Justin Macumber is the author of Amazon Bestsellers HAYWIRE (Gryphonwood Press) and A MINOR MAGIC (Crescent Moon Press). When he is not hard at work on his next novel he co-hosts the Dead Robots’ Society podcast. He and his lovely wife live in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex with a crazy pack of dogs and cats that run them ragged. You can find him online at justinmacumber.com and deadrobotssociety.com. He is also a co-host and reviewer for the popular Hollywood Outsider podcast, which is located at thehollywoodoutsider.com.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Definitely! My name is Justin R. Macumber, born an Army brat but raised mostly as a Texan, though I think I’m a tad too liberal for the state to want to claim me. I’m happily married and a proud parent to many dogs and cats. My path to writing started with Dungeons & Dragons. As a kid I couldn’t afford many of the adventure modules for my friends to play, so instead I created them myself, spilling my dreams across graph paper and loose-leaf notebooks. Several decades later I use an iMac, but part of me will always be that kid hunched over his desk with a pencil in need of sharpening and a blank page just waiting to be filled with wonder.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I’m a horror guy. I like my genre labels to be old fashioned.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Stephen King sits at the top of my list, but I also love Robert Heinlein, Robert R. McCammon, Joe Hill, Tracy Hickman, and J.K. Rowling.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
My perfect neighbour would be Heinlein’s Lazarus Long. Since he lived to be over a thousand years old he has plenty of wisdom to dispense, and he’s one of those manly guys who could teach me how to field dress a deer and make traps so I could survive the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse.
My nightmare neighbour would be King’s Randal Flagg, AKA The Walking Dude, AKA The Man In Black. The guy is a dark wizard, not to mention a primordial power. He’d probably turn me into a monster within a week of moving next door.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
I think the writing within the horror genre is as strong as it ever was, but for whatever reason the publishing industry doesn’t care to highlight it. Most bookstores just toss horror novels in with the rest of the literary fiction. Back in the 80s, which is the golden age for the genre I believe, horror had its own shelves. Coincidence?
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book I read was Joe Hill’s HEART-SHAPED BOX. Just amazing. Sadly, ALLEGIANT, the third book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent Series, was awful. Just awful. I was sorely disappointed.
How would you describe your writing style?
When I was younger I was all about flowery prose and lots of adjectives, but as I’ve aged and written more I’ve learned that while words tell our stories, often they can also get in the way. I try to strip away everything that isn’t entirely about the story and the characters, get rid of all the fluff, and make the words flow as smoothly as possible. Every word gets judged as to its necessity. I guess you could call that a bare bones style.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I wish I could say there were, but not really. I try not to get hung up on reviews, even the good ones, because I could easily believe my own hype too much, and then I’d get lazy. I love to hear from people when they enjoy what I’ve written, and I even enjoy hearing from those who didn’t so long as they can explain where they think I went wrong so I can learn from it, but that’s as far as I take it. Committing them to memory would be the death of my drive to write.
What’s your favourite food?
Being a Texan, I grew up on Tex-Mex, and it’s still my favourite style of food. The hotter the better. But, there is no greater meal than a medium grilled T-bone steak with a side of mashed potatoes and a roll. My mouth is watering right this second as I think about it.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
Pearl Jam. They’re my favourite band of all time. I’ve seen them four times in concert, and hopefully I’ll get to see them many more times in the future. I’ll probably die with their song Black on my lips.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
That the first draft is just that – the first. There are several more to go after that, with each one getting you closer and closer to the real story you’re trying to tell. The first draft will, and probably should, suck. That’s where you throw your clay on the wheel and smack it into a semblance of what it’ll eventually look like. At that point it’s all rough edges and vague details. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, etc. Just get the story out of you. The final draft is when you take care of that stuff.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Speak of the devil – first drafts. Taking the movie I see in my head and translating it to words on a page (or computer screen) is tough work. If it wasn’t everyone would be doing it. I also constantly have to fight from editing as I go, of going back and trying to clean up my grammar and punctuation. I hate getting that first set of tracks laid down.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I don’t try to pigeon hole myself anymore. When I was a kid I wanted to be a fantasy writer, then as I moved into my teens I wanted to be a horror writer, only later to decide I had to write sci-fi. I thought you could only really write one or the other. Now I want to write them all. In fact, I want to merge them together as often as I can. Who says a fantasy story can’t have a horror moment in it? I have several book ideas in mind that are mixes of science fiction and horror. I don’t like genre borders, and I won’t be held in by them. If that confuses some of my readers, I’m really sorry. I love how Stephen King has made a career out of genre blending and jumping, and I want to do the same thing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
That it’s okay to suck. Not ever word or sentence or paragraph is going to be gold, especially the first time around. Be okay with sucking, so long as you keep writing.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
Skylar is the main protagonist in my YA post-apocalyptic novel A MINOR MAGIC. Before I started writing it I wasn’t sure I could tell the story of a fifteen year old girl, get into her head and see the world as she sees it. I talked with plenty of women about what it was like being a young girl, and the insight was invaluable. By the time I was finished with the book I felt like Skylar was a real person, someone I knew as well as I knew myself, maybe even better. When I wrote the sequel I had no trouble at all finding my way to her. She is definitely part of me, and always will be.
