I do a few interviews from time to time, mostly over at Kendall Reviews, but when I was chatting with Justin recently and he was raving about what was coming down the pipeline from him, I knew I wanted to take a minute and ask some questions about his previous releases. Justin had taken a step back from writing, following the passing of his mom. Now, he’s ready to return and firing on all cylinders. When I first “broke onto the scene” if you will, back in late 2016, Justin was one of the first authors to really reach out and cheer me on. He was always encouraging and he even kindly read a bunch of my work. In fact, one of the very few blurbs I have on any of my covers was the phenomenal gem he gave regarding my debut novel ‘Invisible.’
That blurb got people’s attention, and at some point here, when I get my act together to get that book re-edited and re-released for it’s “5th Year Anniversary Edition,” I’ll see if Justin wants to contribute a foreword.
Justin’s writing has always been top notch and I’ve always admired how varied his releases are. So, with all of that said, I managed to wrangle an interview with him. Justin currently lives in Headland, Alabama with his wife and two adorable sons. If you’ve not read any of his works previously – get on it – he’s a must read dark fiction author.
SS: Man, thanks so much for doing this, I always have a blast chatting with you. After a little bit away from the writing world, you’re about to return big time and take the dark fiction community by storm once again! Before we get into what’s coming, let’s jump back and revisit your earlier works. Let’s go all the way back to ‘The Variant.’ I personally loved this one, but I still struggle to try and categorize it. Would you suggest this as being Urban Fantasy?
JW: Thanks Steve. ‘The Variant’ is a bit difficult to categorize, for sure. When I first start writing it I was really into Palahniuk as far as writing style goes, but my story I had to tell was about my biggest fear: losing my (at the time) 2 year old son. I’ve heard it described as a sci-fi thriller, and I’ve also heard people refer to it simply as “horror.” Take your pick!
SS: What inspired ‘The Variant’?
JW: I was really into the band Coheed and Cambria and had become friends with the Drummer, Josh Eppard. He had a hip-hop group called Weerd Science where he talked about abductions by aliens and other phenomenon that supposedly happened to his family. It sparked an idea in my head along with my greatest fear. It sort of just came together.
SS: Now, in early 2018 you released ‘Candy.’ Correct me if I’m wrong, but you wrote this as a Patreon style release, right? Delivering a new chapter each week? Did you enjoy writing that book or were you stressed the entire time?
JW: Ha! Candy was a blast, and yes, I released it chapter-by-chapter every Saturday until it was finished. It was a challenge to myself for sure. I had no idea what was happening to Candy next, and it kept it exciting.
SS: Would you ever consider doing that again? Writing and releasing a book with new chapters each week?
SS: ‘Candy’ is more of an action/adventure type book, more Quentin Tarantino than Wes Craven. Was the reception of the book what you expected?
JW: I’m very thankful for the type of response I got. I think “most” people got it, and if they didn’t, they didn’t have to continue. This was actually a pivotal time in my writing career where I found out what was important — involving and including fans in the process. It was also awesome writing as basically a female version of myself.
SS: Only a month or so after ‘Candy’ released, you had your classic novel drop, ‘Tamer Animals.’ That Francois Vaillancourt cover still is jaw-dropping three years later. What was the inspiration to writing this stunning, coming-of-age/folklore novel?
JW: There are actually a few factors that caused ‘Tamer Animals’ to come into being. I guess the first of which was the obvious: ‘The Variant’ was out in the world, and suddenly I’d been deemed a horror writer. Of course my short stories going out into various anthologies probably didn’t help that image. But I’d set my sights on “horror.” Around the same time, a band I really enjoy called “Other Lives” had an album of the same name. The singer crooned the chorus: “We’re just Tamer Animals. We’re the same as animals.” It clicked with me. On top of that, I’d just read “The Troop” by Nick Cutter and “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac Mccarthy, and I guess you could say they added to the soup that became ‘Tamer Animals.’
SS: ‘Tamer Animals’ has a very specific theme or plot that you touch upon in the afterword. When the book was released, do you think many people picked up on that?
JW: Funnily enough, I don’t really know. Even worse, by the end of the book, I think I was just as confused as Paul was about what the message really is. I think at the end of the day the themes will play on everyone’s mind differently, and that’s okay.
SS: Roughly a year later we got the ‘Rotten Little Things’ novella, which acts as a ‘Tamer Animals’ prequel. Was it fun to revisit that world?
JW: It was! Although that book is not necessarily “fun” by any stretch of the imagination. I definitely had a story to tell, something that had popped into my mind while driving one day and demanded to be written.
SS: I would suspect we’d get a sequel or another release set in the ‘Tamer Animals’ world at some point. Is that something you’d like to do? If so, have you made any progress on that?
JW: You weren’t supposed to ask this question! Just kidding. Yes, there is a third book in the works, though it’s currently paused. It’s actually about halfway done, and hopefully will see the light of day within the next couple years.
SS: After ‘Rotten Little Things’ you teamed up with Jay Sigler (author of Train Thoughts) for ‘Jerry’s Book Sucks: The Book.’ This book was really left field from TA and RLT. More humorous, borderline bizarro and more expansive in scope. Looking back at it now, how do you see that book in your repertoire? Does it hold up for you?
JW: To this day, JBS is my favorite thing I’ve ever released. I know that sounds crazy, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had doing something creative. I love the end product, even if it’s a bit out there (especially for horror fans taste). But I think the humor is smart, the messages strong, and the trip an absolute blast. I think the problem with the reception of JBS lies in the fact that some found it a string of random events with no point. Funnily enough, the sequel has been done for some time (and will see the light of day eventually) with a third planned. Every bit of that story has a point.
SS: Man, I didn’t know that! That’s awesome that you are still grinding away in that world. Since ‘Jerry’s Book Sucks: The Book’ you’ve been pretty much locked and focused on the Reality Bleeds series. I know that you’ve now stepped away from that series and left it in the hands of the other author. Was it a relief for you to step away? Did you use it as a catalyst to dive back into your projects you’d put on the back burner?
JW: Yes, and YES. Listen, I love the idea behind Reality Bleed and I think the first four books definitely hold up as an epic space horror saga. The problem is simple. For anyone out there wondering if it’s a good idea to commit to a fast-paced release series while your mom is dying, it’s not.
SS: I couldn’t imagine. Seriously, my condolences, Justin. Losing a parent is never easy.
A tough sentiment to follow, so my apologies for switching topics, but let’s look to the future. What’s next for Mr. Woodward? You’ve announced a Death Head’s Press Splatter Western is coming. How is that progressing? What else are you working on?
JW: I’m happy to say I’m nearly finished with my Splatter Western “Here Comes The Sun.” It’s dark, it’s violent, and it’s a bloody fun time (if your idea of fun includes a box of tissues and a night light). After that, I plan to finally release my first short story collection sometime in early 2022. I have at least two more I’d like to finish before the end of 2022. One being a coming of age story about a small town murder mystery mixed with plenty of emotion, the other is my first swing at a dark fantasy novel called CASTLEMANIA! Can’t wait to release that madness on the world.
SS: That all sounds great!
JW: Thanks again Steve!
There we go! It looks like we’ll be getting a bunch of awesome new stuff coming from Woodward. If you’ve not checked out his work, please do so! He also has some fantastic short stories in a number of anthologies.
To find more of his work, check out the link to his Goodreads Page!