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Posts Tagged ‘justin gustainis’

In order for paranormal fiction – any fiction, really – to have an impact on the reader, you’ve got to strive for that old cliché, “the willing suspension of disbelief.” In effect you’re inviting the reader into funhouse of your own creation. You meet him at the entrance and whisper in his ear: “Hey, look, dude: We both know that there’s no such thing as vampires, and demons, and ghosts, and all that. But let’s pretend, you and I – just for a little while. And who knows, maybe you’ll feel a bit differently about such things – in the dark. Now take my hand – it’s time to go inside.” Then the reader turns to page one – and so it begins.

So how do you help the reader get to that cooperative frame of mind that will allow you to really mess up with his head? The answer, in a word, is plausibility. Apart from the vampires, or ghosts, or werewolves (or, as in the case of my novel Hard Spell, all three and more) everything else in the story has got to seem as realistic as possible. It seems to me that there are two ways to achieve plausibility, and the wise speculative fiction writer will use both of them.

One is consistency. Not only do the supernatural elements have to remain consistent with each other (if sunlight fries vampires in your world, then you’d better not have one going for a noonday stroll later in the story – unless he’s using a lot of sunscreen), but also with the reader’s understanding of the real world.

So, say you’ve got a couple of cops, in a universe where the supernatural exists and everyone knows it. Sometimes supernatural creatures break the law, and you’ve got to bust ‘em. But the writer should treat it as normal police routine. You bust a vampire – perhaps you have to use the threat of a crucifix or some garlic to subdue him, but you’ve done it before. You put on the cuffs – maybe a pair that’s silver-plated – read the vamp his rights, and take him to the station. On the way, you and your partner talk about sports, or women, or bitch about your boss. You don’t make a big deal about having a vampire in the back seat, because in your world it isn’t a big deal. Your cops are acting consistent with the way cops act in “normal” TV and movies (which presumably reflects real life, more or less), and that gives you plausibility.

The other route to plausibility is detail. You make your world seem real by putting real things in it, to the greatest extent possible. Your cops don’t stop at “a fast food place” and have lunch. They stop at the Mickey Dee’s on 4th Street where one cop orders the Double Whopper with Cheese and the other gets the nine-piece McNuggets, even though he’s always getting the barbecue sauce on his shirt, which pisses his wife Margaret off no end when she has to launder it. And those cops, they don’t carry “guns.” Each holster contains a 9-mm Beretta, the same model used by the U.S. military, even though Harry’s brother, who’s with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan, says the things haven’t got near the stopping power of the old .45s that used to be standard military issue. Stephen King does this a lot (and very well), and some critics get on him for it, saying that a King novel is a “pop-culture extravaganza, full of brand names and trademarks” (that’s not a real quote, but it’s close). They say that like it’s a bad thing – but its not. It’s one way of making it real. And for your reader to believe the unbelievable, he or she has to be visiting a world that seems real. That’s the only way to gain willing suspension of disbelief – which in paranormal fiction is just another word for “entertainment.”

So take my hand, and let’s go through the fun house together. Yes, I know it’s dark, but the floor is even – you won’t trip. Probably. And if something should reach out for you from the dark – something with cold flesh and sharp claws and breath that reeks of the graveyard – just remind yourself: “It’s only a story.”

About the author:

Justin Gustainis was born in Northeast Pennsylvania in 1951. He attended college at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit university that figures prominently in several of his writings. After earning both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army. Following military service, he held a variety of jobs, including speechwriter and professional bodyguard, before earning a Ph.D. at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

He was married to Patricia A. Grogan of Toledo, Ohio, from 1977 until her death in 2007. He misses her a lot. Mr. Gustainis currently lives in Plattsburgh, New York. He is a Professor of Communication at Plattsburgh State University, where he earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002. His academic publications include the book American Rhetoric and the Vietnam War, published in 1993, and a number of scholarly articles that hardly anybody has ever read. In the Summer of 2008, he attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

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The next presidential election is getting near… and handsome, charismatic Senator Howard Stark wants to become president. There’s only one problem: He’s possessed by Sargatanas, a powerful demon who wants to unleash all evil on earth. To make things worse, Stark’s assistant happens to be a malevolent, highly-intelligent practitioner of the black arts, and she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants. One by one, the other candidates begin to die, some of illness, others due to mysterious accidents.

Enter the good guys: occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain. Together, they risk their lives while trying to find a way to exorcise the senator, which isn’t easy. After all, how do you get past the U.S. Secret Service and the forces of hell itself?

Sympathy for the Devil is pure entertainment. I’ve read all of the books in the Morris and Chastain Investigation series and I have to say I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed them. Just like in the earlier installments, the story, told from multiple points of view, opens with a reader-grabbing scene and continues its quick, suspenseful pace until the end. Author Justin Gustainis raises the stakes high and makes the characters sympathetic, getting you to care for their predicament. He’s also great at making you hate the villain. The secondary characters are interesting, too — even some of the bad ones are likable.

