Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sandcastle and Other Stories: An Interview with Author Justin Bog

We want to welcome today Justin Bog on his book tour with Virtual Book Tour Cafe. I've heard a lot of good buzz about this book, so please join with me in welcoming Justin!

MK, thank you very much for hosting a stop on my virtual book tour for Sandcastle and Other Stories. The post-publication whirlwind has been busy in a good crazy way, and the book is reaching more and more readers. The good news: a print publication deal with Green Darner Press is afoot.

When did you decide to take that step that made you a published author?

I decided to publish these stories when a writing mentor told me to get my writing out: "Don't wait. Risk it. The writing and the stories are worth sharing," he said. Sandcastle and Other Stories collects ten tales I put up on my writing blog over the past year. They needed editing even though they were well received by blog readers in their first written form. I tend to put up unfinished stories there, mostly second or third drafts, and work at the rewriting and editing, changing the story while the work is visible to the public. I have unused novel sections and other stories up over there right now. In the future, they may be part of other ebooks. I don't believe in absolute rules authors have to follow either, but it is important to know the rules before breaking them. In the self-publishing world, every author can follow a different path. I would never want to change that singular voice of any author.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?

My absolute favorite non-writing pastime is playing tennis. I dislike highly agitated competition though; probably why I don't play singles. I only play doubles, and just for fun now. Doubles is the closest sport I know that has a movement that mimics chess. I look at a tennis court like a chess board, pieces moving about, forward, back, diagonally, trying to find the open spaces. Tennis and exercise keeps my mind focused on only one thing. When I'm not playing tennis, the writing life questions about characters, possible plot alterations, tone, setting, conflict, tend to fill up my thoughts. If I had to pick a close second favorite pastime, it would be cooking. Love being a foodie and I make really great stews.

Do you have a favorite character in Sandcastle and Other Stories? Who and Why?

My favorite character is a guy named Leo in the story, Typecast. He's an actor in a night-time television drama -- a bigger guy who looks kind of intimidating at first glance, someone who could do a lot of damage in a bar fight, and people are always underestimating him based on his appearance. Runner-up favorite character is Melanie Fortaine, a girl whose vision is changed by a god in Poseidon Eyes. I like her because she has such inner fortitude.

Will you share with us a short preview of Sandcastle and Other Stories?

Sure, here's the opening scene from The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business

That’s how I find Rachel, anyway, in the backyard of her father’s vacation house on Maine Island, two miles offshore. One arm’s up and alive, and the other’s down and dead.

“Good day, Miss Rachel,” I say, just in passing, getting about my morning chores. She, of course, doesn’t respond, but her eyes do, and that’s enough for me.

I’m the head gardener for Mr. Barrons, Jr. Usually I don’t feel awkward around Rachel Barrons, his daughter. She likes to watch me plant tomatoes near the back fence and she makes sure I give all the myrtle and alyssum enough water, and drench the begonias. I started them in scattered patches circling the oaks. By the end of summer season, Labor Day weekend, they should be puffy and vibrant green, white, deep pink and purple blossoms. When I work the annuals, the perennials, or the new trees into the soil, Rachel always has a half smile on her face, sort of hiding something almost, as if she might break if she showed too much. But she never gives me any trouble, doesn’t get in my way or waste my time yapping at me like Vicki Calmagalli, Rachel’s maid, does whenever I pass close by the main house to do the trimming along the front hedges. I have an assistant now, Russ Darnton, who I ordinarily send to do the close housework, but I like to keep my hand in, let the owner know I’ve still got my faculties.

Rachel remains in the backyard almost an hour later, and to an outsider, would possibly appear to be practicing some form of artistic dance. Her slim frame bends at the waist as if in slow motion, something I call tree time, while her legs remain ramrod straight together with her feet splayed. Her movements change from moment to moment, her upper body contorting into a twist at the waist, and her arms swinging upwards, reaching for the light of the afternoon sun. Sometimes she stays rooted in the same position for hours. Vicki comes out with food for her: apples and nuts and other fruits from trees.

“You’ve got to drink now.” I hear Vicki’s tone, a put upon thing, as if she never expected to be following this girl around the island, making her do basic things. I don’t see how it takes much out of Vicki’s day, but some people love to vent more than most.

What is your favorite scene in Sandcastle and Other Stories?

The end of Sandcastle, the short story, is hard to top; there's such a jolt. It still shocks me when I read the story, how one of the main characters reaches an epiphany moment.

What message do you hope readers take away from the book?

That everyone we meet has a story to tell, but most often, everyone also has a secret he or she wants to keep hidden. How someone acts or reacts is rarely driven by what others may assume is the reason.

What has been your greatest pleasure in writing this book?

I am astounded and take the greatest pleasure in the reader reactions to the tales. People who were strangers to me, unknown, are taking the time to tell me how the tales hit them, made them think. One fan friend sent a photo of his wife reading the story Sandcastle in bed (tasteful here), holding the kindle. The shock on her face is priceless. Another friend is sending a t-shirt with the cover of the book on the front. The cover was a detail taken from a work of art painted by my father.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series? And What do you have in store next for your readers?

