Michael Nava on Lay Your Sleeping Head ~ Guest Blog, Interview

Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Michael Nava for stopping by today. Please give them a warm welcome.


Title: Lay Your Sleeping Head
Author: Michael Nava
Publisher: *Not Listed
Cover Artist:
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: 12/01/2016


Thirty years ago, The Little Death introduced Henry Rios, a gay, Latino criminal defense lawyer who became the central figure in a celebrated seven novel series.
In a brilliant reimagination of The Little Death, Lay Your Sleeping Head retains all the complexity and elegance of the plot of the original novel but deepens the themes of personal alienation and erotic obsession that both honored the traditions of the American crime novel and turned them on their head.

Henry Rios, a gifted and humane lawyer driven to drink by professional failure and personal demons, meets a charming junky struggling to stay clean. He tells Rios an improbable tale of long-ago murders in his wealthy family. Rios is skeptical, but the erotic spark between them ignites an obsessive affair that ends only when the man’s body is discovered with a needle in his arm on the campus of a great California university.

Rios refuses to believe his lover’s death was an accidental overdose. His hunt for the killer takes him down San Francisco’s mean streets and into Nob Hill mansions where he uncovers the secrets behind a legendary California fortune and the reason the man he loved had to die.

Lay Your Sleeping Head

We are here today to talk about Lay Your Sleeping Head.  What can you tell us about it?

Lay Your Sleeping Head is a re-write of my first mystery, The Little Death, which was published 30 years ago and introduced my series character, Henry Rios, a gay, Mexican-American criminal defense attorney, based mostly in LA. Yeah, I was multicultural way before it was cool.

What were some of the changes you made to Lay Your Sleeping Head for this re-release? Why the title change from The Little Death?

The Rios books have only been available as e-books but I finally wrangled the print rights back from my e-book publisher and decided to put out a print edition because some readers still like actual books. I planned to read through them and correct typos and do some light revision but when I re-read The Little Death, I cringed! It was my first long work of fiction, my first try at a mystery, and at the time I wrote I had no plan to write a series. Everything needed to be revised – the plot, the characters, the writing itself. In the end, I used less than five percent of the original text, and it was such a different book that I thought it warranted a different title to announce that fact.

Please tell us more about your main characters.

Rios is intensely committed to his clients in what he perceives to be an unfair criminal justice system. He is kind of lonely crusader for justice to the point of neglecting his own well-being and we find him at the beginning of the book burned-out and well on his way to alcoholism. He gets entangled with a younger man, Hugh Paris, the black sheep of a very wealthy family who is trying to put his life back together after years of heroin addiction. These two lost souls come together in a passionate affair that sets in motion a series of events that uncover the family secrets behind the founding of a legendary California university.

How would the story and Henry Rios be different if Lay Your Sleeping Head was set in 2016 instead of the eighties?

There were no personal computers, much less cell phones, in 1982 where the book is set. When Rios wants information on a fellow lawyer, he goes to the law library and looks it up! It was also a time of rampant homophobia throughout the society when the few images of gay people that existed were negative or stereotypic. And this, mind you, was pre-AIDS.  I don’t know that the basic plot would be different but certainly the greater acceptance of LGBT people would affect how the story unfolds.

What do you want to tell those who may be new to the series?

When these books were first published, between 1986 and 2000, they were exceptionally well-reviewed everywhere from the New York Times to People magazine and in a recent New Yorker piece, Rios was described as a “detective unlike any other previous protagonist in American noir.”  (You can read the article here: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/a-gay-mystery-novelist-who-chronicles-the-aftermath-of-aids.)  Rios remains a unique character; a gay man who is non-stereotypical and a person of color but who has, I like to think, universal appeal.

What about Lay Your Sleeping Head makes you the proudest?

That 30 years after I wrote the first version, it still seemed like a compelling story to me that needed to be told.

What are your plans for the series?

I’m going to revise all seven of the published books in the next couple of years and then write an eighth book in the series, set 15 years after the last book ended.

What about the publishing world has changed from when you stated to now?

Publishing is much more democratic thanks really to Amazon which allows writers who self-publish and for small publishers to gain a readership without having to deal with the New York publishing industry which has always been provincial, bigoted and driven by a blockbuster mentality. That combination was particularly bad for LGBT writers and writers of color; it’s kind of a miracle the Rios books were published by New York houses.  They certainly wouldn’t be published by them today. Amazon (along with e-books), whatever else one might think of it, has allowed LGBT writers and writers of color to bypass the traditional publishing gatekeepers and create and cultivate a readership for our books.

Do you have plans for books outside of the Henry Rios series?

My last novel, published in 2014, and called The City of Palaces, was an historical novel set in Mexico City in the years before and at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.  I envisioned it as the first of a quartet of novels, so I have those to write too.

What part of writing a book comes the hardest for you?

The first draft.  It’s daunting to sit in front of a blank screen and fill it with words.  But actually, what separates professional writers from amateur writers is the willingness to revise over and over until you’re sick of it and then revise one more time.

Are you a plotter or pantster?

I write out a general synopsis of the story just so I have an idea of where I want to go and how to get there but I leave a lot of room for the story to bend and twist and for characters to grow and change.

Do you have a character in your head that you have yet to write a story for?

My head is filled with characters whose stories I’m afraid I will never get around to telling.

Do you read a lot and if so what genre(s)?

I read a lot of history and biography because I find in the factual world more inspiration for my fictional worlds than in fiction.  I also read poetry because I started out as a poet and it’s still my first love. I read a lot of M/M romances and mysteries because the people who write them –often women – write with a passion and conviction that makes up for whatever technical deficiencies I may encounter in their work. What I don’t read much of is so-called “literary fiction.”  I find so much of it technically accomplished but staggeringly dull.

If the world were going to end tomorrow, how would you spend your last night on earth?

In bed with my husband.

If you could be any Disney character who would you be, and why?

Cruella deVille. Love her style!

Rapid Fire Time

  • Batman or Robin? Robin (these are Grindr handles, right?)
  • Boxers or Briefs? Banana Republic boxers.
  • Paddle or flogger? Yikes!
  • Peanuts or Cashews? Cashews
  • Favorite Color? Is black a color?
  • Tardis or DeLorean? Tardis
  • Light saber or a Sonic screwdriver? I can barely operate the TV remote.
  • Call or text? Text
  • Handcuffs or Rope? Well, that depends . . . What did you have in mind?
  • Sex or Chocolate? Sex.
  • Cook or eat out? Cook
  • Twinks or Bears? Twinks (but really, all men)
  • Red Heads or Blondes? Gingers because I haven’t ever slept with one.
  • Pasta or Potatoes? Pasta
  • Tax Audit or Enema? Tax audit!
  • Fisting or Watersports? Pleading the Fifth here


Lay Your Sleeping Head on Goodreads
*Not Listed
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author


Michael Nava is the author of an acclaimed series of seven novels featuring gay, Latino criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios which won six Lambda Literary Awards.  In 2000, he was awarded the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement in LGBT literature.  The New York Times review of the last Rios novel called him “one of our best.” His most recent novel, The City of Palaces, was published in 2014 by the University of Wisconsin Press.  The City of Palaces was a finalist for the 2014 Lambda Literary Award for best gay novel and was awarded the 2014 International Latino Literary Award for best novel. His new novel Lay Your Sleeping Head, a reimagining of the first Henry Rios novel published 30 years ago, will appear in fall 2016 from Kórima Press.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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