Today I have Justin Bog, author of The Conversationalist, on my blog for an interview.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
Reading inspired me to begin writing. I haunted Granville, Ohio’s Public Library. Both parents loved to read as well, and I would check out novels for my mom to read (she could read two or three books a week). The other thing that inspired me to begin writing was Saturday Night Live. The fake news, skits, humor, played into my mindset during the 70s and I loved that time period. Wish I had all of the writing from that decade, but it’s lost to time.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
I believe there is a lot of myself in the fabric of each tale I tell, whether it’s a similar mindset, a way I would describe something, or a like or dislike. I try to vary each character’s impulse. Everyone is different, has a different want or need, and I like to walk in that person’s shoes for a bit, begin to fathom the path that character walks. This leads to surprising places.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I have completed rough first drafts of my next two full-length novels, and the first, Wake Me Up, will be released next year. This is a psychological family drama centered on a family of three, after the only son, a fifteen-year-old teenager is the victim of a brutal assault in Missoula, Montana. The boy is put into a coma and narrates the action from this nebulous, almost haunted, state.
What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (writing or publishing)
The best advice was to take time away from school after college and live a little, explore the world outside the educational system (the only thing I’d known) before applying to graduate schools to pursue an MFA in fiction writing. It was freeing, and after several years, the yearning to produce quality stories stayed with me and I applied to writing programs and ended up at Bowling Green State University, a small program that takes in five poets and five fiction writers each year. The second best piece of advice? You don’t need an agent.
The worst advice came from other writers: ”Tackle the writing and publishing game like I did. Avoid self-publishing. Find an agent first.” This advice came from “traditionally published” authors who looked down their noses at the Indie world—I don’t believe it’s an either/or situation. I’m happy for all authors who do the work, and so many are incredible talents—love that, and I support both kinds of authors, indie or traditional. There are 250,000 ways of doing anything, and no one way is better than any other, especially when there are positive examples from both publishing worlds. I hear this argument all the time. I like the control Indie authors have, but the strange thing is this: self-publishing Sandcastle and Other Stories led to a boutique publisher contacting me and saying they wanted to publish my writing. Being a control freak perfectionist, I love the partnership I have with the people at Green Darner Press, and they are publishing great books.
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
The best thing about being a writer is when I hear from a reader about how a story of mine has made them feel and think about life/the characters/the writing. And some get very specific, which helps me put the whole business in perspective. That’s why I write: for the readers. The worst thing about being a writer? I spend too much time at my desk. My dogs, Zippy and Kipling, don’t like it. Kipling always comes and jumps up and places her paws on my arms while I’m writing: Come play! I seldom resist.
How do you conceive your plot ideas?
I am drawn to the psychological side of life, characters who choose different paths, and darker drama, suspense, mystery, thrills, even the supernatural and horror genres are beginning to hold sway in my thinking process. I do not plot or outline, never have and probably never will. The kernel of an idea gets me started, whether it’s a character on a beach, or a balloon floating above that same beach that makes me visualize the scene and who is there that day. Usually, an idea hits me, and this idea can be microscopic or huge in breadth (which is harder to pull off) and I begin the story there, in the middle of the action. The characters will lead me to curious places, if I’m lucky.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Conversationalist is a psychological thriller about a young single man who is locked in a prison of his own making. He wants to break out of his mindset, and thinks dating a series of women will help him. He’s a selfish man, but he’s also more complex than that signifier reveals, as we all are complex creatures. This is a long novella split into seven chapters, and begins on one such date in Anacortes, Washington (my home town!) at a seafood restaurant. The woman he’s with begins to confess something he’s not ready to listen to, and he ends up being rude . . . this sets the narrative in motion when in the next few days someone begins to stalk him in order to teach him a lesson.
How did you come up with the title?
The title comes from the main character’s ability to fool people into thinking he’s listening to them 100%, that he is giving his complete attention, and that he’s a wonderful conversationalist, that people admire him, and want to be with him. He’s fooled everyone, including himself.
What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?
The most difficult thing was capturing today’s dating scene, the technological advances are so different from when I dated way back in the late 80s, and how these advances would aid or hinder the characters’ wants and needs. It’s harder to stay focused with the distractions, the addictions to social media, for example.
If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?
I’d like to be Leo from the short story Typecast from Sandcastle and Other Stories. He’s a content Hollywood bad boy actor, second-string cable journeyman, but he is always living in the moment. Very present while everyone around him can’t stand still.
What book are you reading right now?
Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield, a galley copy from NetGalley. She wrote the terrific novel The Thirteenth Tale, and this is her terrific sophomore effort. After six years, she’s done a wonderful job with the language and narrative. I’m completely captivated by the characters, and it’s a sprawling tale that spans decades in the life of one William Bellman. The book is subtitled: A Ghost Story. And that also made me want to read it early. It is to be released November 2013.
Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
I love to cook, experiment in the kitchen with dishes that are challenging. I’m currently on a slow cooker adventure (using the keen cookbook Slow Cooker Revolution) and I recently tackled Cassoulet to good notices. Next? A lasagna that is supposed to be incredible.
There’s something wrong with Patrick. People whisper about him; most want to help him, as if he’s a songless bird with a broken wing, make him a project, set him up on a date with a best friend . . .
On one such date, Wendy sits across from Patrick and tells him she’s afraid to die. She wonders what it’s like. What if this is all there is? “My mother died a year ago . . . horribly,” she says. Patrick listens; it’s all he’s pretending to do.
There’s something wrong with the way Patrick treats the women he dates, his friends, his family . . . no one can ever get close to Patrick, and no one will ever be able to uncover his secret.
Enter Justin Bog’s dark world and strike up a dialogue with The Conversationalist.
About the Author
First, Justin pursued an English Degree at the University of Michigan. Justin then graduated from Bowling Green State University with an MFA in Fiction Writing. He was lucky enough to teach creative writing while there. Justin began apprenticing in a number of bookstores and editing fiction. Justin ended up on the management team at Chapter One Bookstore in the Sun Valley resort area for a decade, offering book recommendations to its local celebrities, skiing fanatics, and tourists. Currently residing in the San Juan Islands just north of Seattle, Justin has the opportunity to focus on his own novels and short stories, while contributing commentary and reviews of Pop Culture to the eMagazine In Classic Style. Sandcastle and Other Stories was his first book, followed by the eNovella, The Conversationalist, a psychological thriller. Look for Justin Bog’s debut novel, Wake Me Up, a psychological family drama, to be published by Green Darner Press in January 2014.
You can purchase The Conversationalist and Justin’s other books on his website.