Bookish Banter – Featured Author – Justin Gustainis

Published February 22, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Saturday 22nd February 2014 

Bookish Banter is proud to present today’s Featured Author…

Profile photo (1)

Click the picture to go to Justin’s Website

Justin Gustainis

Please tell us from where you hail?  Let me guess Transylvania … just kidding…I hope gulp!

Not Transylvania, but you’re close – Pennsylvania.  The northeast, specifically: Pittston, a little town between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.  But I’ve lived in upstate New York for the last 32 years.

Classic!  Do they have many vampires in Pennsylvania – or is that just the blood sucking publishers?  Oh no they’re all in New York – bad luck!  😉

How long have you been scaring people to death with your writing?

I published my first short story in 1995.  My first novel was published in 2003 (but had been completed five years earlier – getting a first novel published is hard, hard, hard).

Tell me about it!  Congratulations for getting your foot in the door!

Are you promoting a particular book at the present time?

You betcha.  My latest novel, Known Devil, came out on January 28th.


Click the picture to BUY NOW

What genre do you consider you write in – just horror or do you write other genres as well?

My first novel, The Hades Project, was horror – no doubt about it.  But my subsequent books belong to the genre (or subgenre, or whatever the hell it is) called urban fantasy, which somebody once described as the bastard stepchild of crime fiction and horror.

I see!  I think more and more these days genres all bleed into one another, don’t they?  That’s the marvellous thing about the imagination isn’t it? 🙂

Can you give us the gory details of your latest book –  can you give us the feel of it without scaring us all to death?

Known Devil is the third novel in my “Haunted Scranton” series, which is set in an alternate universe where supernatural creatures really exist, and everybody knows it.  But even “supes” have to obey the law – or else.  As my protagonist put it, “When a vamp puts the bits on an unwilling victim, or some witch casts the wrong kind of spell, that’s when they call me.  My name’s Markowski.  I carry a badge.”  The hero of the series is Detective Sergeant Stan Markowski of the Scranton Police Department’s Occult Crimes Unit.

Badge Final

Click the badge to learn more about Justin

In Known Devil, Stan and his partner are in a diner having their coffee break when two armed elves try to stick up the place.  This is Stan’s first indication that a new drug called Slide has hit the streets – and it has the potential to addict supernatural creatures.  This is a first – supernaturals are immune to human recreational drugs (except for goblins, who have shown an unfortunate fondness for meth).  As a result, a turf war has broken out between two rival vampire gangs.  One wants to bring Slide into the city, while the other wants to keep it out, with the innocent citizens of Scranton caught in the crossfire.  If that isn’t bad enough, someone has just blown up wizard Victor Castle, the unofficial head of the city’s supernatural community.  Castle’s likely successor (and probable assassin) is a vampire – the kind who refers to humans as “walking bloodbags.”  On top of that, the local election is coming up, with the ultra-right wing Patriot Party set to win big.  The Patriots hate supernaturals, whom they describe as “abominations before the Lord.”  If they take over the city government, Stan is worried that he will soon face yet another war – this one between humans and supernaturals.

A perfect storm of supernatural strife is set to descend on Scranton.  As usual, Stan Markowski and his vampire partner Karl Renfer are right in the thick of it.

Sounds great!  I love a good detective story and mixing that up with vampires has just got to be a winning formula!  Can’t wait to get my teeth into it and I’m sure our Bookish Banter readers will agree with me.

Where did the idea come from?

Cleveland.  There’s a service there that will send you three ideas a week for a yearly price of just $199.  It’s a real bargain.  Most writers make use of it, I believe.

No!  You’re having me on – really?  An ‘idea bank’ – awesome!

Did you have to do a lot of research for your latest work?  You know late nights in a morgue or cemetery… or haunted house… (shivers)

The groundwork for this book was laid by the first two, so I didn’t have to do a great deal of world-building.  And since I’m writing about an “alternative” universe, I can pretty much make up anything I want – there’s no real need for verisimilitude.

I like it when you can just dive right in and write without worrying about looking things up. 🙂

I know Scranton, of course, having grown up nearby and later earning two degrees at the University of Scranton.  And as for police work … a fan once asked me if I had a background in law enforcement, since the cop stuff in my books seemed so authentic.  I was flattered, but the truth is, all I know about that comes from reading mysteries and watching cop shows on TV.

What is it they always say?  Write what you know?  That’s the good thing about places you have been and a subject matter you’re comfortable with.

Do you think your writing is improving with each spine tingling addition to your supernatural library?

God, I sure hope so.

LOL Silly question really – I should have asked if you thought it got easier? 😉

Did you find yourself cursed at any stage during the writing that held things up for a bit or did it flow freely?

Oh, let me introduce you to my best friend.  Laura, meet Procrastination.  Procrastination, this is Laura, who runs a fantastic website about books.

🙂 🙂 Oh we’ve already met Justin – we’re old, old friends or should I say enemies! hehehe!

Why do you love this craft so much?  That’s the craft of writing by the way not witchcraft?

