Hello, and welcome to my author interview with Justin Herzog! Today we are going to get some time to chat with them, and we’ll discuss books, writing process, and other fun things.
So I’ll just start off with some questions, and we’ll see where this goes! No pressure of answering wrong, your process is all yours!
Chad: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Justin Herzog: Hi Chad. First let me say thank you so much for having me. My name is Justin Herzog. I’m a Floridian native and fantasy author. My first book, titled First Wave, is a contemporary fantasy novel that combines different aspects of western and eastern mythology on the islands of Hawaii.
Chad: Now, I do have some standard questions I like to ask, because they help me understand you better. Can you tell me what your favorite book is, and without too many spoilers, tell me why?
Justin Herzog: Oh, this is tough. I suppose my favorite book would be The Eye of The World by Robert Jordan. The reason being that it was my first foray into the adult fantasy genre. I tend to find myself rereading it at least every other year or so. My favorite series on the other hand, would undoubtedly be The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It is an absolutely amazing series that somehow continues to improve year after year.
Chad: Who is your biggest supporter? What I mean is, who has always encouraged you to write, even when you feel like you weren’t good enough?
Justin Herzog: That honor would definitely have to go to my wife, Milena, who has stood by my side these last four years without a word of complaint.
Chad: Do you think your school had a lot to do with how you grew as a writer? Were you encouraged?
Justin Herzog: Yes, but not in the way you might traditionally think. I attended a Christian high school, and the summer before I was scheduled to begin, the head pastor was videotaped in a Daytona Beach strip club. The story made national news, and through a series of subsequent events, the pastor ended up being sentenced to three years in prison for aggravated assault (pistol whipping a man over cocaine). As a result, the school essentially went bankrupt overnight. We had very few teachers, no money for sports or extracurricular actives, and no real curriculum to speak of. Now, from an educational standpoint, this was terrible, but for me personally, I had eight hours a day to kill, and was able to spend the majority of that time reading in the gym, which subsequently helped me in my desire to become a published author.
Chad: Where do you get your ideas from? I know, I know, hard to say! But what do you think?
Justin Herzog: Honestly everywhere. I get ideas from places I visit, from news stories I hear, and from the people I encounter on a day to day basis. For me, ideas are not a problem, it’s finding the right combination to turn them into a proper story.
Chad: What is your favorite type of story to read?
Justin Herzog: Definitely fantasy, regardless of whether it is high, contemporary, or even something along the lines of a supernatural mystery, like Dean Koontz.
Chad: What would you say is your strongest writing ability? Is it a wide vocabulary? A deep knowledge of Balinese Monkey Chants?
Justin Herzog: Well, I definitely believe that writing is a craft, and to that end I design most of my characters using the tags and traits system. I think my strongest ability would be the ability to combine certain ideas or themes that might not go together on the surface and weave them into a coherent tapestry of words.
Chad: Let’s get into the meat of you as a writer. Tell me about your most current project. Is it a short story? A novel? Flash fiction perhaps?
Justin Herzog: My current project is actually a sequel to a separate contemporary fantasy series that I am working on. Tentatively titled Exit Light it follows the adventures of a demonologist living and operating in Miami, Florida.
Chad: What makes your hero tick? What makes them interesting to you?
Justin Herzog: For me, having a strong protagonist is all about ensuring that they are believable. To that end, they need to have a goal, something they are striving towards, and there has to be a reason why they are so determined to continue throughout the story. Doing something because it is the right thing to do only takes a person so far. There has to be a reason why they are personally invested in this outcome.
Chad: And we all love a villain. Well, at least I do. Tell me something about the villain that will make me like, or understand them, better.
Justin Herzog: Here’s the thing about villains. The absolute best villains don’t know that they are the villains. They think they’re in the right, and that everyone else is either too blind or too deluded to see what’s right in front of them. Magneto from the X-men series is a perfect example. In his mind, he’s not the villain. He’s just the only one seeing things clearly for what they are. That is what makes a good villain.
Chad: Can you remember the very first story you ever wrote? Do you ever consider improving on it now that some time has passed?
Justin Herzog: The first story I ever wrote was a mystery series starring a bail enforcement officer. And it was awful. Really bad. Which is why I have no plans to improve on it.
Chad: How do you think writing has changed overall since you were a child?
Justin Herzog: I think it’s gotten better, particularly in the fantasy genre. You look at some of the major authors of that time: Jordan, Eddings, Martin, Salvatore. A lot of authors my age grew up reading those books, and as a result, have been able to decipher and understand the writing craft elements and improve on them.
Chad: Do you feel like it’s easier to be published, or perhaps harder?
Justin Herzog: I definitely think it has gotten harder. The last few years have changed the publishing industry completely, and to a certain degree I’m not sure it has entirely found its footing yet.
Chad: So, we all have times when our imaginary friends won’t talk to us (writer’s block). How do you deal with it if you are susceptible?
Justin Herzog: I honestly don’t buy into writer’s block. I mean, obviously, this is a creative business, but so is music, and I have yet to hear a guitarist or pianist say that they cannot play due to writer’s block. For me, whenever I get stuck, it’s just my brains way of telling me that I made a mistake, usually within the last few chapters, and I need to back up and figure out what it is.
Chad: What is the lesson you have learned about writing that you wish you knew starting out?
Justin Herzog: Writing is a craft. Enthusiasm is wonderful and there is a creative element to it, but ultimately, you need to learn the nuts and bolts of fiction writing in order to have any success.
Chad: What is your next project? Do you have any ideas?
Justin Herzog: I think my next project is going to be a fiction novel (currently untitled) about a photographer in Miami. Thank you so much Chad! I appreciate it.