Featured Interview With Mark Justice
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was raised in Vermilion, Ohio, on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie. I live in Sheffield Village, Ohio, just a few miles from those same beautiful shores. The pull of water keeps me close.
I spent several decades in academia as a student then as an instructor. I'm happily done with teaching and am looking for new adventures.
I started a no-budget movie production company in 2012, Cyclops Movies, and have made three silly and schlocky B-grade movies. If you like your movies with extra cheese, look no further.
I don’t have any pets, currently. I had two dogs. They both died a few months apart in late 2017 and early 2018. Heart disease and cancer took them too soon. I’m still not over the loss. I’ll know when the time is right to get a few more dogs. They do make life joyful.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I was read to from infancy and could read before I went to kindergarten. I’ve always loved books, especially classic horror and science fiction. The Weekly Reader flyer that we got in grade school was my favorite thing in the world. So many new books to explore. I'm grateful that I was allowed to buy as many books as I did. I amassed a pretty decent book collection by my teens.
I didn’t start writing until I was in high school. I started with some poetry and short stories, found a little bit of academic success with writing, and naively thought, “Oh, I’ll be a writer. This is easy.” Haha!
I got a BFA in Creative Writing and continued writing poetry but always saw myself as a fiction writer, or at least that’s what I wanted to be. I wrote minor short stories, nothing of note. Fear kept me from really tearing into fiction for ages, fear of my inability to write realistic-sounding dialogue. Years of writing poetry had honed my use of imagery and concise phrasing, but sadly, I let fear dictate what I wrote for too long.
It wasn’t until I had written my movie scripts that I overcame that fear, realizing I could tell an entire story with dialogue, so after my third movie, I moved to writing long fiction.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I love Frank Herbert, especially his Dune series, which may contain two of my favorite books of all time: Dune and God Emperor of Dune.
I am a huge Robert E. Howard fan and consumed his heroic pulp in my teens and twenties. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, Angela Carter, Lee Falk, and Stan Lee.
As far as non-fiction goes, I really do enjoy Stephen King’s book about writing. They’re inspiring.
My favorite genres tend to be science fiction, horror, and pulp of all kinds.
As far as inspiration goes, I tip my hat to Stephen King again, not so much for any particular novel but for his body of work as well his accessibility as a writer. I’m staggered by the amount of prose put out by great pulp writers like Walter B. Gibson. Simply astonishing.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book is called Toxic. It’s a non-fiction book which examines my decades-long struggle with the Christian faith I grew up being taught to believe. I do this by carefully and academically examining the Bible, focusing mainly on portions of scripture that the Toxic Christian Church tends to ignore or gloss over. I engage these troublesome passages in order to show a much more complete picture of the Christian God.
Through Toxic, I invite anyone who has ever struggled with their faith, whether current believer, former believer, agnostic, or believer-turned-atheist, to examine their faith closely, carefully, and honestly. Ultimately, I want anyone who’s ever struggled with their faith to know they’re not the only ones who’ve done so. I want them to feel heard, understood, and validated.
Toxic burst out of me as I was starting to write my next cozy mystery. It had festered for decades and finally came to the surface, the burst boil, as I like to call it. I didn't intend to write a book but wrote purely as therapy, purging years of frustration and anger in the process. When I had written about 80 pages in two days, I knew it was going to turn out to be something much more, so I kept at it, getting the emotions out then treating it with more academic attention. All in all, I wrote it in about six weeks, with two more weeks of rewrites, with tiny revisions as my beta readers read. I've never written so much so quickly before.