Notes and Narratives goes “On the Record” with Mystery author Nicolás Obregón


by: Tania Lasenburg

Crime and mystery novels are a dime a dozen. You get your detective, who is either a big shot or trying to make it back to the top working a big case, that will change his and the world.   We have seen it all before. However, here comes author Nicolás Obregón; bringing something new and in a way refreshing to a world that already exists. Blue Light Yokohoma doesn’t only fill your need to a new crime mystery novel but it fills your need for a companion in the most unpredictable way possible.

Nicolás Obregón is an author to keep an eye on.  And we don’t say that because we are in love with Inspector Iwata but because the author himself proves that you can always bring something new to the table.

N&N: How does your background, as a Londoner and a Madrileño, influence your writing? 

     NO: I think being from two places is a great advantage in many ways; maybe you speak languages, you’ve had differing perspectives growing up, and I’d like to think it also gives you empathy to some degree. In other ways, you’re always absent, wherever you are, there’s always that sense of unbelonging.

For me personally, growing up in London, I was always the Spanish kid. In Madrid, I was the English boy. So you end up feeling both are true and neither are true. Now I’m 34 and my adult life is built on the foundations of that duality, that self-questioning. So to answer your question, I think my background probably influences my writing to a great degree; it’s not a coincidence that Inspector Iwata (lead protagonist in my first two novels) is bi-cultural and doesn’t feel like he readily belongs anywhere.

N&N: What was it about Japan and/or your experience traveling through Japan that made you want to write Blue Light Yokohama?

 NO: I’ve been lucky enough to do a fair bit of travelling in my life and put simply, I think it’s a unique country. It’s a place which, for thousands of years, was largely left untouched and so its own unique culture and history germinated. Today Japan is a country of clashes and contrasts; from the ultra-modern to the traditional, from the time-honoured to the cutting edge. It’s also an extremely beautiful and interesting place. I grew up watching Japanese anime and playing Japanese video games so there was already a corner of my imagination that had been captivated by Japan.

By my teens I was reading Japanese literature which only further cultivated this interest. Then in my mid-20s I was sent to Japan on assignment as I worked for a travel magazine. While out there I discovered the horrific true life case of the Miyazawa Family; a family homicide in the year 2000. From somewhere in amongst those elements, Blue Light Yokohama emerged in April 2014. Readers can learn more here: 

N&N: What made you decide that the best way to tell your story was with a crime novel?

     NO: I think it was Chekov who said that ultimately all novels are detective novels: a protagonist having to come to their truth. I’ve always been a huge fan of crime fiction and always wanted to write but never really joined the dots. It was only really by accident that I came to the pages of Blue Light Yokohama and in a way, Inspector Iwata introduced himself to me, not the other way around. I love the crime genre passionately but I don’t necessarily see myself as a crime author.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the label, quite the opposite, I think it’s more just that the characters and stories I’m trying to capture on the page at the moment live within that world. We’ll see where my writing takes me. That said, I think I’ll always want to return to characters who do wicked deeds.

N&N: Through your various jobs, did you always want to be an author? What actually pushed you to try to publish a novel?

   NO: Put simply: a few twists of fate and a lot of hard work. I don’t actually believe in fate in the least but the case of the Miyazawa Family Murders just kept on popping up throughout my 20s. It was on my 30th birthday that I decided to write a novel loosely based on the case of a family murder. Initially, it was just for fun, I never seriously considered that I could make a living out of it. I think by chapter 10 in my first draft, I realized that I was on to something and it was a throwaway comment from my girlfriend at the time who said: ‘you should definitely finish this and try and get an agent, they publish a lot worse!’ I made a list of 3 or 4 agents that I loved the sound of and reached out to them with the first three chapters.

So look, I didn’t have a grand plan or anything like that, no strategy in place, I just took awhile to research submitting to agents, how to write a good query letter, and I did think a little bit about the best case scenario: I was already plotting future Iwata novels in my head in case the agent / publishers said yes. If you walk into a room with a clear idea about where your protagonist is going in the future, it’s evident that you’re an author who’s in it for the long haul, you’re not just a hobbyist with a good idea.

N&N: How was your publishing experience been? Is there anything that you would have done differently?

    NO: Overall it’s been amazing. Like anything, there are highs and lows. The main thing I learned is that your self-doubt as a writer never goes away. The monkey will always be there on your shoulder, no matter how far you’ve come. As to would I do anything differently, probably yes, but only because it would be basically mathematically impossible to do it the exact same way even if you could go back in time.

 N&N: What do you want your readers to take from your writing?

     NO: I’d defer to my secondary school English teacher, Ms. Kenney: I don’t really care too much what’s happening, or what it’s about, I just have to care. So yeah, I want my readers to feel something. Fear, wanderlust, melancholy, whatever it might be. I’m not so interested in the violence, the explosions, and the car chases for the sake of them, I’m interested in what’s happening off the page, between the lines, under the skin.

N&N: Finally, for new authors, what advice would you give them?

    NO: All the cliches you’ll hear about reading lots and not giving up; follow them. But at the same time, there’s also there’s a lot of advice out there. Balance it with your own intuition. Follow your nose. And while it’s natural to be influenced, remember that writing a version of something that was successful is probably a false economy: personally, I’d rather be rejected for who I actually am than for who I am not. 


Blue Light Yokohoma and its sequel Sins of Scarlet  are available at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, Apple ibooks and where all books are sold.