Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Six Questions for Eddie Vega, Editor-in-Chief, Noir Nation

Noir Nation is an eBook journal of high quality crime fiction, essays, and author interviews, illustrated with living art: tattoos.

The Journal, optimized for Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other e-readers, advances works of the literary imagination that explore the darker geographies of human experience. The ultimate purpose is to create compelling material that will encourage people to read more, thereby increasing international literacy rates, thereby increasing the need for more compelling material and for the writers who create it.

Separately, the Noir Nation Web site offers a discussion platform for all things Noir. Crime fiction writers and film noir bloggers are encouraged to share news and opinion from their respective national and artistic communities. Those who do will be listed as contributing editors in the staff section with links to their blogs. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

EV: We look for fresh writing, relevant subject matter, and appropriate length. The vast majority of the submissions we get – there were well over 2,300 for Issue No. 2 – were very good. There were less than half a dozen stories that were not ready to be seen by an editor, stories marked by poor grammar, misspellings, and formatting. But even there we found the nut of a good story that needed to be told, and we hope those writers, as they improve their writing skills and presentation, will revisit these stories and try again. We commented on those where we thought the writers might benefit from a fresh pair of eyes.

Because we have only about 20 slots for fiction in each issue, the hardest part of the selection process is deciding which of a very large group of excellent finalists gets in. At that point it comes to who wrote the better type of story. Say, for example, five to ten writers submitted a revenge story. Although they all deserve publication, if we accepted them all, we would have a lopsided issue. We don’t want readers to think, “Ugh, another revenge story.”  We want readers to turn the page not knowing what next to expect. That may not be what your readers want to hear because it means there is a fourth element that no one can know beforehand. Certainly not the editors.

There is also the international factor. Because the number of submissions tend to come from the United States, Canada, and Europe, any story coming from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific islands, or Latin America will get special consideration. It doesn’t mean a poorly written story from those regions will get in. We rejected many stories from those places. But it does mean that if one of those revenge stories we mentioned earlier were from Tuvalu — with a story set there — that’s the story we’d publish.

SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

EV: Some writers submit stories when we are closed to submissions. Among other things, it tells us the writer is submitting the work blind, that is, submitting it everywhere at once without caring about the venue. Our submissions page makes it clear when we are open or closed to submissions. We’d like to think – given the kind of respect we show writers who submit their work, accepted or rejected – that those who submit have taken a moment to find out about us. It does not mean they have to buy an issue, though that would make it easier on everyone since that is the only way to know if we are a good fit for their work, but it does mean that they at the very least read our guidelines.

SQF: Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important. 

EV: All of the above are true. A story is either compelling or it’s not. Our target audience comprises people who love to read crime fiction, not those who perform literary autopsies for a living.

SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission in Noir Nation? 

EV: Read this SQF interview and memorize it. If, however, the new authors are submitting to other venues, it really helps to know what kind of stories they publish. If the editor does not give interviews, it is the only way to know if there is an editorial slant. If it’s a print publication, there may be copies in the library. And if it’s an online publication sold on Amazon, there may be free samples available on the sales platform. We have some free sample entries from Noir Nation No. 1 on our Web site (http://noirnation.com/sample-page/), but those would not be helpful for this purpose because the materials we publish are much richer in variety than those samples might suggest.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

EV: I have learned the importance of grammar, punctuation, and narrative structure to keeping the reader in the loop. Writers need to provide enough road signs along the way so readers don’t get lost. That does not mean they need to feed readers manipulative pap. But it does mean that writers need to be mindful of writing basics so that readers don’t get bogged down trying to figure out who did what to whom. Or, on the higher levels, what a story has to say about life.

In my clueless youth, I thought a writer could do no wrong as long as the writing was true to whatever inspired it. In my less clueless adulthood, I would add this but: But if you leave the reader behind at the starting gate, it is all wrong all the time.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

EV: What do you say to those who think eBooks are endangering literature?

Literature is not the books that record it, in the same way that it was not in prior ages the codices, scrolls, or tablets that books supplanted. Our earliest literature was first recorded in memory and orally transmitted for generations. Of course, in some cases, printed books can provide an important scholarly service and tell us something about authorial intent – Shakespeare’s folios being a classic example – but for the most part printed books are commercial objects to which some owners may form a strong emotional connection. But that is less a literary connection than a psychological one. Literature is not the medium: It is the message.

Thank you, Eddie. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 9/14-Six Questions from James Penha, Editor, The New Verse News


  1. This is a very helpful series of interviews. Thanks!

  2. Your welcome, Heather. Glad you find them helpful.