I have several books in the works, and plans for more short fiction collections, but Sandcastle and Other Stories is not part of a series. A long suspense story titled The Conversationalist will be published in an original ebook anthology called Encounters (tentative title) sometime this Summer. The tales in Encounters center around the subject of "stalkers." As I said, Green Darner Press will be publishing the print version of Sandcastle and Other Stories sometime in the next few months as well so it will be available in bookstores and libraries. My first novel, Wake Me Up, is ready to go after one more copyedit; this is a psychological family drama centered on a crime and the fallout afterwards in Missoula, Montana. I have completed the first draft of a psychological/horror/contagion novel called The Shut-Ins, and I'm hard at work writing the suspense novel, The Volunteer. Lots on my writing plate at the moment.

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen for writing?

Desktop iMac. Used to be an old typewriter or by hand. Now I like the iMac, and I face a wall with a couple of my father's abstract landscape paintings hanging there.

What is your favorite movie based on a book, where you preferred the movie?

Here's four off the top of my head that I can watch again and again: Gone With The Wind, The Exorcist, Jaws, The Hunger Games

Is there a book you've ever read more than five times? Which book and what drew you back to it?

Stephen King's The Shining. I've probably read it closer to ten times since its release. When you reread a book, you read it faster too. The psychology behind the characters, the family dynamic, hit me hard, and it's one of those books that can scare me even when I know what's going to happen.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with your readers today?

I hope you enjoy reading Sandcastle and Other Stories as much as I did creating the tales, inventing the characters, and understand how they lead me down some strange pathways.

Justin Bog, the author

Justin Bog, first and foremost, grew up a voracious reader, movie fanatic, and music audiophile. Justin always carried a stack of library books and collected way too many comic books from his local Ohio small-town drugstore. More than one teacher scolded Justin to put his "suspect" reading materials away and join the class. Justin began to make up stories of his own, using an old typewriter he found in the attic.

“Growing up in the 70s, Stephen King was about to publish his first novel and John Updike had only published the first of his Rabbit books. Along with so many cinema buffs, I witnessed the huge change in the way movies were distributed — from artistic, Director-driven films backed by huge studios to the dawn of the Blockbuster and popcorn summer films, like Jaws, Rocky, and Star Wars. I was drawn to the music of these decades as well,” says Bog.

So it comes as no surprise that Justin pursued an English Degree at the University of Michigan, followed by Film and Music Appreciation classes -- finally graduating from Bowling Green State University with an MFA in Fiction Writing. After teaching creative writing, Justin began apprenticing in a number of bookstores and editing fiction for a midwestern journal. 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. Justin continues to engage his lifelong passion for writing in combination with his curious mindset as the Senior Contributor and Editor at In Classic Style.

Publisher - Convenient Integration
Release Date - May 8, 2012
Website - www.justinbog.com
Purchase Link - Amazon


  1. Thank you for joining us today Justin! I've been reading a lot of great reviews about Sandcastle (the shock is often mentioned). I've added that to my next stack to read. Sounds like you have some great things ahead too!

  2. Wonderful time with your terrific interview, MK. I thank you for hosting today's stop. The writing life is always filled with ups and downs, and Sandcastle is on an upward journey at the moment. BTW, I love Montana, and always drove up from Idaho when I lived there; set my first novel in Missoula. You live in one of the best places. Also signed up for your blog. Great. Justin

  3. Wonderful interview. Thank you for hosting Justin today.

  4. I'll have to check out your first book too then! Sandcastle sounds like the type of psychological (from reviews I've been reading) book I sometimes get in the mood to read.

  5. Tennis!? If you miss a shot do you kick the guy sitting next to the court Nalbandian style?!

  6. I'm a fan of Justin's after reading his blog and this book. Run and pick up Sandcastle and Other Stories if you are a lover of intelligent writing that is imaginative, unpredictable, and makes you think.


  7. I love Justin, so this interview was awesome to learn even more about him. Good luck with your book, Justin!

  8. Thank you all for commenting here today. And best wishes from Washington State. No, Damien, I have never kicked anything on a tennis court -- just myself, in my head, for continually missing a shot. :-)

  9. Tennis? And I learn something else about you. Great interview.

  10. Great interview with insightful Q and A. I thought the view of tennis was very interesting - I never thought of it like chess. Also like cooking myself. I am grateful that writers are finding success in the short story genre. Unfortunately, for awhile the genre seemed to be perishing along with the tradition of publishing short stories in periodicals. Thanks for being part of a much needed revival. Bravo to Green Darner Press for publishing a print anthology.

  11. Great interview with a superb writer. So excited to see all of what's in store for us with his future releases!

    Justin's writing is so engaging, I find myself utterly captivated by his stories.

  12. "That everyone we meet has a story to tell,..." I love that! Great interview with an amazing author and an even more incredible person :)

  13. Your writing mentor that told you, "Don't wait. Risk it. The writing and the stories are worth sharing." <- That was great advice and so glad you took it!

  14. Thank you very much, Kelly, Brandy, Rachel, M.E. & moon duster, for stopping by to read my interview here at MK's cool space. It's a rush to keep the writing life going, and the short story form too, Brandy. I can't wait to read your stories. Rachel, thank you for your continuing support. I also am a fan of yours, and I have M.E.'s book in my growing 'to be read' stack. I truly believe everyone has a story to tell, if only we'd slow down enough to listen. Someone yesterday revealed the most harrowing story of his life, and I grew captivated. His courage at a young age in the face of a cancer, eventual hospice care called in, and then standing in front of me five years after this: wow. And I'd never know this if I didn't listen to what he wanted to tell me. Moonduster, I am so glad I took this mentor's advice. So very humbled and honored.