Lots of action and dialogue propel the plot; Gustainis doesn’t spend much time on description. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy and supernatural, and political thrillers, you’ll relish this one. Also, Sympathy for the Devil stands alone perfectly, so don’t worry if you haven’t read the earlier novels. I certainly look forward to reading what Quincey and Libby are up to next.

Visit the author’s website.

Purchase from Amazon.

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I had the pleasure of reviewing Gustanis’ debut novel, Black Magic Woman, last year.

51gxz7g96il_sl500_aa240_The sequel, Evil Ways, has just come out and you may read an excerpt here.

Read my interview with the author here.

Check out the author’s Website.

I will be reviewing Evil Ways pretty soon, so stay tuned!

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Black Magic Woman
by Justin Gustainis
ISBN: 9781844165414
Solaris Books
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Paranormal Thriller

Author’s website: www.justingustainis.com

Quincey Morris isn’t your typical private investigator. For one thing, he happens to be a straight descendant of Bram Stoker’s Quincey Morris. He also specializes in supernatural cases involving vampires, werewolves, succubis, and other terrifying beings.

In this first book in the series, Quincey is called to help a family who is being tormented by, supposedly, a ghost. On closer inspection, however, it becomes evident that a simple ghost isn’t the culprit, and that darker, more sinister and eminently dangerous forces are at work: a powerful curse dating back to the time of the infamous Salem witch trials. Together with his partner Libby Chastain, who happens to be a white witch, Quincey sets out to undo the curse in order to save the tormented family. The investigation takes them to Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York as they try to discover the identity of the black witch who is the root of all the problems. At the same time, innocent children are being abducted for utterly despicable reasons. Are their killings related to the curse? Will Quincey and Libby outwit the evil witch, fight the villains who work for her, and stop the murder of innocent souls?

Black Magic Woman is one of the most enjoyable paranormal suspense novels I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing recently. Black magic, witches, and a thoroughly sympathetic supernatural detective team, together with the plot’s many exciting twists and turns, make this book a thrilling and enjoyable read. The author combines elements of traditional witchcraft with Zulu fetish witchcraft–truly creepy, truly fascinating.

The protagonist possesses just the right amount of boldness and braveness, strength and sensitivity, and has the perfect sense of justice. He’s the good guy next door–except, of course, his job is investigating paranormal events and destroying supernatural fiends. The secondary characters are very well drawn as well: the villains are evil without being stereotypical. Indeed, the characterization of some of the minor characters, and not only the witchcraft, is what makes this novel truly terrifying.

The action doesn’t let up, and the ending is satisfying and will leave readers hungry for more. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the sequel, Evil Ways. If you’re a fan of paranormal thrillers/mysteries and urban fantasies, you’ll want to add Gustainis to your list of favorite authors.

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Author Justin Gustainis is the author of an exciting new paranormal series featuring kick-ass supernatural investigator Quincey Morris. I had the pleasure of reading this book recently, so look for my review in a day or two. In a few words, you won't be able to put the book down. In this fascinating interview, the author talks about his new novel, the writing process, creating his protagonist, plus he offers us a glimpse into the mind of the supernatural thriller writer. 

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

Let me answer the second part of that first: I’m a college professor. My field is Communication Studies, and my specialty is social influence (persuasion, argumentation, etc.) I teach in a mid-size university in upstate New York.

My academic colleagues refer to teaching as my “day job.” My publisher, on the other hand, calls writing my “day job.” I hope they never meet.

My literary “career,” if it may be called that, has two stages. The first was abortive. Years and years ago, I thought I might try my hand at writing. I wrote off a few short stories, and sent them off to some magazines who published that sort of stuff. Imagine my surprise when the stories were all rejected!

I guess I lacked commitment, because I just – stopped.

Quite a few years later, I was going through a stormy period in my marriage, and I got the idea for a novel and started fooling around with it. I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but I was using writing as a way to get away from my problems for a while. And it worked! Once I really got in to it, time would pass effortlessly. I’d look up from the computer, and two hours (or more) would have gone by.

There’s a guy named Csizszentmihalvi who, a while back, wrote a book called FLOW. The term refers to a state of utter absorption in what you’re doing. Different people achieve it different ways – sports, playing chess, building a house. For me, “flow” comes through writing. And it led to my first novel, THE HADES PROJECT.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was, indeed, an avid reader. In fact, I tell people that I’ve never had a creative writing course or taken part in any kind of workshop (although that’s about to change: I’ve been accepted for Odyssey this summer). What I know about writing comes from reading about a zillion books.

