Daniel José Older talks MIDNIGHT TAXI TANGO

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDaniel José Older wrote the YA urban fantasy Shadowshaper, co-edited the fantasy anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and has had his short fiction published at Tor.com. He is the author of the new urban fantasy series BONE STREET RUMBA, the latest of which, Midnight Taxi Tango, was released on January 5, 2016. When he’s not writing fantasy, Older composes and plays music, conducts writing workshops, and blogs about his decade of experiences driving an ambulance. Despite this busy schedule, Older took some time to answer some questions for Marion and Jana about social media, music, and his latest book.

One commenter with an address in the USA or Canada will win copies of both Half-Resurrection Blues and Midnight Taxi Tango.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJana Nyman: Your three inter-related Tor.com short stories, slightly modified, make up Cycle One of Midnight Taxi Tango. Did you plan on incorporating those stories when you began work on this novel, or did they turn out to be a great way to bring Carlos, Kia, and Reza together into a cohesive storyline?

Daniel José Older: “Anyway: Angie” and “Kia & Gio” happened first, and I knew they were part of a larger narrative but wasn’t sure how it all fit together until I started plotting out MTT, threw Carlos into the mix and tied it into a cohesive whole. “Ginga” was pulled more directly from the book once it was already in motion, although I ended up switching a few things, a POV in one scene, to make it a more solid, stand-alone short.

Marion Deeds: Both Half-Resurrection Blues and Midnight Taxi Tango fairly hum with music. In Midnight Taxi Tango, Kia has her own soundtrack. Music is very important to you, obviously, since you also compose music and have a band. Do you consciously imagine “soundtrack” music for your main characters? And a follow-up, do you write to a soundtrack yourself? If so, what kinds of music do you write to?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDJO: I tend to plot out sequences while I’m on the train or walking around the city, not in front of the computer, so I’ll have earbuds in and be playing a Spotify mix and certain songs will click and sing the melody of a moment or a character. One of Reza’s key tracks was “Spoonman” by Soundgarden — pretty much all her fight scenes were choreographed to that. Which seems random as hell but hey — there it is. I put a playlist together of songs that inspired the Bone Street books:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNuiAlK7wETj7eRglYvRzSFL8sKLQk-Dk

JN: You’re extremely active on social media — you’ve got your own website, which is to be expected, but you’re also a constant presence on Twitter and Tumblr, and you regularly upload videos to YouTube. When do you have time to write or sleep?? And, slightly more seriously, has making yourself more visible and accessible changed the way you approach writing? Does the potential for instantaneous feedback change how you work on writing or music projects?

DJO: Ha! I enjoy social media, which helps, so it doesn’t feel like work generally, just kind of a part of the process. It can also break the monotony of long writing stretches — I’ve found that once I get my rhythm for the day — have a couple hundred words on the page, I can tweet and write alternately and not lose focus, probably stay in the seat longer in fact. Ultimately, it’s the conversatory nature of social media that makes it work. I love that we can live-tweet books and interact directly with authors/readers.

DJOlder interview photo - Long Hidden anthology cover imageMD: You co-edited Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, and have worked on other editing projects. Is there another Long Hidden anthology in the pipeline? What do you like best about the editing process? And, we have to ask, is there another BONE STREEET RUMBA novel in the pipeline?

DJO: There is a follow up to Long Hidden — it’s called Hidden Youth and will be amazing. I’m not editing it but some terrific folks are and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. I just finished the first draft of book 3 in the BONE STREET RUMBA series; it’s called Battle Hill Bolero and shit gets really real.

JN and MD: While we were reviewing Midnight Taxi Tango, we both noticed how prominently Medianoche Car Service was featured, and how cool that sounded. We were both wondering how the title of the novel came about, since it seems like it could have easily been Medianoche Taxi Tango. Could you give us a little insight into your creative process and talk about how you came to Midnight Taxi Tango?

