Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Justin Alcala in his featured interview.
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
Ah, the toughest of all questions. What started it all? Writing is an ever growing tree, branching out with new pertinent to your life. When I started writing professionally thirteen years ago, there was this wild demeanor inside me that wanted to tell the best story anyone ever laid eyes on. I was highly motivated and willing to anything in order to meet my aspirations. Now that I’m older, a husband and father, I sort of started to realize that while my energy level was ideal, I was trying to force an oversized cat into a mouse’s hole. I wasn’t writing what I wanted to, but rather what I thought people wanted to read. It’s both the sin and merit of youth to think that they’re the only ones that’s ever had an idea. And that’s what “Time Will Tell” is about. Our protagonist’s ambition has taken him somewhere that he feels has value, and everyone else is clueless to what it takes to be someone like him. No one can talk him out of it either. Perhaps not even himself.
Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
Jasper is the young professional with an appetite for career success. He’s a smart guy whose long hours have earned him an important title. While he still has a streak of good conscience, when the time comes, he favors doing the important thing over the right thing. This cycle is slowly blinding him, making him more ignorant to the perspectives of the rest of the world. All the while, there’s a lingering pain from his past that is working like rocket fuel to keep him hungry to do more, become greater, until he’s on top of the company’s great mountain. The only catch is that as the story goes on, Jasper’s climb hits a precipice.
What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?
I think the most interesting thing about writing this world is how similar it is to our own. Our setting takes place in the late hours of a hard working city. The familiar miserable weather, comforts of warm food in a cozy diner and affable waitress serving coffee are all things we’ve likely experienced. Yet, there’s a touch of the future in the short story, a speculative distant imminent time that’s a little ahead of the present.
What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?
That’s a tough question as genre context seems to be ever evolving. If I had to corner it though, I would say it’s a blend of science fiction-thriller and dystopian-mystery.
How have your personal experiences influenced this story?
I think like anyone, time sharpens our outlook and broadens the mind (or sometimes dulls). Looking back where I was and where I’ve been, what my goals were, and what I wanted in life all were experiences that influenced the story.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
You know, I honestly feel that once you create a work, it’s no longer yours to decide. I can see different viewpoints readers might walk away with, but it’s honestly up to them to decide whether Jasper’s journey shapes the relationship to things that might be going on in their own lives.
What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?
It’s always the journey for me. I think the person that often learns the most out of a decent story is the writer themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?
I think I was around eight years old when I started writing monster-superhero mashups. It was the 90’s, and mutants, creepy horrors, and rebranded fairy tales were in. They were the face of kids shows, comic books and Scholastic books everywhere. I use to create paper stories of “The Beast Man” and “Shadow Raven” for my neighborhood buddies patient enough to indulge me. It’s painfully hilarious to think about.
What is your writing survival checklist? (Aka, what helps your write the best: music, snacks, coffee, complete silence, a stress ball, a cat, or an outline, etc.)
It’s become a little more casual nowadays, as having a family makes “writing time” more of a when I can instead of a can I when? Still, when I need to meet a deadline, personal or publishing, I still lock myself in a room, turn on some Tom Waits or Andrew Bird, and let it flow. Creativity takes energy, so coffee and snacks *grunt* good.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
To be honest, I was about to answer this with one word, “Life,” but that’s a copout. It’s different depending on what I want to express. Sometimes, there’s a real need for escapism, and writing about fantastic places and compelling characters is just what the doctor ordered. Other times, I might have this gripping idea about pertinent issues that I want to weave into a story that might help give the topic more light from a different angle. Then there’s times when there’s a thought that festers inside you, a macabre one, that you want to use to burn a hole through the world. I find the latter is when I write my best horror.
What font do you prefer to write in?
Times New Roman, more so because I’ve trained myself that this is the medium that writing markets work in. It’s a habit.
Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?
I do. I have a blog that I use as a chalkboard for writing topics, challenges in the market and short stories. I don’t think people should give a hoot about my likes, wants, and desires, and I try not to saturate the blog with that too much. I more use it to help other writers work out issues, point out challenges with the literary world and entertain.
What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?
Peripeteia. Not because I don’t like a sudden reversal of events in a literary work. More so because it’s a beautiful word that I’ve never been able to exercise in a story. It’s the white whale that refuses to work with me.
Justin Alcala is a Speculative Literature Foundation Award Finalist, novelist and nerdologist. He’s the author of the novels Consumed, (BLK Dog Publishing) The Devil in the Wide City (Solstice Publishing) and Dim Fairytales (AllThingsThatMatterPress). His short stories have been featured in magazines and anthologies, including It Dances Now (Crimson Street Magazine),The Offering (Rogue Planet Press) and The Lantern Quietly Screams (Castabout Literature). When he’s not burning out his retinas in front of a computer, Justin is an adventuresome tabletop gamer. He’s also a blogger, folklore enthusiast and time traveler. He is an avid quester of anything righteous, from fighting dragons to acquiring magical breakfast eggs from the impregnable grocery fortress.
Most of Justin’s tales and characters take place in The Plenty Dreadful universe, a deranged supernatural version of the modern world. When writing, Justin immerses himself in whatever subject he’s working on, from research to overseas travel. Much to the dismay of his family, he often locks himself away in his office-dungeon while playing themed videos and music over, and over, and over again. Justin currently resides with his dark queen, Mallory, their malevolent daughter, Lily, and their hellcat, Misery. Where his mind might be though is anyone’s guess.
ON TIME is coming in Summer 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.