Contracts Are Dangerous: An Interview with Gabino Iglesias

Interview conducted by Jonathan Louis Duckworth, in-person, during the 2022 StokerCon Convention for horror writers in Denver, Colorado. The following is an edited, written transcript. You can listen to the full, unedited audio file, below.

Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, professor, and literary critic living in Austin, TX. He is the author of Zero Saints and Coyote Songs and the editor of Both Sides and Halldark Hallways. His work has been nominated twice to the Bram Stoker Award as well as the Locus Award and won the Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel in 2019. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Electric Literature, and LitReactor. His reviews appear regularly in places like NPR, Publishers Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Criminal Element, Mystery Tribune, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other venues. In 2021, he received the Horror Writer’s Association Diversity Grant. Iglesias has worked as a mentor with the San Francisco Creative Writing Institute and the Periplus Collective. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association, the Mystery Writers of America, and the National Book Critics Circle. He teaches creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University’s online MFA program. You can find him on Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.

Jonathan Louis Duckworth: Gabino, congratulations on your recent deal with Sony Pictures for a future film adaptation of your newest novel, The Devil Takes You Home!

Gabino Iglesias: Thank you! 

JLD: What’s the process of negotiating a deal with a major studio like, and would you have any advice for an emerging author who might find themselves in a situation like that in the future? And finally, how did it feel when the offer came to you? 

GI: First of all, thank you. If you’re an indie writer—I had already gone through the process of an option, and my word of advice would be to get someone who’s been through the process to take a look at that contract, because contracts are dangerous. This time around, it was a piece of cake, because this time around my literary agent, Melissa Danaczko, hooked me up with a film agent. I basically sat back and waited for the agent to tell me who I was meeting and when, and then I went to those meetings and we talked about the book, and then he started filtering rejections. We received about half a dozen very kind notes saying that the book was “too brutal” to bring to film, and then eventually we got a few offers, and it seemed like going with Sony was the best option, because they already had attached (Argentinian film director) Alejandro Brugués to the film. They actually sent him the book and asked him if he was interested. Alejandro is absolutely an outstanding director—we made it happen.

Receiving the offer was a lot of fun. It was also scary. In publishing everyone says no, and then eventually someone says yes and you have a book. Apparently in Hollywood, it’s the opposite: it’s always “yes yes yes, this is a thing, this is gonna happen, this is great,” and then it falls through. So right now, I’m hoping in the next 18 months of the option that we can get something on paper that the studio likes, and then they will give Alejandro Brugués the green light to go ahead.

For me, I don’t do movies, I do books, so for me this was entirely new. I’m hoping it will be a thing where it drives people to the book. Like, knowing there’s a movie coming—“hey, check out the book first.”

JLD: And it might open things up for audiences who might not necessarily read.

GI: Yes.

JLD: Something I’ve been wondering—if you could arm wrestle one living writer, who would it be,