DJO: The title of the book actually came before the name of the car company! It’s called that because I love that these car services all over Brooklyn have bilingual names as a regular practice, so it seemed right for Reza and Charo’s. As a book title though, Medianoche Taxi Tango just doesn’t have the same swing as Midnight Taxi Tango, it comes out clunkier on the tongue, even to a native Spanish speaker. Too many syllables I think. The tango element grew naturally with the story — Tango is one of the few musical styles that is marked by knife fights, along with the drunken nights in dive bars and tormented love, so it fits very well with the narrative.A Bone Street Rumba Novel by Daniel José Older

MD: One of Fantasy Literature’s traditions with interviews is to ask a writer to share a favorite or signature beverage with our readers. We’d love to hear yours.

DJO: Ha — I’m not a drinking man so I’m gonna have to go with a simple cup of Bustelo.

Readers, we’d love to know if you have a preferred style of music to listen to while reading — or if you require total silence! One commenter in either the USA or Canada will win a copy of Half-Resurrection Blues AND Midnight Taxi Tango.


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JANA NYMAN, with us since January 2015, is a freelance copy-editor who has lived all over the United States, but now makes her home in Colorado with her dog and a Wookiee. Jana was exposed to science fiction and fantasy at an early age, watching Star Wars and Star Trek movie marathons with her family and reading works by Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury WAY before she was old enough to understand them; thus began a lifelong fascination with what it means to be human. Jana enjoys reading all kinds of books, but her particular favorites are fairy- and folktales (old and new), fantasy involving dragons or other mythological beasties, contemporary science fiction, and superhero fiction. Some of her favorite authors are James Tiptree, Jr., Madeleine L'Engle, Ann Leckie, N.K. Jemisin, and Seanan McGuire.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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18 comments

  1. Von Berry /

    When I am reading I like total silence so that I can immerse myself in the story.

  2. I like the tv on low in the background. Anything else is distraction!

  3. Kevin Ramirez /

    I prefer listening to ambient music when I read, especially anything that sounds soothing and atmospheric, i.e. brian eno, harold budd, tim hecker, grouper

  4. I’m really impressed that he can write while social-mediaing. It takes so much time to do one or the other to any great degree that doing both, much less doing both simultaneously, shows a lot of talent.

    As for me, I usually read in silence so I can focus, although I did have a melancholy sort of soundtrack on while reading the other day, and I found it did add to the reading experience (it worked for the particular book).

  5. I usually like total silence when I read. But sometimes I’ll read during commercial breaks too…so probably 90% silence and 10% some type of background noise.

  6. Matt W /

    I’ve been following Mr Older on social media for a couple of years, and have had HRB on my to-read list for awhile as well, but haven’t gotten around to it. Now I’ve got MTT to add as well, and that Long Hidden anthology, which sounds extremely interesting and I’d not heard of before this.

  7. I like the quiet for reading. Thanks for the chance to win these books; Half Resurrection Blues has been on my wish list for a while.

  8. I loved the questions you asked, Marion and Jana! I also love Tango.
    I need to read these books because I know how much you’ve enjoyed them.

  9. Bethany C. /

    Definitely silence-music is too distracting. Background noise (or maybe instrumental music? I’ve never tried) is generally okay.

  10. C.N. Rowen /

    It depends on what I’m reading, fun reading, definitely a mixed playlist of mostly Soundtrack music, but dense textbook like books, definitely need silence for that.

  11. When I was a kid, I’d needed music on in the background very very low…maybe to help offset the voices in my head. Then I went through an adult phase when I needed complete silence. Now I like having movie soundtracks on low…as dorky as it sounds, I love Howard Shore’s LOTR work and my latest obsession is the soundtrack to Mad Max: Road Fury.

    BTW, kudos to Jana and Marion on the interview. Good questions, terrific insight.

  12. I tend to be able to concentrate better if I read in silence.

  13. Evan Jensen /

    I used to listen to heavy cello music while reading, almost exclusively. Also, a lot of Irish and American folk tunes after that phase went away. Now, I read in silence.

  14. Brontë Wieland /

    DJO’s twitter is one of my favorites. If you don’t follow him, get on it!

  15. I can’t listen to anything with lyrics or I can’t concentrate on the book. But radiorivendell.com is a great go-to for fantasy background tunes.

  16. Reanne, if you live in the USA or Canada, you win a copy of HALF RESURRECTION BLUES and MIDNIGHT TAXI TANGO!
    Please contact me (Marion) with your US address and I’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!

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