My progress, beginning at about age 7, was: comic books, nonfiction about World War II (the show “Combat” was popular at the time, and sparked my interest), followed by “books for boys,” especially the “Rick Brant Science Adventures,” then Sherlock Holmes, The Saint, then Bond, James Bond. This takes me up to about age 14, and after that I was off to the (literary) races.

Tell us a bit about your latest book.

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN is an urban fantasy about a family living under a curse that dates back to the Salem witch trials. The curse appears life-threatening, so the family seeks the help of Quincey Morris, occult investigator. Quincey is a direct descendant of the Texan by the same name who appeared in Stoker’s DRACULA, and gave his life in pursuit of the Count’s destruction.

Quincey realizes he’s in over his head and calls in Libby Chastain, a “consultant” who is a practitioner of “white” witchcraft. The two of them cross the country on the trail of the “black” witch responsible for the curse. But then she learns of their pursuit, and uses all the evil power at her command in an effort to destroy them.

At the same time, the FBI is investigating a series of child abductions and murders with strong occult overtones. The Bureau sends for an expert from South Africa, who knows more than a little about occult murder. Detective Sergeant Garth Van Dreenan is a member of the country’s Occult Crime Bureau (which really exists, BTW). Van Dreenan is partnered with African-American Special Agent Fenton, and the two of them attempt to overcome their cultural differences long enough to discover who is behind the murders, in which the children’s bodily organs are removed while they are still alive.

The two cases appear unrelated. They are not. Both eventually come together – with a vengeance, you might say.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

For the first book, THE HADES PROJECT, I started with an idea and a character, and kept writing because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. The same is true, pretty much, for BLACK MAGIC WOMAN. However, for the third book, EVIL WAYS (a sequel to BMW and the second “Quincey Morris Supernatural Adventure”) I had to compose an outline in order to secure my contract from the publisher. I’m writing the book now, and frankly, finding the outline rather confining – because this is the structure of the book that I have, more or less, committed to write, so I can’t change it drastically.

Your protagonist, Quincey Morris, is one of the most likable heroes I've encountered in a novel in a long time. How did you develop this character? Did he come naturally or did you want him to have specific qualities to suit your plot?

Quincey evolved gradually, but, looking back, I can see that he reflects qualities and attributes of three friends of mine – one of whom is a Texan, like Quincey. Or, another way to look at it is, Quincey Morris is the man I always wanted to be. Give or take the vampires.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

THE HADES PROJECT took about a year and a half to produce the first draft. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN took about a year. Keep in mind, I have a day job. Or so my fellow professors say.

Describe your working environment.

I have an office at home where I do most of my writing. It’s decorated with “occult detective” memorabilia, since that’s both what I write and what I love to read. I’ve got “Constantine” and “Hellboy” movie posters on the walls, mugs from “Twin Peaks” and “Millennium,” Mulder and Scully action figures, and a prop from “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (the original, not the more recent, pallid attempt). There’s a lot more, but you get the idea.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Not nearly as much as I wish.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

In the case of finding the publisher for BLACK MAGIC WOMAN (Solaris Books), it was a combination of persistence and dumb luck. It’s a very long story, and I’d rather skip to the second part of this question.

My advice is simple, but I mean it sincerely. Don’t quit. Don’t stop writing, don’t stop revising, and don’t stop sending your stuff out. This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be published – but the other choice guarantees that you WON’T be published.

Somebody once said that “a published writer is an unpublished writer who didn’t give up.” I’m down with that.

What's inside the mind of the supernatural thriller writer?

I think it’s the knowledge, deep down, that the world is a dangerous place – and not all the dangers come from terrorists, diseases, and global warming.

There’s something out there, in the dark, just beyond the range of vision. It’s my job (and my pleasure) to give you a glimpse of it. Just a glimpse, mind – a full-on look would drive you mad with terror.

My credo is well expressed by the last line of the stage play DRACULA, a line spoken directly to the audience: “Just remember: there ARE such things!”

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I once read something attributed, I think, to Andre Norton. It’s about how becoming a writer is a simple, three-step process: 1) place butt in chair 2) write 3) repeat.

Works every time.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

You betcha. It’s at www.justingustainis.com. And, as long as I’m giving website URLs, here’s one for the publisher’s (Solaris Books) page dedicated to the book.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Well, I’ve already mentioned EVIL WAYS, which is due for publication in January ’09 – always assuming I get it finished on time. I’m also putting together an anthology of “occult detective” stories. Some very well-known writers have agreed to contribute: Simon R. Green, Rachel Caine, Kim Newman, Lili Saintcrow, and P.N. Elrod, to name a few.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

EVIL WAYS will be dedicated to the memory of my wife, Patricia Grogan, who died on December 22, 2007.

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