BookView Interview with Author Victor Vahl

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we talked to Victor Vahl, about his writing and his recently publisher novel, Mad City, a gritty action thriller (read the review here). Victor has written multiple fictional short stories and novellas, a style that leans towards grounded realism with a hint of the bizarre.

Victor Vahl is the pen name of Victor Torres: a writer, designer, and published author. He wrote a novel, so that’s a pretty solid credential for a start.

For the past few years, Victor has written multiple fictional short stories and novellas, a style that leans towards grounded realism with a hint of the bizarre. More of Victor’s free works will be visible on his collection here.

A graduate of Florida State University, Victor Vahl excelled in multiple classes involving creative writing and rhetoric. His luck knows no bounds, ranging from the unconditional support of his loving wife to receiving a pizza delivery with no pizza.​

Outside of his fondness for the arts and cinema, Victor enjoys traveling, leaning too close to the TV while playing video games, taking any golden opportunity to put on his leather-worn boxing gloves (although the pen and keyboard has replaced that nowadays), and food. Just food.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

For all of us writers, in order to really imagine the reality of a scene, emotion-wise, it’s so important to resonate with other’s feelings and how they reacted to certain events, along with weaving together past felt emotions, or variables of it altogether into something real for our imaginary stories.  The same goes for telling true stories.  And, I mean, trying to word this in the best way possible, your story will always deliver that sense of realism if the emotions resonated are true to the audience, even if it is mocking satire or as far out as an intergalactic space opera.

That’s makes or breaks a writer, is that level of compelling storytelling.  If you can’t, you’re merely firing blindly.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

All readers want some level of ingenuity, to feel some sense of realism of the characters they are reading.  And I think I strike best when I pull from my pool of emotions, and not for marketing to an audience.  (Maybe ingenuity is marketing to an audience and I threw myself into a paradox though, so, there you go)

Though, being a part of a Facebook group called 20BooksTo50K, I have seen many expressing their success from catering to what readers ideally want.  So, who knows, maybe I’ll eventually change my stance.

What is your favorite childhood book?

I love, love, LOVE Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young.  I haven’t seen that book in several years but the vibrant colors overlaid against the dark papers will always leave me feeling in awe.  Now I need to buy a copy for my house.

Is writer’s block real?

Ahahahaha.  Ha.  Ha.  Whoever says that writer’s block isn’t real is full of it.  It’s a drag really, and the best thing I have to do is just read and watch other things, self-meditate, anything to sway focus away from writing.  But if someone does have some crazy ritual to never have writer’s block, then sign me up.

After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?

The book and I have a ton of time together, thus to have a fresh mind I give myself 2 weeks off after completing the first draft, not focusing on anything regarding the manuscript.  After those 2 weeks, I have to judge from a nonbiased perspective if the book is keeping me immersed.  If there is a continuous flow with the descriptive writing, I’m immersed. If the plot remains engaging while not leaving any holes, I’m immersed.  If the dialogue remains true to the characters speaking said dialogue, I am immersed.  Any time I am broken out of that immersion, it’s time to pull out the red pen and jot down those revisions.

How do you begin a book?

I think what a lot of people dislike in a book’s hook is that the hook is explaining some backstory and then they’re like “Where is this even going?” – I try to think about that when I plan my book.  So I like to write the inciting incident (a detail, an inferrance, it doesn’t have to be directly stated yet) that gets the main plot of the novel moving.

How different was your life one year ago?

Well one year ago, I didn’t have a novel published.  Now I do!  Still an anxious wreck though, so that’s about it…

Kidding.  Now that there’s a novel published, it feels like my path to a full-time writing career is more tangible than ever.  It’s led me to cultivating a mailing list, writing more, and being so excited to see what the future holds.  I also have a house now for the first time with my wife, and that has also been a blessing.

Tell us some more about your book.

Mad City is a sci-fi thriller, with elements of action and drama, written in a limited third-person POV through the lens of multiple characters.  Isaac Sage, the main protagonist, has suffered with the trauma of losing his parents, along with the collapse of their company building that invented an all-cure drug, for 15 years.  This all-cure drug’s former self is scarce, now corrupted and sold illegally through underground cartels.

Isaac Sage is attacked one night.  And going back to the scene, he finds a clue.  Something that should’ve been destroyed with the incident 15 years ago.  Isaac begins a pursuit in finding the truth, and eventually bringing down the culprits who took his family away from him.  There are other interesting characters wrapped in this, such as the detective John Saint, whose initial case of arson leads to the underground drug cartel led by warlord Diablo, whose eye has been hideously mutated from overuse of the corrupted drugs.

What inspired the premise of your book?

Before Mad City existed in manuscript form, it was originally the idea to be its own superhero type of thing, specifically the vigilante persona of Isaac Sage.  Although every time I brainstormed about the main character and his personality at the time, he would be too much like Spider-Man, haha.  But then as it evolved, I got my love from the dramatism of Breaking Bad, the gritty vigilante essence from Daredevil, the multi-branched narrative of No Country For Old Men, and the dream-like journeys painted from The Alchemist.

Has this novel changed drastically as you created it?

When I read this question, I first like to clarify that when creating it, I don’t think of the moment I pressed the pen to paper, but when an inkling of a thought, a spark, first manifested in my mind.

Mad City has been cultivating in my head for more than a decade, brewing like a gruesomely long slow roast.  Its beginnings started as a bootleg version of Spider-Man really.  And then, as I started experiencing more of life, digesting more different narratives that books and movies provided, Mad City became a character-driven story to the point of which I would say, although Isaac is a catalyst, everyone is their own protagonist. 

By the time I finally begun writing a year ago, I intended Mad City to have many layers to its story, and become a blend of everything I love that would not only stand as its own story, but become an exciting beginning for Isaac Sage’s odyssey.

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