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A Conversation with Marc Cortez, author of ‘A Gangster’s Garden’





Marc Cortez began his storytelling career in the third grade, when he entered a school writing contest and won with his story THE ANT WHO STOLE EASTER. Since then he has become a marketing writer and frequent blogger, leveraging his writing skills into success as a business executive and entrepreneur. With A GANGSTER’S GARDEN, he has turned his lifelong passion for storytelling into a full-length novel.

Mr. Cortez studied creative writing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lives in California with his wife and two children. A GANGSTER’S GARDEN is his first novel.

To purchase A Gangster’s Garden, click here.

To find out more, please visit him at

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Marc!  Can you start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

This is my first time publishing a novel.  I’ve been published in trade journals in various industries before, but this is the first time I’ve published a piece of creative work.

When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published, or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

I chose to self-publish mostly because it seemed an easier route to print than through traditional means.  I approached a dozen agents or so, but it’s a long and arduous process, and it was foreign to me. I spent so much time writing A Gangster’s Garden that I hadn’t thought too much about promotion until after my book was finished.  In that regard, I suspect I’m like most new authors:  we don’t think at all about the marketing process until we’re at the end.  So I’ll make sure I start promotions much earlier for my second novel.

How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I’ll let you know once I sign the contract!  But with self-publishing, I had my book available on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble and within 2 months, which I think is pretty remarkable.

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

It was quite a rush to actually hold my book for the first time, and I definitely had a feeling of pride and satisfaction.  But since I’d lived with this book for so long (years in the writing process), the actual publishing part seemed more like just another step in the process.  So there was no “aha I’ve made it” moment or anything like that.  Yes, I was (and still am) very proud of it, but my pride came from the writing of it and not necessarily the publishing of it.

If I get published through a traditional publishing house, I’m sure I’ll run screaming through the streets!

What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

I’m currently in the middle of an online book tour, whereby I’m interviewed by dozens of online blogs and book review sites.  It’s a fantastic way to get the word out about my book, my characters, and my motivations and background for writing the book.  I’ve also produced a video book trailer – an online collection of images, quotes and music – that’s available on YouTube and other sites. It’s a quick, visual representation of the book that gives a potential reader a snapshot of the novel and its main themes.

Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

The biggest thing was understanding my own writing process and what works best for me.  Everyone is different and has different processes, and what works for one might not work for another.  Some people love the thought of going off to a secluded cabin with no distractions to write; but that would never work for me.  I feed off the energy around me, and so I do much better writing in the middle of an airport or coffee shop – wherever there are people around.  And the other big thing I learned was to push myself towards a deadline:  I told myself that I was going to finish the novel by a certain date, and this helped me push forward.  Sure there were times when the plot wasn’t working, or my character’s arcs just wouldn’t come together, but the deadline helped me push through those.

What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

It’s both incredibly daunting and incredibly easy!  What I mean is that with the rise of self-publishing and all the tools available in the marketplace, publishing your own book has never been easier.  But because of this, the routes towards traditional publishing (through an established house) are foggier than ever.  Do you need them or do they need you?   And how do you get to them?   So I think that the rise of self-publishing has caused the landscape to change completely, and it’s definitely a work in progress.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Knowing that I was able to take an idea from beginning to end, and create the story that I wanted.  Whether or not others fall in love my characters or my story is another thing, but I’m most rewarded by knowing that A Gangster’s Garden is the story I wanted to tell.  I find that incredibly rewarding.

Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

Write!  Don’t edit, criticize, theorize, strategize, or editorialize.  Don’t write as if trying to be good.  Just write.  Sit down and write whatever comes to mind: your grocery list, your bank balance, the indigestion you’re feeling, whatever.  Writing is about momentum, and momentum is only created by getting things in motion.  Worry about liking it later. And don’t overthink the publishing side of things.  Start by writing the best book you can possibly write, and then figure out what you need to learn about publishing as you go along. 





Deep in the heart of Denver’s Five Points varrio, an innocent teenage boy is killed in a gang-related shooting.

The intended target, gang-leader Benicio de los Santos, assembles his Latin Disciples into a Denver basement to plot their revenge. Does it matter that the hit planned for him killed an innocent boy? No. What matters is how careless his main enemy, the Sureño Daggers, have become. His cholo brethren demand the bloody removal of their enemy’s chief, King Diaz, and the quick takeover of Sureño drug turf. But Santos recalls a lesson from Sun Tzu – that true generalship destroys rather than counters enemy plans – and so commands his soldados to do nothing. He’ll avenge his wife and son’s murder on his terms, when he decides.

Across town, a family struggles to come to terms with their son’s murder. Businessman Miguel Rodriguez wonders what led his son down to the varrio in the first place, the very streets he’d fought so hard to overcome. He’d renamed his son precisely to distance him from their varrio past, despite the repeated protests of his wife Carmela. Wouldn’t life as a white Julian Ross, mingling with Denver’s elite, offer more than a brown Julio Rodriguez? They’d fought about the name change for years. And now, with Julian gone, Miguel realizes that the only way to find his lost son is to return to his childhood streets.

A GANGSTER’S GARDEN is a story of murder, faith and redemption, set in Denver’s Five Points varrio.


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