How about your least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Shawn from HAYWIRE. I’m not a fan of whiny people, or of people who make drama out of nothing, yet with Shawn I created just such a person. He was also my main male protagonist. If I don’t like those people, then why did I write him that way? Because in order for him to have the sort of growth arc I wanted, he needed to start from a very low place. He is utterly transformed throughout the book, eventually losing those qualities I hate for ones I admire, but as the writer I still remember all too well as a whiny kid, and I think that will forever tarnish him for me.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Respect is the correct answer, right? Isn’t that the one we should all aspire to? I wish I could say I did, but I don’t. Or, at least, not primarily. Sadly, I have to answer fortune. Right now I write full time because my wife is fortunate enough to make a good enough living that it supports us both. I’m glad for that, but some day I hope I’ll get to take care of her the way she’s taken care of me. She deserves it.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
It isn’t out yet, but I wrote a short story for an anthology called Way Of The Gun, which has stories that blend old west gunslingers with Bushido trappings, and my offering for the anthology is entitled THE DRAGON AND THE SPARROW. I loved getting to dig into a western (something I’d never done before), and the Bushido aspect made it especially fun, but what I really enjoyed more than anything was adding a heaping helping of horror to the mix. It was a story that challenged me more than anything else I’d ever written, and by the time I was done with it I was incredibly proud of what I’d accomplished. I can’t wait for others to read it.
And are there any pieces that you would like to forget about?
My first real attempt to write a book was called HARBINGER. It was the first in a planned trilogy, a larger than life sci-fi space opera with all sorts of aliens and battles. I’m not ashamed of it by any means, but in hindsight I was biting off way more than I could capably chew. I was about halfway into the second book when I realized I was out of my depth and put a stop to it. Sometimes I think I’ll go back and take another whack at it now that I’m more mature, but other times I figure it’s something best left in the past. It was a learning experience, if nothing else.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My latest book, which will be coming out in early summer, is entitled STILL WATER. It’s a horror novel about a fictional West Virginia coal-mining town where something very evil and very ancient is awoken deep in the mountains. I wanted to write something that had a bit of a Lovecraft vibe, but with a tone and style that was very much of our time, I was very much inspired by a series of video games called Silent Hill, but whereas the game has you flipping back and forth between two worlds (one sorta evil and one really evil), I kept my story in one reality that slowly starts to twist into another as our heroes fight to stave off the apocalypse. It’s being published by Gryphonwood Press, the same publisher that put out HAYWIRE.
Next I’m going to work on TITANS RISE, a prequel to HAYWIRE. After HAYWIRE came out a lot of people asked me to write a sequel, but for me that story was done. All of the characters had reached their conclusions, and I’d told all of it I wanted to. But, as I thought about it more, I decided that while a sequel might be out, a prequel wasn’t. You see, in HAYWIRE we’re dealing with the culmination of events that started a century before the book starts. HAYWIRE is about what happens to a group of super soldiers after they’re turned insane by an alien menace they’ve been fighting for decades. In the book I mention how the super soldiers were made and why they started fighting, but all that’s just backstory to the main event – their crazed betrayal of humanity. What about telling the full story of their creation and the start of their war, I asked myself. And so that is what TITANS RISE is. Hopefully people will like it as much or more than they liked HAYWIRE.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do?
“What music do you write to?” I know a lot of writers, and one topic we all like to discuss amongst ourselves is what music we listen to while we write. But, I never hear a reader or interviewer ask about it. I think it’s a question that reveals a lot about a person.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON JUSTIN FOLLOW THE LINKS BELOW
STILL WATER BY JUSTIN R. MACUMBER
Coal is the hard, black heart of the mountain town of Stillwater, West Virginia, but far beneath it lies something much darker, an evil beyond time, waiting to rise and bathe the world in blood and fire once more. When unwitting miners dig into its tomb, only Kyle - Stillwater's prodigal son - and paranormal investigator Maya stand between humanity and Hell. Time is short and evil runs deep in… Still Water
April 22nd, 2014, is the official publishing date for the upcoming horror novel, Still Water. It will be available in print and ebook with the audiobook coming out sometime in late summer.
Justin had this to say about the release of the book -
"I hope that all of you are anticipating this release, as I think it marks a change in my writing career. I love science fiction, and I love urban fantasy, but horror is where my heart really seems to lie, and Still Water is only the first of what I’m hoping will be many scary books to come. So now mark your calendar for April 22, and stick around for more news as it develops. Thanks for your interest!"
“In Still Water , Justin R. Macumber brings all the vivid Americana of Stephen King and all the creeping evil menace of Lovecraft, to a claustrophobic tale of horror lurking in the deep parts of the world. The lush prose pulls you in and carries you along at a mounting pace until a confrontation so bloody, you can feel the claws raking you.” —Kane Gilmour, author of Ragnarok and The Crypt of Dracula
"You'll want to leave the light on long after you've turned the final page of this dark thriller." — Jeremy Bishop, author of Refuge .
"Justin Macumber excels in the dark. Still Water will trap you and never let go." — Edward Lorn, author of Cruelty
"Macumber's Still Water marries Lovecraftian-dread with a character driven thrill-ride that will leave you shivering with fear." — Paul E Cooley, author of Garaaga's Children
For more great interviews and reviews follow the links below