8/2/12: Chumming with Justin Bog
Welcome to Chumming with Sharky™ my blog series where viewers from every corner of the deep blue sea are treated to a small taste of talented authors from a myriad of genres. Today, it is my pleasure to welcome the talented Justin Bog, author of Sandcastle and Other Stories, to chat it up talk show style. Now, on with the show…
I met Justin Boblanovich… um, Bogladanvich… Blagojevich… Bogbanostich… um… I met Justin Bog through the “Indies Unite for Joshua” campaign that Eden Baylee spearheaded earlier this year to help fellow author Maxwell Cynn’s son Joshua with his battle with Leukemia. It was a very successful campaign where we were able to raise over $10,000! Everyone who donated to the campaign had the option to receive various perks as a thank you for their donations and my friend Wyatt McIntyre was kind enough to donate one of his perks. My staff then received a call from Mr. Bog with a special request to be featured on an episode of the highly popular Chumming with Sharky. Okay, okay, I got a tweet from Justin with the request, but that simply did not sound as exciting.
ANYway, while the ushers help the five members of our studio audience find their seats, Anchor the Hammerhead Shark will prepare our drinks. I think I’ll take Karen Einsel’s suggestion to drink coffee today; that Ninja Turtle I had during the last show made me kind of loopy. Okay, more than usual.
So, what would you like to drink, Justin?
Yes, a special thank you shout out to all who helped the Indies Unite for Joshua campaign, Eden Baylee for being a constant inspiring presence, giving so much of her time and talent, and Wyatt McIntyre for this terrific donation — an event that brought so many caring people together, and people I count as friends.
Now, you said free booze? Since I am visiting shark-infested waters, a salt-rimmed glass filled with Anchor’s best Hammerhead Shark bartender’s margarita, please. Sharks are drawn to lime-scented blood, right?
Something tells me we’re going to need extra security with all of those tiger sharks congregating outside the studio. I think Flipper and Willy are available. Ah! The drinks are ready. Now that Anchor has made our drinks, we can get started.
So, Justin, first I want to thank you for being my second official guest on “Chumming with Sharky” and also want to apologize for butchering your name and for the whole seashell incident. The staff forgot to restock the restrooms with toilet paper.
A good staff is hard to find. But the shells were a hoot, and didn’t change my vision, alas. Thank you for having me here — posh digs.
It’s a pleasure having you. I hope you find the décor appealing. We spent hours decorating the set to look like the cover of your book Sandcastle and Other Stories. Word around the coral reef is that the cover from Sandcastle and Other Stories comes from an original painting. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
My parents met at the University of Iowa, pursuing art, and painting careers in a hip time – they were beatniks, my dad a reformed Jersey Shore cad from the fifties wooing my mother while shopping for art supplies, and being shot down until she finally gave up. She reformed and married the big lug, and they had five kids in the span of six years 1963 to 1969, including two sets of twins (they were married 49 years until my mother’s passing in 2008). They both painted and taught in Universities and my mother taught all of her five Bog kids 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade art in the Granville, Ohio Middle School. My father is still painting at almost 80 in an assisted living home in California, producing almost 100 new works that touch on the many different styles and themes he was compelled to create during his long career. These new paintings are a marvel. My father had gallery shows in all the major cities and around the world, selling to art collectors as far as Japan. One series he painted was his New Jersey Boardwalk Series, and the Sandcastle and Other Stories book cover is a partial detail of the much larger painting. There is a whimsical quality to the work that plays well with the tales within the book. A red and white beach umbrella even makes an appearance in the story Poseidon Eyes – a fish tale I’m sure will probably hit the curious engines of all your sharky mates, and make them reach for more booze. This painting sold to a buyer after a Chicago show. To see more of my parents’ artwork please visit www.bogdanovitch.com.
I really enjoyed the title story from your collection of short stories. “Sandcastle” has a twist that left me feeling a bit guilty for enjoying the ending! As the author, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean by that. For those who haven’t read Sandcastle and Other Stories, can you elaborate a little about what types of stories they’ll find in this collection… and what they won’t find?
