03 August, 2015

#Interview with Justin Bog, #Author of Sandcastle and Other Stories

About the Author:
Justin Bog lives in the Pacific Northwest on Fidalgo Island. He is an author of dark, psychological tales and an Editor for Gravity, one of Booktrope's publishing imprints. Justin Bog was Pop Culture Correspondent and Editor for In Classic Style, an eMagazine. Bog loves to cook and play the part of treat master to two long coat German shepherds, Zippy and Kipling, and two barn cats, Ajax The Gray and Eartha Kitt'n.

Justin Bog is a member of the ITW: International Thriller Writers.

Sandcastle and Other Stories: The Complete Edition was just published by Booktrope. In its old version, it was a Finalist for the Ohioana Book Awards 2014! It was also named Best Suspense Anthology of 2013 by Suspense Magazine.

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Interview with the Author:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
As a kid, discovering reading first, and then watching television and films, my little brain not realizing I could create anything like that until seasoned, grown. Comic books took over at some point during these early years and these were short stories, most with cliffhanger endings. Continuous reading helped shape my desire to create stories.

What inspires you to write?
The experience of a reader saying a tale I told made them think, that someone had a reaction to a story, is the best feeling, for good or bad. If someone doesn’t like my fiction, and they’ve read it and it made them think, it is also incredibly interesting and equal to those who love my off-kilter view of the world. I always want to know why? And authors constantly try to answer that question through their fiction.

What kind of research goes into your book?
If I don’t know much about a career, a place, I’ll read up on that. I didn’t know much about Christian Evangelism, more or less what surrounded me, so I took time to research this particular faith and place a character in Texas for my new story Speak the Word in the Complete Edition of Sandcastle and Other Stories. I wanted to be true to this man, his possible loss of faith and how he would go about trying to strengthen his own imaginings.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on four long novellas for a collection I’m tentatively titling: Horrorstruck ~four dark novellas~ --- I placed the introduction to one of them on my writing blog earlier in July, called Sun Stroke. It begins with neighbors quarreling about their dogs, and the mischief they get up to. I’ve completed two of these four tales and I’m in the middle of the other two, at varying stages. I’m also creating a wraparound story that links all four together . . . a kind of introductory tale that spirals into darkness by the end.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story? 
I actually came up with the idea for Sun Stroke while on an RV trip this past May. A dog owner had left her pooch in her car with the windows barely cracked on a very hot day. It was reaching noon and I noticed the dog as I walked by the car. It was in need of a hero. I notified the camp managers and they stopped by the vehicle. Half an hour in the sun later, the owner, an older woman in defensive mode, ambled by and told all of us to mind our own business. I just felt sorry for her dog. This has spurred on Sun Stroke. I can’t say that the characters will all come to a good end, but the mutts? They should only get treats!

Please share three interesting facts about the characters in your book.
For Sandcastle and Other Stories: The Complete Edition, now 12 dark tales, instead of the original ten, all of the characters and stories are vastly different, except for the two young girls who wish to be trees. The place in Typecast, the L.A. area apartment with all of the cats, did exist, and I based my character on a real “celebrity” who lived in the apartment, someone I did get to meet very much like in the story, and the dialogue about the cats is somewhat realistic too. I wrote the very first line of Sandcastle in a writing notebook back in the 80s. I took it out later and strengthened the tale. It is my “Shirley Jackson” story---a real shocker like her incredible “The Lottery” story.

If you could pick any famous author to review your book who would you pick and why?
I would love it if either Stephen King or Peter Straub read Sandcastle. They are both influential and read a lot of books of various genres. King always used to share the books he reads each year. Authors need to read.

Have you read any books that have inspired you to improve or change yourself in any way?  
The only book I can think of is The Four Agreements. It is a simple approach to life and how to lead an honest life. 1. Be Impeccable With Your Word 2. Don’t Take Anything Personally 3. Don’t Make Assumptions 4. Always Do Your Best. If you follow the first agreement, the others fall in line with ease. And I like creating characters that don’t follow any of them. They are usually the squirrelly type.

