Interview With Editor Justin Bog, Author of “Wake Me Up” and “HARK”


Please tell me about your book.

I have two books out in the past three months. Wake Me Up is a literary crime novel, twisty and thought-provoking, centered on the theme of social injustice in a small Montana college town. HARK: A Christmas Collection shares six literary holiday tales about adults struggling during Christmastime with life issues. There’s humor entwined in the stories, but they aren’t the usual sweet sugarplum tales—there are lessons learned and characters tend to figure things out in startling ways.

Q: What makes your books different?harkofficialcover-194x300

Wake Me Up is narrated by a teenage boy. He is in a coma. He hovers over the town, witnessing the recent past and present, trying to figure out what his parents and the rest of the town were doing while he was being beaten by his bullying classmates. The deepest secrets are revealed.

HARK is different because of the mature themes: loss, grief, longing, love, isolation, injury, slights, gossipy asides, and illness mixed with a natural atmosphere of realism (except for one romance tale that is humorous and centered around a businesswoman who, out of loneliness, decides to seduce Santa one Christmas Eve).

Q: What inspired you write these books? 

Wake Me Up was partly inspired by the brutal Matthew Shepherd slaying of the late nineties and by observing, secondhand, a husband making really unsettling life decisions. I didn’t know why, still don’t, so I wrote Wake Me Up to answer this question: why would a successful husband and father spiral out of control, feel that he was at a breaking point? The boy in the coma is this father’s son, and the story reveals dark truths.

HARK came about because I have always loved stories set at Christmastime. Dickens is a major influence. He humanized his characters in brilliant situations.

Q: What challenges did you have while writing these two books? 

The challenge, mainly, was finishing the stories, and then editing them dozens of times. Wake Me Up took over ten years to publish. It never felt right, my own obsession with perfectionism at play, and now I can let it go.

HARK was a fun idea to put six stories I’d shared on my writing blog together to form a short stocking stuffer title for Christmas readers. I had four under my belt and had to complete the last two in October. I think these last two turned out strong. I had HARK and wrote The Heralds, about a couple with that last name, contemplating a grim diagnosis, and how they choose to live each day like it may be their last. This story does have a wonderful end and a big heart despite its simplistic plot point.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from reading your book(s)? 

I hope readers feel any emotion after reading one of my stories. I have a dry, dark sense of humor, and I want to share this within the tale, jigger a chuckle out of people while startling them the next moment. I hope they see my characters come to life and that most of them are memorable.

Q: If you could live in the story of a book, which one would you live in? 

Since I set two of the HARK tales in my hometown, and these are linked by several characters, I actually do live to create the stories in my book, walk the same streets of Anacortes, Washington, think about the past, present, and future. Live life to the fullest.

Q:  When you’re not writing what do you do? 

I am also a Development and Content Editor, and have helped several books reach publication to good acclaim. I love consulting with writers about their projects. It’s strictly word of mouth, and my editing site is — I’m also thinking about taking a position locally with work that would inspire me while also helping to pay the bills better. I will always write.

Q: What else have you written? What else do you write? 

I write a few weekly horror serials on my writing blog and these are fun and darker than anything I’ve ever tackled before. The Volunteer is about a high school tennis coach who takes on a devilish new volunteer coach to help him attain a winning season for once. Bad things begin to happen in the small island town (similar to the one I live on in the Pacific Northwest). With a few of the same characters interlinked, my second novel, A Play Demonic (The Queen’s Idle Fancy), is well over 43,000 words at this point and nearing the mid-point at 30 chapters on my blog. This is about a mysterious man (or force) conjured to seek out the town’s theater group to produce an ancient play . . . the play, of course, is cursed, and other demons begin to wreak hovoc on the island . . . please read on my blog and comment . . . I love to hear what readers think of these early drafts. I imagine these two tales will come to a complete end sometime next year, but first, I will publish four original eNovellas separately before bundling them into one long book. These are also in the suspense/horror genre and are also at the halfway point. The first is done, and I’ll add two short stories to each novella, one an original, and one a bonus story from Sandcastle and Other Stories to possibly lead readers back to that first dark collection.

Q: What’s your “writer studio” like or where do you feel inspired to write?

My office is a small square with bookshelves lining the walls along with too many comic book longboxes. My desk, an oak roll-top desk is smack in the center. There’s a skylight and I love living in a log cabin on the edge of town. The downtown center is a little over a mile away.

Q: Of all the characters you have written, do you have a favorite? 

I love Deepika from Wake Me Up. She is a complex, strong woman from a coastal town in northern India who travels to the United States for her formal education and never leaves. She ends up teaching writing at the college in the Montana town and falls into an affair with a colleague’s husband. She’s the catalyst for a lot of what happens in the narrative, and she shares the stories she’s writing with the boy in the coma as well, taking bits and pieces of their lives to create her own fiction. Deepika is strong and knows what she wants. She’s also kind, sure of herself and what her actions caused. Often, it’s the characters who do something wrong that resonate the most, for better and worse, and I really like how the story evolved when Deepika drove up to the boy’s home in her old green Saab one rainy October day.

Q: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer and how long have you been writing professionally? 

I enjoyed writing from grade school on, and loved reading equally well. It wasn’t until my college years that the heavy idea that I could actually make progress as a writer developed. Enrolled in every creative writing course beginning my sophomore year, I soaked up fiction. I learned how to approach a piece of fiction critically, what works in a story, and what needs strengthening. I took a few years off after college to live life, gain a better perspective on the world outside of the educational system for the first time since a toddler, and then applied to several MFA programs. I was lucky to have a few choices after acceptance. Really lucky since most were small programs and only chose about five writers each year. This two-year period gave me time to write without having to worry so much about making ends meet. As a bonus, I was offered a TA position and taught six courses of upper level Creative Writing and English Composition. This was a long long time ago now, and that worry about living is creeping back. I’ll write and write on though no matter my circumstances.

Q: Where do you think book publishing will be 10 years from now?

I hope book publishing improves by leaps and bounds, and that there are more and more avenues to pursue in terms of sharing books with readers. I hear readership is falling, and that’s worrisome. I’m an optimist even though I write about dark moments. Book publishing, especially online stores, are my main focus. Even though two publishers have handled a few of my books, I’m now fully in the indie world once more and happy to be back where I was when I published my book as a Kindle original. Writing is a global endeavor now, and this will continue to open doors. Write quality books, and publish them. Begin writing the next book and have fun.

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