Thank you, Sharky, for touching on the title story. I am thrilled that you reacted to the ending that way. I won’t spoil the end because it is quite a shock, and more so because of the natural build-up of characters, the hopes and dreams and regrets they feel. I walked a fine line with a backstory filtering into a character’s head, something that would be honest, but so out of left field at the same time. When alone and surrounded by a crowd, I often allow my mind to wander into observational mode, listen, find interesting what others are doing, and how this triggers past memories. I wondered what would happen if I allowed the main character’s memories to filter into her present, almost bucolic, setting – a happy place portrayed, the cover of the book is a snapshot, and then twisting that up and making the reader gasp. The action takes place in plain sight on a crowded beach, and the other stories also tend to follow this similar path. Why isn’t anyone else aware of the inner struggle of the people around them? The girl sitting on the stoop of her apartment building in Under the Third Story Window reveals so much to the people passing by, but very few take the time to really see her for who she is, how much she is hurting. I love psychological tales. Most of the stories deal with some kind of impulse, a character who is trying to get by, like the weary actor in Typecast, or the gardener who covers up the wound that won’t heal within his heart in The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business. Even the peripheral characters have their own struggles. Some of the stories are true suspense tales, but they and all the rest stay in the literary realm, where a character’s inner struggle is the engine that drives the action. There is one story in the magical realism pond, Poseidon Eyes, a fantastical tale that I wanted to ground in the everyday world. I don’t know what you won’t find – maybe erotica? My stories are not filled with any shade of grey.
That was such a long answer! Sorry, may I please have another margarita? I’m a speed drinker.
Anchor is the best fish in the sea to help you get hammered, my friend. (Snaps finger at Anchor) Another margarita for Mr. Bog!
So, Justin, I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise, but I must admit that I’m a little paranoid. Are there enough lifeboats? Is the GPS navigation system going to malfunction? Are we going to hit an iceberg? Are pirates going to hijack the boat? Is a giant squid going to attack? What if the ship sinks? Will I still have access to my Twitter account?
(Accepts a brown paper bag from Octavio the Octopus)
Okay now that I have my breathing in control again, since you wrote a story that is set on a cruise ship, what would you recommend I do in order to alleviate my anxieties?
I’m sure a new-age guru would tell you to face your fears, but heck, you make friends with sharks, so a little cruise would be a piece of cake. Writers do tend to think of what could possibly go wrong first; I know I do. If you go on a cruise, I’d stick to the smaller ships, the ones with only 150-300 passengers, a Windstar Cruise, perhaps, in a part of the world you’ve always dreamed of going. The only cruise I went on long ago, a showcase-winning travel moment, unforgettable, was to Tahiti, visiting five of the islands over a two-week period, and I can’t recommend this trip enough.
Notice, I haven’t travelled by cruise ship again, but I’m still saving up . . . need to sell a lot more books (shameless plug #1). The story “When the Ship Sinks” began with that title. I wanted the main character to have a mindset that played with the title as a metaphor when he embarked on his first cruise for singles only. He was in a bad frame of mind, and didn’t want to make friends with anyone in his life, and certainly not on the crowded boat; he had a wry and sometimes sarcastic viewpoint. He also thought about doom on board, and then the characters around him began to act out in theatrical ways. That was a fun story to write.
I’ll definitely have to put that Tahiti cruise on my bucket list.
Moving on to the next subject… Many children (and some adults) have a stark fear of “The Boogey Man” and one story in your collection tackles that subject. Were you ever scared of “The Boogey Man” when you were a kid? If so, how did you overcome it?
