By Ian MacAllen on Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 at 9:03 am
Manuel Gonzales discussed his new novel The Regional Office is Under Attack with BuzzFeed Books Editor Isaac Fitzgerald at BookCourt last week. The novel centers around a coterie of deadly assassins, all women, and the plot against their organization known as the Regional Office.
Rosie has been recruited to lead an attack against the Regional Office with Sarah the defender of the organization. The novel includes mythological fantasy, magical powers, and plenty of action scenes.
“When I started I didn’t really know what I was doing at all,” Gonzales says.
The novel he explains, began with Henry, one of two male employees of the Regional Office, picking up Rose from a correction facility. Henry was responsible for training the women. In his first conception of the story, Rose escapes and Henry worries what his coworkers at the regional office will think when they find out he let her run away. Once Gonzales conceived the idea of the regional office, he wanted to know more about it.
Building an agency of women made a lot of sense. Gonzales is a fan of television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and La Femme Nikita. That was the world he wanted to play around. Over the course of some nine drafts, he cut some characters like Mr. Niles and began to focus on the two women, Sarah and Rose.
The Regional Office is located in New York City. The real life setting is underneath Gonzales’s agent’s office in midtown, but in the novel, the business is a travel agency that caters to the ultra rich. They specialize in making impossible travel adventures possible. The code word to find the Regional Office is asking to book a trip to Akron, Ohio–at least until some patron actually wants to book a trip to Ohio.
Gonzales says he has been a drone in a lot of offices and that work left him disaffected. He was for a while an executive director at a non-profit organization and he watched a lot of terrible things happen. Managing people is hard, he explains, saying most of the jobs in his life have been office jobs.
The novel exists in a kind of fantastical world with Magicks where characters posses special powers. While the world seems rich with history, the truth is, Gonzales admits, he only invented a handful of items to talk about. There is very little in the way of backstory or lore that exists.
After about five drafts, writers know what their novels are about, and that was when Gonzales realized Rose and Sarah were the focus. They became the cream that floated to the top because those were the stories that interested him, Gonzales says. It was fun to keep diving deeper. Sarah had an urban past while Rose grew up in a rural area, so they both had contrasting origins.
Gonzales has a young daughter and he looks forward to the day she is old enough to read and understand the novel. She has apparently previously declared his story collection, The Miniature Wife, boring.
A central characteristic of the novel is vivid action sequences. The characters engage in epic, cinematic-like combat. “I’m not sure what I did to make the action scenes so vivid,” he says. He declares them an accident.
“I try to avoid doing the things I’m supposed to do.”
Manuel Gonzales and Isaac Fitzgerald
Thursday, May 12, 2016
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