The Write Stuff: Michael Nava on Expecting the Work to Be its Own Reward

The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.

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Michael Strickland
Michael Nava, a third-generation Californian of Mexican descent, is the author of an acclaimed series of crime novels featuring Henry Rios, a gay Latino criminal defense lawyer. Published between 1986 and 2000, each new novel was greeted with greater critical acclaim until, about the last novel, Rag and Bone, the New York Times reviewer wrote simply: "Nava is one of our best." The series won six Lambda Literary Awards, and in 2001 Nava received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement in gay and lesbian literature. For the last 15 years he has been working on a series of novels loosely inspired by the life and times of silent film star Ramon Novarro. The first in the series, The City of Palaces, will be out this spring.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them... ?

I tell them I'm a lawyer. Writer is my secret identity.

What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?

Shutting off the inner critic.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Expect the work to be its own reward and you'll be content.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

I consider myself happy. Is that the same? I have a comfortable life, interesting work, a happy marriage and wonderful friends but they aren't the source of my happiness; it's that I'm grateful for them.

When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

Sadly, anything with cats.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated Troy. I wanted to be an archeologist.

How much money do you have in your checking account?

Enough for my needs with some left over for my wants.

What's wrong with society today?

I generally steer clear of that discussion.

What is your fondest memory?

Any moment alone with my spouse.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

Each time I see a tree, an animal or a child.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

The emancipation of women.

When you have sex, what are some of the things you like to do?

Kissing is hotter than coming.

What are you working on right now?

The next novel is the quartet of historical novels I am writing loosely inspired by the early life and times of the gay, Mexican silent film star Ramon Novarro. But I need a title and I can't come up with a satisfactory one.

A night on the town: what does that mean to you?

Something I gave up in the 30s, thank God.

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen?

The reelection of George W. Bush.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

Make a poem, buy books of poetry.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Lavender, lemon, rose geranium -- yes, I'm gay.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

A week in heaven.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. This interview conducted by Evan Karp. Follow Litseen at @Litseen.

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