I was always scared and excited by the possibility of a boogey man. On the Back Staircase, my Boogey Man story, is the most autobiographical tale in the collection. I set it in the family home back in Granville, Ohio, a rambling old Victorian farmhouse built in 1895 on the outskirts of town. There was a proper front staircase and a back kitchen staircase that had old boards that creaked in the night. Even though the main character in the story is a pre-teen girl, I took from my own fears as a child her age, and remembered what it was like to sit there at night and hear something make a noise on the back stairs, my twin and the rest of my family fast asleep. This was the age of Halloween, a movie that scared my parents so much they couldn’t finish watching it, walked out and went into the theater next door to catch the animated version of The Lord of the Rings – a different time in film. Of course, I had to sneak into Halloween and see what could possibly scare people so much they fled. I was earning money as a babysitter at that time and the film shocked with the sustained build-up of suspense, a true Hitchcock-type situation, with very little gore shown. I remember a dream I kept having one night, and even the waking up parts were part of my dream – some dark thing was creeping up the stairs to kill my family – and every single time the boogey man would break through my bedroom door (because the door didn’t have a lock – read the story in Sandcastle and Other Stories for more on that detail – shameless plug #2), in my dream, I would reverse the dream to the point where I was sitting up in bed hearing the creak of the boogey man for the first time again, but this time I could change the outcome. That went on for three or four changes, dream revisions, and was one of the most fantastic dreams I’ve ever had. I lead a very adventurous dream life. The short story is different though because I wanted to let doubt sliver in, let the end be ambiguous enough to allow the reader to decide if there really is something so dark and monstrous climbing up the stairs to kill the family in their beds, locked doors and all.
Me personally, I have a fear of clownfish. Oh, stop laughing! Pixar portrays the little fish as all sweet an innocent, but I know… I know! Envision an aquatic version of Stephen King’s “It” and you’d be terrified too!
(Grabs paper bag again)
Hilarious! An aquatic version of It would be very funny. Can’t wait to see the proposed two-part motion-picture version of It that may come to theaters if all the planning and casting gets off the ground. Unasked for tip: don’t swim into an anemone alone with a clownfish (just being prudent) — you’ll float.
Thanks for the advice. And just for the record, my fear of clownfish isn’t all that funny, thank you very much! vV””Vv
When you finish a manuscript do you celebrate the accomplishment in a special way? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
When I finally finish a draft of a long project, novel, novella, or short story, I feel elated, and share the news with my mate, who doesn’t read fiction, and this also keeps me grounded. We’ll probably have a good dinner and a strong drink. I don’t really celebrate all that much. I tell some friends, but that Midwestern tooting my own horn thing is always a little voice inside my head telling me not to. When I published Sandcastle and Other Stories, I resisted telling most of my friends and family for so long. I still have to email many of them to let them know I published a book; don’t know why I’m so resistant to doing that, but I’ll get around to it.
I hear you’re working on your first novel. What made you decide to tackle the task of writing a full length novel?
I’ve actually finished writing two novels. I’m in the final copyediting phase of the first and the long slog through the first draft editing of the second. I was going to publish Wake Me Up last year, and waited for word from a publisher. When I began writing my novel the crime story called out to be a longer work; the characters involved, four main characters, each needed to contribute their story to the novel, and I wove them together. I published the ten short stories that make up Sandcastle and Other Stories first on my blog during the waiting time and decided a solid grouping of short sharp tales would be a better introduction of me as an author, my writing style, and what kind of subjects interest me. I hope to publish Wake Me Up early next year. I wrote my first horror/contagion novel titled The Shut-Ins, set in the Pacific Northwest, and I hope to publish that in the second half of 2013. It has that requisite unease I try to shoot for.
Awesome! I’m looking forward to reading those! Without giving away any spoilers, can you give us a synopsis of what your next published novel is about?
Wake Me Up is a psychological drama centered on a family in crisis after a horrific crime — It straddles the Young Adult and Adult Literary Fiction genres. A young teenager, the narrator, who is only perceived to be gay, and struggling with that, becomes the victim of an assault in Missoula, Montana. He is filled with anger and unleashes this anger at the wrong time. His parents and a visitor to their town also play huge roles in placing the narrator in a horrible situation that goes awry. He tells the story of what happened, and what is presently happening, while observing the people around him, the peripheral characters he came in contact with, while comatose in the hospital – he believes he is a ghost, and that he will not wake up, and the suspense comes naturally to the novel, as his survival hangs in the balance. The first chapter of Wake Me Up is a Bonus placed at the end of Sandcastle and Other Stories. I have a novella coming out as part of an original eBook in the suspense story anthology, Encounters, sometime this fall, probably in September, titled The Conversationalist. Each of the stories in the anthology had to have a stalker as the subject, but any kind of stalker. I’ve read most of the stories so far and they are all intriguing, fun, and wild, hitting different parts of the suspense genre with fantastical themes, and well-rounded characters. My story centers around a man who listens dutifully to the single women he dates but he doesn’t treat them well. Someone begins to stalk him for his caddish ways. Also, the best news came in early May after I published Sandcastle and Other Stories. A Washington State Publisher read the book, contacted me, and met with me here on my island, Fidalgo Island, in the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle, and said they were so taken with the book that they wanted to publish the print and other eBook versions of Sandcastle and Other Stories. This will probably happen sometime in November and I am on cloud nine floating above the shark tank because of this terrific turn of events.
