Shea Serrano talks ‘Movies (And Other Things)’ and when he cried during ‘Coco’ ahead of his Dallas visit – The Dallas Morning News
Shea Serrano’s advice to anyone trying to succeed in life is simple: Someone’s going to make it big and it might as well be you.
Serrano is living proof of that mentality. He went from part-time writer and full-time teacher to two-time New York Times best-selling author.
Tuesday marks the release of Serrano’s third book — Movies (And Other Things), a title that as of last week had already surpassed 20,000 preorders.
This latest book is about just that — movies and other things. It’s all in Serrano’s classic conversational style where he tells readers about his favorite movies, ranks tough-guy dog owners and even employs his three kids for a hilarious conversation about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
But writing, Serrano said, was something he “accidentally” backed into. He started writing to make money on the side when his wife was pregnant a few years ago.
“I wanted to teach at a middle school for 30 years and be in the classroom and have a kid to tell me ‘Oh, I taught your mom and dad,’” Serrano said. “I wanted to be that guy in the community.”
But then “the writing thing took off.” In 2015, he published The Rap Year Book followed by 2018’s Basketball (And Other Things).
Movies is built in the strangely well-ordered kind of chaos that only Serrano can deliver. Quick zingers and details about Serrano’s home life, which his fans will surely love to learn, can be found in the footnotes.
Ahead of his book release and his Oct. 16 stop in Dallas, I had a chance to talk to Serrano, who’s busy touring the country right now.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you develop this book?
[Dallas Illustrator] Arturo Torres and I were looking at different subject matter we wouldn’t mind spending a bunch of time digging around in. At this point, him and I know how much work is going to go into this. We’re talking about 18 months of writing, drawing and editing. If you pick something you’re not interested in, it’ll start to feel tedious. But if you’re working on something you enjoy, that’s a fun thing to do.
I didn’t realize Arturo was so involved in this book from the beginning. Why does his style blend so well with your writing?
Arturo is kind of a weirdo. And he’s also a nerd. He’s very peculiar and particular about what he draws and how he draws it. With writing, I’m the same way. There’s a lot of stuff I can’t do, but the stuff I can do, I’m gonna do it in a very particular way and lean hard into the style. He’s the same way with his illustrations. Fundamentally, he’s doing the same thing that I’m doing — just being a weird nerd about stuff and it works out.
Speaking of style. We met a few weeks ago and you’re extremely down to earth. Your writing style actually matches up with what “conversational” means and I can hear your voice coming through the pages. Why is it so important that your books have this tone?
Because if I can’t pin that down, then none of the book works. I’m not writing in a way that’s meant to feel authoritative. It’s never a declaration. Everything that someone has read of mine, that was a real-life conversation I had with someone. And that’s usually Larami, my wife. I’ll research a whole chapter and then I’ll sit down and talk to her about it. Whatever I take from that conversation, that’s what I’ll write.
The Selena chapter is powerful. You lay out what the movie means to Mexican-Americans and make a point about how little inclusion of Latinos there is in film, even since Selena’s 1997 release date. Why do you think we don’t see more representation of Latinos in film?
The people in charge make the stuff they can identify with. But they don’t look like me or you. I think it will come slowly. We’re trending in that direction. Usually we follow behind what the black or Asian communities do. When Black Panther came out, I thought, “Oh, this might open the door for us.” We are seeing it more and more. We got [El] Chicano, which wasn’t very good. And we got Coco, which was fantastic.
I gotta ask. At what point in Coco did you shed your first tear?
[Laughs.] I held it in all the way until the end. But the first time I got excited — the first time I felt a jolt in my chest — was when the grandma is yelling at Miguel and chasing him through the market. I could feel it in her voice. I’ve heard this voice at my house. When that happened, I knew it was going to be good.
Which of the Avengers do you think could be Mexican?
Let’s cast Michael Peña as the new Iron Man.
Can we ever expect to see a Shea Serrano-written screenplay for the big screen or TV?
It’s not something I’m looking to do, but neither was writing books. If somebody reaches out and wants to give me money to write a thing, I’ll listen. But I’m not going to be out in Hollywood trying to make that happen. If it happens for me, it’ll be because someone reaches out to me about it.
Serrano will appear at Interabang Books, 10720 Preston Rd, October 16 from 7 to 8 p.m. and will be signing copies of his latest book, interabangbooks.com
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