Name three things that you believe are important to character development?
Giving characters flaws is important because this humanizes them. I think characters can be unlikeable if there’s an honesty to them, a realism. I do tend to write character-based fiction (literary) so the development of characters, large or small in the story, is key. They must be interesting even if they tend to be wretched. Their dialogue needs to ring true for them and their station in life, the world they create.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so what helps you to get over it?
I do tend to only write when I feel like writing. I don’t believe a writer needs to write every single day, but a tale needs to be told. I think about the stories I’m developing in a constant state. I am inspired by dreams. “Here’s where a story is going. Here’s where this character is leading me.” Epiphany writing. Working on a book for publication does take time, and I’m a slow writer. Each word must mean something. Maybe that’s why I tend to drift towards short fiction over novels.

What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most?
I love discovering what happens next in a story. Figuring out a plot. I don’t outline so the surprise is real, and since I write suspense or horror in recent months, these surprises are dark in nature. Fear is essential.

Do you know the ending of your books before you finish writing them?
I don’t have a concrete ending in sight, all detailed and planned out, but I do sometimes have a visual scene in my head, a moment I hope to reach for. If the characters take me there, I say, all the better.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, to date?
Listen to and don’t listen to other writers. Each writer is different. Take writing advice with a grain of salt. One writer told me not to publish. I don’t speak to this writer anymore. Another writer told me to risk publishing and deal with the criticism --- throw away the negative and positive criticism equally. Reviews are autobiographical, from that reader’s perspective, and have very little to do with the author. Don’t take anything personally. This is when The Four Agreements really come in handy.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Risk it. Risk everything. Tell your story. Don’t allow anyone else to dictate how you tell your story. Be bold. Learn the craft of writing before breaking any of the rules, but don’t let writing rules stop you either.

Thank you very much for allowing me to answer these writing questions. I hope you continue to read good books!

About his Books:
 A beautifully written collection of short stories from critically acclaimed Pacific Northwest writer Justin Bog, Hark---A Christmas Collection explores the range of emotions surrounding the holidays. From melancholy to madness, loss and despair to hope and forgiveness, these six tales shimmer with feelings, some we'd rather stuff away, that Christmas can evoke.

Within Hark—A Christmas Collection, a retired police officer faces another Christmas Eve while bitter recollections haunt his every turn, a lonely businesswoman plans to seduce Santa Claus one Christmas Eve, a widow grows anxious searching for a misplaced present she intended to send to her ungrateful sister, a woman can't keep the images of her past---these ghosts---from haunting the life she chooses to live; while attending a Christmas party in Sun Valley, Idaho, a bookstore clerk and his partner are taught a lesson most un-holidaylike, and, in the final story, a couple portrays Mr. & Mrs. Claus in their small island town holiday festivities and face a grim diagnosis together. 

Set in colorful locations around the United States, from Anacortes, Washington, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Sun Valley, Idaho, each tale focuses on people who struggle to make good choices, learn lessons, and maybe even find peace during the holiday season.

An award-winning collection, Sandcastle and Other Stories reveals twisted secrets that are mined like plutonium. These twelve literary tales are nothing short of an adventure through a roiling sea of emotion. With authenticity and eloquence, author Justin Bog holds a provocative and compelling mirror on the human condition. 

Sandcastle and Other Stories details: These twelve literary, psychological, and suspense tales are nothing short of an adventure through a roiling sea of emotion. Meet: an old man twisted by fate and a lost love . . . a young girl playing on the ocean shore who becomes entangled in nets of a mercurial god . . . a divorced man mired in troubles who's coerced into taking a singles cruise . . . a Hollywood actor in a television drama who's always typecast as the bad boy . . . a child kept awake by night terrors, and a woman who hides her secretive personality from everyone on the beach one sunny day. Genuine voices of the characters, mixed with a clear-eyed tonal directness, make this a series with mesmerizing psychological interaction. Stories span a broad depth of human understanding and build a bridge between deepest chasms of pain and high portals of joy. Read these dark tales and stand witness to unspeakable hate sitting with cozy wile, right beside unconditional love --- a provocative and compelling mirror on the human condition.

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