That’s excellent news, Justin! So, when you aren’t working on a writing project, what do you like to do for fun?
I love to play with my pets. Zippy & Kipling are two long coat German shepherds. Ajax The Gray (Gandalf’s long-lived mystical cat) & Eartha Kitt’n (who has a secret she keeps from everyone) are always in a heightened state of anxiety, since Zippy & Kipling keep trying to figure out how to use them as squeak toys. Zippy is six, Kipling turns one in a couple months, and the cats are two. I also love to play the game of tennis, and this gets me out of my writer chair, sometimes too much. Cooking is one of my favorite past times – and I try to tackle complex meals, failing like Dr. Frankenstein some of the time.
At least you can cook. My cooking would probably result in a homicide investigation.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario just for fun: You’re on a sinking ship in the middle of the Atlantic. (I know it’s such an original idea, right?) All of the lifeboats are full, except one, which only has room for a single person. There are three people left on the sinking ship: You and your laptop computer, the captain and his bottle of vodka, and a kid carrying a Finding Nemo backpack. Who gets on the lifeboat?
A fun but sad question . . . I ask the Captain why the kid wasn’t put in the other lifeboats first. He says he found the kid tied up in one of the cabins on a last walk-through – almost didn’t see him there — says the kid is lucky. The kid won’t say a word — almost catatonic. The captain infers that his parents are to blame, that they rushed onto the last lifeboat first. I tell the extra-small kid to put his Finding Nemo backpack on (slip my laptop inside with his worn Dory doll), and then hoist the kid onto my shoulders and tell him to cling tight, but not to suffocate me. I don’t have to tell the captain he has to go down with his ship because he’s one of those stolid rule-following captains from Norway; he wouldn’t be one of the last three on board otherwise. Sad. But the last lifeboat occupants allow me and the monkey on my back to board, where the kids’ parents are actually ducking down from their seats in the back row, the opposite of nonchalant, and looking anything but relieved that their child escaped the sinking ship, and I wonder if they are related to the father and evil stepmother of Hansel and Gretal. Time to call child protective services when and if our lifeboats are located by anyone out here adrift in the big blue. I, and everyone, watch as the Captain takes a last slug of vodka before perishing in the briny depths with his ship.
Excellent response, Justin! It was such a pleasure having you as my guest on “Chumming with Sharky” today. Before we go please let the audience know where they can
stalk keep up with you and your writing projects. I also want to thank our audience for letting us entertain you with another episode of “Chumming with Sharky” right here from the deep blue sea. Be sure to grab a complimentary sardine on your way out and leave some comments for Justin Bog below. And, of course, be sure to buy his book Sandcastle and Other Stories on Amazon by clicking on the cover image below.
I thank you very much, Sharky. I enjoyed the curious and engaging questions. They really made me think, and the strong margaritas almost made me answer the lifeboat question in the voice of Brenda from Sandcastle . . . almost.
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.
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. Sandcastle and Other Stories is his first book…
Buy Justin’s Book Here:
Connect with Justin on his website and these social media platforms:
Chumming with Sharky™ is a special spotlight series brought to you by Robert “Sharky” Pruneda, author of Victory Lane: The Chronicles and The Devil’s Nightmare. If you would like to be a guest on Chumming with Sharky™ or you know someone who you think would like to be featured, please send an email to: ChummingwithSharky (at) gmail (dot) com or contact me via Twitter @SharkbaitWrites.
February 4, 2012 Update:
BorisK is one giant holiday cheeseball, and came into being because of a forwarded post from @evilmynx aka Marie Patchen, a regular Bride of Frankenstein in the kitchen.
Here, BorisK is trying to roll away from the cheese board.