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I first spoke with Joshua Arsenaux in Café Solstice at the end of last year. We met again at Slate Coffee for another conversation recently. This time Joshua handed me a book with his name on the cover. Between the end of last year and the end of this, Joshua wrote, revised, and designed his YA novella The Devil’s Last Breath.

The novella begins with the protagonist, Marcus Ignacio, losing himself in the maze of modern city life. A Puerto Rican-American student in New York, Marcus is expelled from high school for defending his brother from attack. Thrown into adulthood, stability comes at a high cost for Marcus. Soon he must decide between quick cash and a clean conscience.

The Devil’s Last Breath is Joshua’s answer to the question, “How do you inspire young minority readers without offering fantasies?” This novella forms part of the Fail Series, a narrative project designed around such a question. The series shows young men and women facing passage into adulthood. Unlike other YA writing, the series doesn’t promise salvation. All the characters in these stories change—some thrive while others suffer and perish.

I’ve been happy to watch Joshua transform his stories from ideas into print. From our first meeting, Joshua impressed me with his passion for storytelling. His determination to progress as a writer by completing projects is also admirable. Like any working writer, Joshua has a schedule for his stories and allows his narrative to develop through multiple drafts. We’ll soon be working on another novella together, and I look forward to announcing its publication here.


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