He wields his words like a blade, and while his talent can cut to the quick.
Hector Duarte Jr. is a refreshingly honest voice in a tight-knit online society, where he is apparently well loved and respected, and rightfully so. He is unfailingly supportive of his fellow writers, while contributing a steady stream of stellar stories set mostly in his native land of South Florida.
But he’s more Miami Nice than Miami Vice.
Still, his work is sharp, smooth, and sometimes savage. He wields his words like a blade, and while his talent can cut to the quick with visceral authenticity, it also carves out a unique niche in the crowded indie crime lit community.
You write primarily flash fiction/short stories. What is it about this format that appeals to you as both writer and reader?
Honestly, when I started writing I couldn't go any longer. The challenge for me is writing the longer stories, which I'm working on now. There's no time for frills or bullshit in flash. You have to come right out the gate: Pow! Lighting it up. As a writer it teaches you a lot about how to keep the reader in their seat and completely engaged.
You are also a school teacher and editor (Out of the Gutter Online). Do you honestly see any hope for the future of fiction in this fast-moving, multi-media, sensory-overstimulating culture?
Ha ha. As the years have passed, my opinion has changed to a resounding yes. It might be hard to see but I do hold out hope. However, I do believe the way we consume literature and writing in general will change. The old school might give me shit for what I'm about to say but I think the long, drawn-out novel will go on hiatus for a bit and the novella and more compact stories will see a big upswing. Once the scene is inundated with those, the novel will again see an upswing. Like everything else in life, it's cyclical. But, yeah, I know kids are reading mangas and graphic novels, probably on their tablets and phones but they're consuming it. It might be in a different format but it's still the written word. It'll be a round forever, just in a different form than what we're used to. Don't be scared, writers. Embrace that shit.
You live in Miami, which has been a haven and breeding ground for crime authors going back decades, from Charles Willeford to Carl Hiaasen. What is it about South Florida that fosters this particular literary element, especially in the current culture?
Man, it used to be a weird source of pride the amount of "weird" shit that happens here, but I'm writing these answers to you just little over a month after the Parkland shooting and 2 days after the pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University (which occurred a month and one day after Parkland). My mom drove under that bridge at 10:30 that very morning. My folks live right by there. The point in my digression is that the U.S. right now is going through some rough, gritty times. Which for a writer is a gold mine of material. As a human being, it's a great source of anxiety. But that's why we write about this stuff, right, Will? To help us process it and keep us from biting the fingernails clean off our hands.
South Florida in particular is extremely diverse and, again, some might roll their eyes at what I'm about to say but so be it, the truth is the truth (another thing I'm learning as I get older). Whenever you have so many people from so many different cultural backgrounds crammed in one place, it creates a lot of competition, which eventually creates tension. And that's what Miami has become. I was born and raised here, been here 37 years now, and The Magic City has become a big ball of stress, overpopulation, high cost of living rate that is nowhere close to matching wage rates. Add to that oppressive heat and the threat of massive storms. What do you get? Noir, baby!
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
All good writing inspires me. I was born in Miami to a Cuban father and Chilean mother, so I try to take a bit from everywhere. The old, standard hats like Hammett and Chandler. Leonardo Padura and Ena Lucia Portela are rocking it in Cuba. Gillian Flynn writes shit out of psychological thriller. Television is also amazing right now. Shows like The Good Doctor. American Crime, in my opinion, is the genius series no one is talking about. This is Us does an amazing job with motif, symbolism, and perspective, taking old-school issues, like alcoholism, and given it a spin for modern-day society. Jack Pearson is a guy with a serious addiction, yet he is completely functional and likable, something society tends to ignore. There are functioning addicts out there going about their daily lives who we tend enable because they're getting by, successfully perhaps, but it doesn't make it any less sad or tragic.
I hope this doesn't come across as me trying to be overly clever but I take inspiration from whatever sparks it. It could be a line I hear in an elevator, some weird shit I might see driving home, my girlfriend Samantha sassing me with a great line, or my cat, Felina, flipping off the couch a certain strange way.
What’s next for you?
I'm challenging myself by working on a novel (see question #1), then trying to pimp those out. I have a few other projects in mind. Just trying to stay busy with writing whatever I can get my hands on.
How is Felina?
Felina is good. Thanks for asking. Right now she is curled up on the couch, sleeping like she's worked a sixteen-hour shift.
As a word-slinging cat daddy, I can relate, brother! Salud.
Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer and teacher out of Miami, Florida. He’s current editor at The Flash Fiction Offensive. His work has appeared, among many others, in Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, HorrorSleazeTrash, and Just to Watch Them Die: Crime fiction inspired by the songs of Johnny Cash. Shotgun Honey books will publish his short story collection, Desperate Times Call, in September 2018.