An Interview for New Writers
I love college. Each day, your future unfolds before you, possibilities limitless. Luckily, I have the privilege of going back, in a way, by being part of another amazing future writer's thesis. Check out the latest interview I did for an amazing grad student, whose works are bound to be in the New York Times.
[An interview for future writers] Justin, how did you get your start in writing?
Every author gets struck by lightning. Sometimes, experiences inspire them to write a novel, or a book awakens ideas for a fictional world like none have seen before. It’s a point of no return when you capture that ethereal voice living in your mind’s wilds and force it on an intramundane stage. You need courage in order to take that first step, and for me, torpidity inspired my fervor.
My parents were blue collar artists who raised my sister and me in a one-hundred-year-old house in an industrial part of Chicago. I read Halloween books and comics throughout my middle childhood, which roused my own editions of horror pamphlets and graphic novels. In my early adolescence, that muse came alive in written roleplaying adventures I shared with friends. Then, at eighteen, it all flipped upside-down when my father died.
My hero, and artistic cheerleader, left before I knew what to do with my shaken soda bottle of imagination. For five years I wandered in a gray world, choosing a practical major and stable corporate career while writing on the side as a hobby. Until I met a young actress who was all the things I remembered about myself. She was a fantastic performer with a thirst for art, story, and most importantly, the future. I was a love-sick swain for her, and with her encouragement, I dusted off my stories and took that first bold step forward. I changed my college major, learned about how the literary world operates, and unleashed a wildfire of manuscripts and short stories. Fifteen years later, and I’ve worked with over thirty publishers to create five award-winning novels, twenty novellas, short stories, and columns. Oh, and that young actress? She married me, then took the next courageous steps to follower her own new dream. She’s a board certified pediatrician now.
What was your motivation behind wanting to write?
There is an elephantine steel door hidden in the recesses of my brain. Only I know how to reach it. As I stumble through the day-to-day, experiencing fascinating people, places, and stories, I kidnap them at pencil point, forcing them into my mental depository. Then, when my mind wanders as it often does, I enter the safe place and gather them up for stories I’d like to hear. I put them on paper, hoping that the hidden treasures who influenced me will be as entertaining for readers as they were for me. And when it is; when readers claim my work was a great story, it inspires me to take the key to the steel door where I use life’s magnificence to tell more yarns.
Which authors inspire you the most when it comes to your style of writing?
The funny things about a writing style is that artists of other mediums have just as much say as authors. The pantheon of afflatus comprises classics like Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, besides contemporary writers like Andrew Smith, Erin Morgenstern, Neil Gaiman, Maggie Stiefvater, Christopher Moore, and Jim Butcher. However, there’s other artists, musicians and filmmakers, who have just as much influence over my work as my book gods. Tom Waits, Florence Welch, Andrew Bird, Tim Burton, Ava Marie DuVernay, and Jim Henson saturate my style with the fantastic art they’ve created through the decades.
What is your main goal when it comes to your stories? Do you want to solely entertain, educate, or something else?
The goal is all the above, and yet none of the above. You build plots hoping they’ll be just as entertaining for the reader as they are you, with educative facts and life lessons filled between. When I’ve typed The End, and I sent the story out to the the publishing world, I don’t tell people what I want them to get out of the pages. It’s no longer my tale. It’s the reader’s story. What a reader gets out of the work, whether it’s heartbreak or basic andragogy, is their choice, and to me, that’s one of the most beautiful things about books. What I’ve read in my past, and what stays with me, may not have been the author’s intent, but it’s very real, and very important to my life.
Who is your general target audience with your stories? Why did you choose your target audience as opposed to another one?
I’ve said it years ago, and the sentiment still endures. Book elitists and academic reviewers are a fantastic type of reader, but I inspire to write about the wonderful critical thinkers living common lives. They’re who I yearn to connect with. I daydream about an ironworker perched on their lunchbox flipping through one of my novels, a teacher reading one of my short stories during coffee break, or a mortician with a copy of A Dead End Job in their lower desk drawer. Why? Because that’s who I think am. I’m an ordinary guy, who’s also a mental escape artist, leaping from reality in order to weave curious tales from the world before me. We’re out there, everywhere, from line cook to librarian, spicing up the everyday with our thoughts.