. I find that outline and preparation and over-thinking delay the process. The key for me is to get it over with without judging. I do all my judging at the end, and I call it editing.
BD: What can you tell us about the plot of your latest novel, Fixed Fight?
II: FIXED FIGHT follows the adventures of conman Mike Chance and his partner Benny as they try and execute a sophisticated long con called ‘the fixed fight’ while Mike deals with a threat from his past. There’s lots of action and murder, as Mike fends off his past and tries to make the new scheme happen.
BD: This is book two in your “Mike Chance” series of novels. Is it necessary for readers to read book one first or can they dive straight into ‘Fixed Fight?’
II: I think readers can dive right in to FIXED FIGHT. Each book has a con game at its core. So, in that sense, the stories are self-contained. At the same time, when I refer to something that happened in FALSE RANSOM, I make an effort to explain the connection.
BD: Can you give us a quick description or a few highlights regarding book one, False Ransom, for those readers who may be interested in checking it out?
II: FALSE RANSOM introduces the character of Mike Chance as he arrives in Los Angeles on the run from something. He hooks up with his old friend/partner, Benny. Benny gets Mike involved in a fake kidnapping scheme. They partner with a corrupt mobster and help him pretend to kidnap the daughter. They plan on splitting the ransom money with their victim, but it goes very badly from the start and evolves into a murderous blood bath.
BD: Was there a specific inspiration behind the character of Mike Chance?
II: I am a big fan of the Parker novels by Richard Stark. I highly recommend them and the graphic novels based on them. Parker is a heist man with a violent streak but a certain work ethic. I am also a fan of Raymond Chandler and Phillip Marlowe. I read everything Chandler wrote before I embarked on FALSE RANSOM, and I try and emulate the stripped-down narratives of the pulp fiction from Chandler’s era.
BD: What made you choose to set your first two stories in 1930s Los Angeles? What appeals to you as a storyteller regarding this location and time period?
II: I am in love with historical Los Angeles. The city grew so quickly from frontier town to metropolis. I post a lot of old photographs from those days on my Facebook author page.
I found that Los Angeles is a magical place. I am in love with the feel of the hills at night and the dark alleys downtown that run forever. There’s a frontier feel still in the sense that people arrive here from all over the world looking for a new start. Also, I live here and sometimes I will walk in the neighborhoods I write about and pick up details. I even scouted Mike Chance’s apartment building. It’s on the cover of FALSE RANSOM. It’s a real place and I’ve stalked its hallways getting the feel of it.
BD: How important is a good title to a novel and what makes a good title in your opinion?
II: Titles are really difficult for me. I chose mine based on the con games at the core of them. FALSE RANSOM, FIXED FIGHT, and the third and final book, FAKE BANK. I also choose to make them all start with the letter ‘f,’ so that they feel connected when you look at them in a list.
I think great titles give an idea of the book before you read it. It communicates effectively the kind of book you’re about to read. My style is very stripped down and direct. I don’t use long sentences or many digressions. A title like Mike Chance and the Mobster’s Daughter would be deceptive, whereas FALSE RANSOM lets you know what’s up from the beginning.
BD: What do you enjoy about writing in the crime noir genre, and what do you think readers can get out of putting a little crime noir in their reading pile?
II: For me, characters that cross boundaries and do the wrong thing are the most interesting characters. I’ve also loved the directness of pulp language. I find it more transportive if that makes any sense.
A direct narrative story with a little evil about it is a great distraction from more complex literature.
BD: For those who have little experience with the crime noir genre, but want to check it out, what books, films, comics, etc. would you recommend that they seek out?
II: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammet, and James M. Cain. There is book series called Black Lizard. They have the Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps and the Big Book of Black Mask stories. Both are great. The latter being a reissue of Black Mask magazine where a lot of great noir writers got their start in the twenties.
Comics I like the Parker graphic novel THE HUNTER. Movies I would say start with THE BIG SLEEP or DOUBLE INDEMNITY or something more modern like BLOOD SIMPLE. There are several Parker movies, too. I like POINT BLANK.
BD: We are Fanboy Comics, so we always like to ask our interviewees what they are currently a “fan of.” It doesn’t have to be specifically comic based or even timely. We’re just wondering what you’re currently enjoying that you could recommend to our readers. So, what are you a fan of?
II: I’m currently watching FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD which is proving better than I expected. I am also a huge fan of the latest MAD MAX movie. I’ve seen it four times already.
BD: Where can readers find more information regarding Fixed Fight and the other Mike Chance novels?
II: Your readers can check my Facebook author page for updates and even watch a short film I made. I’m also on Goodreads, but I don’t use it as often. Finally, I have a very dark Twitter feed. Be forewarned. It is a glimpse into the heart of darkness. It’s locked, but I accept new followers.
BD: Finally, are there any upcoming projects you want to mention before we wrap up? Also, where can people find you and your work online?
II: You can find my work on Amazon:
Also, I will have a comic on ComiXology before too long. Readers can check my Facebook page for updates. CANNIBAL DETECTIVE is the title. It’s sort of a throwback book. Very simple. I think people will like it.