"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."
I was very happy to interview Justin Gustainis when his first novel, Black Magic Woman, came out a year ago. His urban fantasy received great reviews, and he sold more in the series. He's just released another in his Quincy Morris/Libby Chastain series, Evil Ways.
Justin blends crime novel grittiness with fantasy elements in his series, which features an investigator and a white witch who team up to solve crimes. Love Vampires gave his first novel five stars and said, "Usually the protagonists of fantasy novels have some special power or are supernatural creatures themselves but Quincey is human and this story is told from a human point of view."
Justin is also the author of the supernatural thriller, The Hades Project, which Jim Butcher called, "Gritty, darkly fascinating, truly frightening." Since he's a professor of communication of Plattsburgh State College, he's very well qualified to tell us about his exciting series.
If you'd like to win a copy of Evil Ways, just leave a comment. The contest runs through Saturday night and a winner will be chosen at random.
MARTA: Welcome back to Vampire Wire, Justin! Tell us a little about your new novel,
JUSTIN: It starts with both Quincey Morris and Libby Chastain in serious trouble – but of different kinds. Quincey is being blackmailed by the FBI into investigating a series of child murders similar to those that occurred in Black Magic Woman, but on a grander scale. Libby is the target of a murder attempt by professional assassins. She escapes, but has no idea who wants her dead, or why. Eventually, Quincey and Libby realize that they are holding opposite ends of the same thread. Both the child killings and the attempt on Libby’s life are part of a scheme by crazed zillionaire Walter Grobius to stage the biggest black magic ritual of all time.
MARTA: You’ve changed the title of your series from Quincy Morris Supernatural Investigation to the Morris/Chastain Investigations. Did you expect Libby Chastain’s role to become so essential?
JUSTIN: Actually, the change was made by my publisher, Solaris Books. But I agree with it wholeheartedly. When I started the first book, Black Magic Woman, I didn’t intend for Libby to be an equal partner with Quincey, but by the time that book was done, I knew that she would be. And
JUSTIN: I don’t know how many of our readers will recognize the cultural reference, but their relationship is not unlike that between John Steed and Emma Peel in the old British TV show, The Avengers. They respect each other professionally, and they have real affection for each other without it evolving into romance – so far, anyway. There is a certain degree of sexual tension between them, and several readers have asked me if Quincey and Libby are ever going to “kick it up a notch.” All I can say is: keep reading, and find out.
MARTA: I think I read somewhere that you were surprised when your books were categorized as part of one of the hottest trends around, urban fantasy. So what did you think you were writing?
JUSTIN: I don’t much like to put labels on my work, but I realize that it’s necessary, for marketing purposes. My first novel (not about Quincey and Libby), The Hades Project, was horror, pure and simple. The Quincey/Libby books are not quite as hard-edged. When I started the first one, the term “urban fantasy” wasn’t in wide use (as you know, the time span over which a novel is written, sold, and published is usually measured in years). If you’d asked me at the start, I suppose I would have said Black Magic Woman was dark fantasy. I don’t reject the urban fantasy label; I think it’s entirely appropriate for what I’m writing. I just didn’t have it in mind when I started the series. I’ve been tempted to have a T-shirt made up that reads, “I was doing urban fantasy before urban fantasy was cool.”
MARTA: Would you tell us a little about how your education at a Jesuit university has figured in your writing?
JUSTIN: Well, it gave me a working knowledge of Latin, which sometimes comes in handy when I’m writing spells (actually, I began to acquire Latin in high school. Yep, Catholic high school, too. Sigh.). I also learned the necessity for thorough research, no matter what I might be writing about. In addition, there’s a character in The Hades Project, a Jesuit named Eugene Grady, known as “Dirty Eugene.” Drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney, swears like a longshoreman. He’s a good man,
MARTA: When will the third in the series, Sympathy for the Devil, be published? How many books do you plan in this series?
JUSTIN: I don’t have a firm publication date yet, but my best guess would be December. The number of books in the series? That hasn’t been determined; I don’t generally think beyond the book I’m working on. I’m inclined to keep writing about Quincey and Libby, and will probably do so until people get tired of reading about them, or I run out of ways to get them into trouble.
MARTA: Have your students had any interesting reactions to your career as an urban fantasy writer?
JUSTIN: There hasn’t been much reaction. Of course, I don’t usually talk about my fiction writing in class; I don’t think that’s an appropriate use of class time (although I do have copies of the book covers on my office door). Every once in a while, a student will hand me a book to sign. It’s hard to know, in most cases, whether they’re genuinely interested or just trying to suck up to me. But, either way, I’ve sold another book – so, as they say, it’s all good.
MARTA: Why were you drawn to writing stories with supernatural/magical elements?
JUSTIN: I’ve been interested in that stuff ever since I was a kid. Also, I seem to have developed something of a dark sensibility at a young age. When I saw Disney’s Sleeping Beauty as a child, I was probably the only kid in the theatre rooting for Maleficent, the Evil Witch Queen. My therapist seems to find that very interesting.
MARTA: What is your favorite underrated or unfairly ignored novel?
JUSTIN: I’d vote for James Blish’s Black Easter, published around 1968. Blish is better known for science fiction, but this little exercise in demonology gave me nightmares for a week – and I read it as an adult. It was obscure when it was published, and is even more so today. It deserves a bigger audience.
MARTA: Where can readers find out more about your books and your appearances? Can they drop in on your lectures?
JUSTIN: My web site is www.justingustainis.com. I’m not planning to do any signings for
Thanks, Justin, for telling us about your books and writing!
If you'd like to enter the contest to win a copy of Evil Ways, just leave a comment. The contest runs through Saturday night and the winner will be chosen at random.