Hello, nice to be here. Thank you for allowing me the space for an interview. My own writing journey began shortly after learning how to write in grade school and watching a lot of 70s television and reading comic books. I created my own SNL skits, fake news, adventures, after discovering an old typewriter of my mother's. From there I studied creative writing as an undergrad and then received an MFA in Fiction from Bowling Green State University. This gave me time to write, and that is key. When working full or part time at a job that pays the bills, writing is given short shrift, but I always tried to make time for it. Usually this meant a lot of 6am wake-up calls before heading to open a bookstore. I worked in three bookstores over the past 30 years, all independent, and becoming an author has always been in my dreams. I believe working behind the scenes of the book business has helped form a stronger mindset going into the business side of my author's life. I understand what the main goal of a bookseller is, and also the point of view of a publisher . . . an author's point of view is vastly different from those others. When they mesh well together, magic can happen.
Would you consider yourself to be a "short story author" rather than a "novelist"?
Not at all, but I don't mind being thought of as either one. It's difficult to write and publish anything. Some short stories take years to write, while a novel can be whipped out in a month's time (look at NaNo tales)! I write the length of the tale. Since I'm a pantser and rarely outline, I go where the characters tell me to go, mark their journey, whatever the length. I've written three novels so far. They are unpublished, but yearning to be read. I'm in the middle of a long horror story, a weekly serial on my blog titled A Play Demonic (The Queen's Idle Fancy)---justinbog.com, and up to chapter 24 at this writing. I can feel that the story is far away from an ending point, but when it comes, I imagine fireworks and an explosive end for the characters. Short fiction is something I love to read and write. My first three publications were short story collections, and I like that energy, the twist story, or a tale that simply ends without a precise moment to guide the reader's thoughts, like life, which hardly ever comes to closure. Leave the reader with something to think about, I say.
Any successes? Failures? What has worked for you when trying to find an audience?
I follow this guideline: do what you love, and stop thinking (worrying) about what others may think, even a potential audience. If I love a story, I know that others may also like it, maybe not as much, or possibly, even more. I also know that some readers may loathe it, hate it, may never want to read anything else I write. And that's okay too. This was so noticeable after I published my first book of dark tales, Sandcastle and Other Stories. They're not for every reader since a lot of readers do not love to be upset on purpose, and a lot of the darker stories in Sandcastle are upsetting, push buttons---and these readers and friends tell me this. One friend told me she couldn't read past the second story because she had daughters, and the title story is terrifying if one is a parent . . . I completely understood. I hope to evoke an emotional reaction; I hope the stories do that. How wonderful. The reality though? Short stories do not sell as well as novels. I don't believe this will change. Many people love to write short fiction and I hope to continue.
Do you think eBooks will change the way short stories are viewed by the general public?
No. When I worked in bookstores for twenty years, I don't remember ever selling a short story collection. Not one. My own local bookstore tries to sell short fiction, carries short story collections, but the clerks there confessed to me that they do not like to read short stories. Word of mouth is what sells short fiction, and that's the only thing. People who already enjoy reading short stories are wonderful, and these are the people who tell others how good a book of short stories is, and I love that.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle in introducing someone to a short story? As in, is it the length? The price? Not knowing what to expect?
The biggest obstacle comes from people who just don't give short stories their due, feel that being short is a weakness rather than a strength. They want to get lost in a longer novel, a broader narrative with a multitude of characters/settings. A short story is but a moment, usually, but it can also be a wide universe, encompass years, decades of a life. I hope readers embrace Hark---A Christmas Collection, and take a chance on these off-kilter holiday tales.
Find out more about Justin on his website.