What have you got against witchcraft?  I know that Stan Markowski would be lost without the services of Rachel Procter, the police department’s Consulting Witch.  But to answer your question, “love” may not be the best word to describe my attitude toward writing – I don’t do it because I want to; I write because I have to.  Thomas Jefferson once described the presidency as “a splendid misery.”  That’s the way I sometimes feel about writing.  But only sometimes.

I’d say that’s a great way to describe it!  Oh I have nothing against witches – I am one – well a ‘Silver Sorceress’ anyway! 😉

How much planning goes into a book?  Do you spend a long time planning or do you just start writing and see where it leads you?

I start with a basic concept, and I usually have a good idea about the ending.  That gives me the start and the finish.  The rest … well, that’s the journey, isn’t it?

Great stuff!  That’s roughly where I am – except I don’t usually know where it’s going to end…whoops!  So that’s where I’m going wrong!

Do you have a crowd of zombie followers who read every word and encourage you?

I most certainly do.  Unfortunately, there are only six of them.  I wish each one had about 10,000 friends, but you know how it is with zombies – they tend to be solitary creatures.

Awww! –  I’m sure that’s not true!  Right!  Zombie party at Justin’s everyone – gate crashers welcome (as long as you buy a book!)

What is your experience of the Publishing industry, apart from it being the most blood sucking industry out there?

Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business.  That’s why publishers have these awful things called “deadlines.”  Actually, I quite enjoy deadlines – I like the whooshing sound they make as they go by.

LOL  Deadline?  What’s that?  Oh yes!  That thing I can’t stick to!

Is this book a part of a blood curdling series?  Where is it going?

Known Devil is the third book in my “Haunted Scranton” series, following Hard Spell and Evil Dark.  I had a three-book contract with the publisher, Angry Robot, which has now been fulfilled.  Will there be more? That depends on how well the latest one does.  So, if everybody reading this interview buys a copy of the book, then tells ten friends, and they each buy a copy, and tell ten more friends … well, then we’ll see.

OK People we need another Haunted Scranton book – so get ready to click the buy now button! 😉

Hard Spell cover semi-final

Click the picture to BUY NOW

Evil Dark cover largest

Click the picture to BUY NOW

Have you had some good reviews for your book?

I’m glad you asked me that.  That’s What I’m Talking About blog called it “a captivating whodunit” with “more twists and turns than a bag of Twizzlers.”  A Fantastical Librarian says, “I had a great time with Known Devil, and tore through it in one sitting.”  Popcorn Reads opined, “I love the mix of genres that Justin Gustainis has created in this series, and Known Devil continues his trend of smart, dark, fun reads.”  Luxury Reading says, “Gustainis’s characters are intriguing, fun, sometimes annoying, but well drawn and lifelike.  The interaction of the characters rivals and enhances the consistent flow of action throughout the novel.” And New York Times Bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow describes the book as “Whipcrack-fast, hellishly smart, and wonderfully noir – Known Devil is a marvellous ride.”   In other words, “yes.”

marvellous reviews Justin.  Certainly makes me want to go and click the buy now button right now!

If you couldn’t be a writer what would you do instead?  And no Count Dracula is not an option!

I’m already doing it.  My day job is in academe – in other words, I’m a college professor, which means I get to commit higher education on a regular basis. It’s a blast.  Sometimes.

Should I call you professor from now on? 😉

 Your favourite Author is…

That’s a tough one … but I’d have to say Thomas Perry.  He’s a crime/suspense writer who hasn’t come out with a bad book yet.

A link for anyone who is curious…

Have you got a book trailer?

I’m sooo glad you asked me that.  Here is the link:

What do you do to wind down?

Wind down?  I have, in effect, two jobs.  I find that exhaustion generally eliminates the need for winding down – it’s better than a double Scotch, if not nearly so much fun to experience.

Ahh!  I get it you’re a writing junkie – it does tend to get the old adrenalin pumping!

Do you belong to a friendly writers’ group and does it help?

I’m not part of a writers’ group, as such.  But I’m a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, and it sponsors an online critique board for those who have been through the program.  I sometimes post material there to get feedback on it.

That’s what you need,  a friendly group of writers giving you some feedback.

What is your experience of editing and polishing your manuscripts?

Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”  I try to keep that in mind, and act accordingly.

Yup!  I’d agree with that! LOL

Any tips for all our budding authors out there wondering how to get started?

Andre Norton once perfectly described how to become a writer.  It is, she said, a simple three-step process: 1) place butt in chair, 2) write, and 3) repeat.  My own experience tells me that there are three factors that go into being a successful writer: talent, persistence, and luck.  And the greatest of these is all of them.

LOL Love it!  All of the above definitely!

Link city – as many as you need to guide us round your internet trail of ghostly goings on…

My website:


My Angry Robot author’s page:

My Solaris Books author page:

My Amazon author page:


Thank you for joining us here on the ‘Bookish Banter’ Justin and taking time out to give us such an interesting insight into your writing world.

Xx Laura Crean xX

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