It is our honour to welcome author Justin Alcala to the Hangout. Justin “grew up near the South Side of Chicago in that haunted house every neighborhood has.” As well as writing novels he is a blogger, folklore enthusiast and nerdologist. Most of his tales take place in The Plenty Dreadful universe, a “deranged supernatural version of the modern world.” His latest novel “Dim Fairy Tales” will be released in late 2019 by AllThingsThatMatterPress.
Justin, welcome to the Hangout. Tell us all about yourself and what makes you tick when you aren’t writing!
Just look up peculiar in the dictionary and you’ll find my picture. I grew up near the South Side of Chicago in that haunted house every neighborhood has. I wrote homemade comics and read Halloween library books year round. I played Dungeons and Dragons, ran a local monster hunting group and watched horror movies. To be honest, not much has changed.
Fast forward ten years, and after my father’s death, I decided to go through life all solo artist style. I worked full time in order to attend several different colleges, but eventually settled on majoring in English at Roosevelt University in order to continue my passion of being weird. I worked through corporate world (yuck) while being an alleycat with friends, always a closet case nerd at heart. Then I met my wife and life truly changed.
My wife, who has her own fantastic story, wasn’t the pediatrician she is today. We met during her last year of college in performing arts. Yes, she was a bookworm-actress, and our second or third date was me going to see her play a fairy queen in some twisted storefront stage performance. This woman was just as unique as me, and today we have our beautiful daughter, Lily who is just as wonderfully outlandish.
Today, when I’m not with my beloved Adams Family, I’m off doing something extremely nerdy. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to write full time, and even when I’m not writing…I’m writing. I still play roleplaying games with my buddies, dreaming up epic plots for them. My two year old has one upped my addiction for books, and we go to the library at least once a week for new fairy tales. I read books (Andrew Smith, Christopher Moore and Jim Butcher to name a few) in my happy place on the porch and work out daily in my array of superhero shirts. Like I said, just look up peculiar in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of me.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
Great question. I’d say there’s a lot of the people and places I love in my stories, in addition to my own personality. Chicago, the city I’ve loved for thirty plus years, is in the main backdrop of The Plenty Dreadful universe. However, it’s more the wonderfully offbeat people that I meet daily that creep their way onto the pages. As for experiences, I’ve had a lot of them that people might not believe, from being hunted by a supposed vampire at a goth club to being on a reality tv show in Las Vegas. I try to incorporate that awkwardness, excitement or eerieness into tales for readers to love.
Tell us about where you live!
I’m still kind of adapting to my new home. I lived in Chicago for all of my life, except one wild year that I spent in Las Vegas with my sister and niece. That is until today. My wife’s career sent us to Augusta GA, home of the Masters. While there’s been a period of adjustment in culture, landscape and people, it’s starting to grow on me. They’re just as weird as Chicagoans, which is delicious.
If you could travel anywhere in or out of this world, where would it be?
Where do I start? I’m going to Coruscant to meet the diverse races and cultures of the Star Wars universe, then to Faerun in order to party with Elminster. I might stop in Middle-earth, but I’m definitely not going to Westeros. Everyone there dies.
Where did you come up with the idea for your story?
Sorry dudes and dudettes, but this is going to be a cliché, but honest answer. There’s no one place. It’s mostly the books I’ve read, grounded and peppered with gritty real life experiences. I add entertaining people and places I’ve stumbled into so that readers can enjoy these same mavericks of life. Then there’s Zorgon, the elemental in my basement. He gives me some great ideas too.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I can never say this enough. I love storytelling. I get a real kick out of the idea that I can create stories and then give it to other people to enjoy. It’s fantastic. Stories entertain, teach us truths and let us understand ourselves. In my first decade of writing, I’ve been fortunate enough to have four novels published and multiple short stories in articles magazines/blogs. I don’t look to stop now, and will likely have to have my Spiderman decal laptop pried from my cold stiff fingers, and in a hurry, because I totally plan on coming back as undead.
Justin, thank you for dropping by the Hangout. Where can we find you online?
My personal website’s blog:
My Twitter handle is…