Interview 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

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Marc.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: I remember writing as early as the third grade, entering and winning a school writing contest with my story The Ant Who Stole Easter.  When I began my career as an engineer, I would often write technical presentations and papers, and this progressed to brand creation and promotion as I moved into business marketing and strategy.  And when I became an entrepreneur, storytelling became my lifeblood:  I was convincing people to invest in me and my company simply by crafting a compelling story.  So writing A Gangster’s Garden feels like a natural progression from the stories I’ve been writing all my life.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A:  I’m fascinated in the rich worlds that grow in the cracks of society, especially when those hidden worlds crash into our everyday lives.   Set in Denver, A Gangster’s Garden is about a teenage boy killed in a botched street-gang hit and what happens to everyone touched by the shooting.  The story follows gang leader Benicio de los Santos, the hit’s intended target, as he plots revenge against his bitter enemy King Diaz for murdering his family two years earlier; and as his plans begin to unravel he rediscovers his lost faith and searches for redemption.  Meanwhile, across town in a wealthy Denver suburb, Miguel and Carmela Rodriguez struggle to come to terms with their son’s murder in the same neighborhood they fought so hard to overcome.  Both Miguel and Carmela go searching for answers on their childhood streets, with very different outcomes. 

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A:  The biggest challenge I faced in writing A Gangster’s Garden was making my main character, gang leader Benicio de los Santos, a sympathetic figure instead of a stereotype.  How do you get readers to care about the leader of one of Denver’s most violent Mexican gangs?  I did it by painting the framework of the world that he lived in:  the warped yet internally-consistent morals of his gang set, the pain and loss he feels for his slain family, the rules he’s constructed about him to give his world a sense of consistency.  I try to show that he’s not a simple street thug; he’s a general, planning his enemy’s destruction out of love for his fallen family.  And in his twisted world it all makes perfect sense. 

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A:  All of my press information is available on my website,  It includes my biography, Chapter 1, a summary of my book, and a very compelling video trailer (a 75 second “mini-movie” of A Gangster’s Garden,

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A:  I’ve been primarily promoting my book online, through a virtual book tour with book review and interview sites.  I have had an invitation to speak at a town hall meeting in Salinas, California, a town with a huge gang problem, and I plan on meeting many of my readers in person.  And I would love to appear on radio and TV to discuss my book!

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A:  I published A Gangster’s Garden myself, and so don’t currently have an agent.  With self-publishing becoming so prevalent these days, I think the agent’s role continues to evolve with the industry.  But I still think an agent is invaluable to getting broader exposure.  Are there any agents out there looking for a new author?

Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A:  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. 

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A:  I’m currently working on the sequel to A Gangster’s Garden, tentatively called Santos, Uncolored. Benicio de los Santos is a fantastic, charismatic and complex character, and I want to finish the journey he began in A Gangster’s Garden.  I’m also working on a story of historical fiction, with a working title of Stalking Zodiac.  Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was always fascinated by the Zodiac killer, made all the more compelling because he was never caught.  But what if someone knew who he was?  

Q: Thank you for your interview, Marc.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A:  Thank you very much!  A Gangster’s Garden can be found in print and ebook formats, on Amazon or directly from  


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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