Author Justin Gustainis has graciously agreed to an interview with yours truly! Even more generously has offered a giveaway copy of one of his latest works, Hard Spell! (Which was a fantastic read and I’ll be posting my review tomorrow.)
So a big thanks to Justin for sharing his words of wisdom and wit today—the free book doesn’t hurt either!
Shera (Book Whispers): In your own words, introduce yourself.
Oh, wait, that was somebody else’s words. Sorry. I’m a college professor who writes urban fantasy for a hobby, as an excuse to put of grading term papers. At least, the writing started out as a hobby – but it seems to be taking over more and more of my life.
BW: Currently you have two series out, Quincy Morris and then the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation. For this interview I'll focus on the Occult Crimes Unit Investigation series—which is the book I had the pleasure of reading. What makes the two series different from each other? As they both seem to be books based on leads who solve occult mysteries.
JG: Well, there are the obvious differences: first-person narration vs. third person for the other books; Stan is the lead character in his book, whereas Quincey and Libby are partners (in business only – no mush, please. This ain’t paranormal romance, people); Stan’s beat is Scranton whereas Quincey and Libby have fought evil all over the country. But I suppose the biggest difference is the way the supernatural is portrayed in the two series. In the Scranton books, everybody knows that supernatural creatures exist, and that they are everywhere. In the Morris/Chastain novels, there is what the RPG players call a “masquerade” going on – the supernatural creatures try to hide their existence from humankind. They haven’t come out of the coffin, so to speak, as they have in Stan’s universe.
BW: Stan Markowski is middle aged, balding, and might be a bit past his prime. Despite all that he's still a force to be reckoned with. He's a seasoned Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit, and that wisdom—and quite a bit of dry wit—really makes him one of the best male leads in the UF genre. When you were coming up with his character were there times when you wanted to make him younger and more green? Or make any other changes to him?
JG: Balding? Who says Stan is balding? Unlike his creator, Stan has a full head of hair, even if there might be some gray in it. I always wanted Stan to be the grizzled veteran, so that he could see the world around him for what it really is – and could thus convey that truth to the reader. For youth, eagerness, and inexperience, I gave him a partner, Karl Renfer.
BW: In Hard Spell after World War II the monsters came out to play. Many of the troops came back “changed” and with the advancement of travel the paranormal finally made the migration to the states. How did you come up with that particular idea of how the monsters merged with modern society?
JG: That sounds like a variation on the question “Where do you get your ideas?” And the answer to that is: Cleveland. Yup. There’s a place in Cleveland that all the writers use. For a thousand bucks, they send you three ideas every week for a year.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system…. I can’t say where the notion of a postwar “supe” invasion came from. Maybe it partly came from the Dracula story, as the evil Count comes to England from middle Europe and tries to spread his deadly condition.
I does raise an interesting question, though – one that I kind of dodged in the book. If supes came here from Europe, does that mean that they were already established in Europe – or were they hiding? And if they were able to hide, why didn’t the supes in America post-WW II hide? That question will be answered one day – no it won’t, I’m lying.
BW: Did you have a few other ideas besides the World War II version of how the monsters “came out”?
JG: I don’t really have a good answer for this one, so I think I’m going to pass.
BW: The police procedure and the overall knowledge of the mechanics behind the crime scene tape in Hard Spell was so well done. I have to ask where you gleaned the knowledge from?
JG: You mean, apart from the times I’ve been arrested? I’m kidding (probably). Most of what I “know” about police procedure I learned from novels and TV. And what I didn’t know, I made up – this is fiction; I get to do that.
BW: The SWAT (or Sacred Weapons and Tactics unit) was such a treat for me in Hard Spell. Can we expect to get a closer look at the members of the team in later books?
JG: I can tell you that the SWAT team will be back. They’re an indispensable part of Stan’s work – how could they not be? But if I told you any more, I’d have to kill you – which is really difficult to do online, so I will simply say no more.
BW: So far what are the plans for the Occult Crimes Unit Investigations? How many books can readers expect?
JG: I have two more books under contract. Evil Dark is scheduled for publication in February. A third book, with the working title of Known Devil is due to be released in August. After that, it depends on whether the publisher wants more books, and whether I have more ideas. Neither of these conditions is guaranteed.
BW: When you're in a writing jam, is there a particular author you look to for inspiration? One that makes you ask, "What would ‘insert author's name here’ do?"
JG: I prefer to use guided imagery to inspire me. I envision myself writing out a check to the publisher for the amount of the advance they’ve paid me. Then I envision my agent, who would also have to refund her part of the advance, coming after me with a machete. Actually, Miriam is a sweet girl, and would never do a thing like that. She’d hire someone.
Fear is a wonderful motivator, I’ve found.
BW: For you personally, not your characters, between a vampire love interest and a werewolf love interest which do you prefer? (What team are you on? Team Vampire or Team Werewolf.)
JG: Oh, vampire – definitely. But not the sparkly kind. Someone once wrote that the vampire is the only one of the commonly known monsters that can actually have a conversation with you before it tears your throat out. And I’m a big believer in the fine art of conversation. Who knows – you might even talk him/her out of tearing your throat out.
BW: Go wild! Let us know something funny about you, share something that's on your mind, or anything else that's important about your books
JG: The latest Morris and Chastain adventure is about a Presidential candidate named Howard Stark who is secretly possessed by a demon. This is part of a diabolical plan to destroy humanity – get Stark in the White House, and all Hell will break loose – literally.
But here’s the really creepy thing: apparently there really is a Senator Howard Stark, and he really is running for President. Not only that, but there’s something not quite … right about him.
Stark’s got a website at www.starkforamerica.com but I wouldn’t recommend that any of our readers go there. Some of the content is just … too disturbing.
BW: Again a big thanks to Justin for swinging by, and for setting me straight about Stan’s full head of hair! Who knows where I picked up the balding thing, either way I still love Stan. As I’m sure many of my fellow readers will.
Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis
Stan Markowski is a Detective Sergeant on the Scranton PD's Supernatural Crimes Investigation Unit.
Like the rest of America, Scranton's got an uneasy 'live and let unlive' relationship with the supernatural. But when a vamp puts the bite on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that's when they call Markowski. He carries a badge. Also, a crucifix, some wooden stakes, a big vial of holy water, and a 9mm Beretta loaded with silver bullets.
File Under: Urban Fantasy [ Dial V For Vampire | Forbidden Spells | Bite Club | Scranton By Night ]
Books by Justin Gustainis:
- Hard Spell (Occult Crimes Unit Investigation)
- Evil Dark: An Occult Crime Unit Investigation
- Black Magic Woman: A Quincey Morris Supernatural Investigation (Morris and Chastain Supernatural Investigations)
- Evil Ways (Morris and Chastain Supernatural Investigations)
- Sympathy for the Devil (Morris and Chastain Investigations)
- This is an international giveaway!
- Leave a comment below.
- Feel out the form below.
There will be one lucky winner chosen by Random.org. All information given will be deleted promptly after a winner is picked. Don’t worry about being a follower, everyone is invited!