A small college town's populace is tied, with complicity, to the brutal, bullying, attack of a teenage boy by four of his classmates. Soon, heated rumors of a possible hate crime surface. Injustice is a hungry beast.
AN ADULTEROUS FATHER IS HAUNTED BY HIS PAST -- HIS WIFE LIVES HER LIFE IN A RIGID SHELL -- THEIR SON, UNTETHERED, DISCOVERS THE SECRET THEY SHARE WITH DEEPIKA, A VISITOR TO THEIR TOWN FROM NORTHERN INDIA.
"I see all of these people. They're living and breathing and acting on their basest impulses. I lay in a coma. They live. I hover over all of them, all at once. I can see my body, motionless, wired up, adrift. And I can find out why this happened. This is my story and I won't remember any of it when--if--I wake up. But I'll try to remember--I'll try damn hard."
While Chris Bullet remains unresponsive in a coma, his skull shattered, he floats above dire circumstance. In this phantom state, compelled to witness his past once more, the family's darkest secrets, hidden over generations, will be aired.
Our guest author today is Justin Bog, Author of Wake Me Up.
What incident influenced you to write this story?
A friend of a friend (don’t stories often begin this way?) began to stop payments on a property co-owned by another friend. I never knew why, and began to think up a fictional reason for this to take place and created my own dysfunctional family. The successful father and husband began to spiral out of control and his family unit then paid a dark price. This is at the heart of Wake Me Up. Then, it also became a story about a teenage son struggling to stay alive after a bullying attack by four of his classmates. He tells the story while comatose and sees his father’s actions, along with those of his mother and the woman his father had an affair with the previous spring.
You have many stories within the story. What is your favorite story?
I love seeing characters, sub-characters, interacting with the main characters, and each of these characters has a story to tell, is the hero or heroine of his or her own life’s own tale. I love the background story of The Chess King, the grandfather of the teenage narrator, who has always chosen his own path, and most of the time is seen as being driven by his own selfish compulsions. At one point in his illustrious life as a gem and optical glass seller, he was approached by the CIA to keep his ears open, and to protect him from possible kidnapping while in international waters.
Why does Chris, your main character, refer to his parents by their first names?
I find Chris becoming more and more dissociated from his family, and in his dark, out-of-body state he even calls himself Chris while trying to relate what is happening to him, possibly so that he will wake up from the coma. I’ve known several kids who call their parents by their first names. It’s jarring to hear, at first, but then I realize it’s done with respect. Chris may not have that much respect for what his parents did, and this also is at play. I believe his parents fascinate him as he witnesses their actions from this astral plane, and their names have always been of interest, nicknames, their two separate last names.
Did you feel sorry for any of the characters and why?
As in real life as well, I feel sorry for people who are victims of senseless violence. I do feel sorry for the narrator. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time and people who where prone to violence and different viewpoints chose their actions. I wrote the book as a response to the Matthew Shepherd murder, to shine a light on homophobia. In Wake Me Up, homophobia causes the destruction of a teenage boy, and so much more in this town over this one weekend.
Would you say this is a hate crime or a crime of opportunity from a group of angry young men?
It is a hate crime, but it’s turned on its head by assumptions and a shaky eyewitness, and the fact that the narrator hasn’t fully identified yet as a gay teenager. He has yet to struggle with coming out to his parents. The beating decided this for him. In Montana law of this time period, October 2004, it would not be labelled a hate crime.
What laws would you like to see enacted to improve the safety of the gay community?
Laws that protect gay people from being fired, from being kicked out of their rental apartments, from attending the colleges of their choice, from being kicked out of these same colleges. There is no Federal law in place that covers these things. There are still dozens of states where gay people have no protections from these and more things, even if they are allowed to get married. In the current climate, I don’t see civil rights, equal rights for gay citizens becoming better. There seems to be a wish to turn back the clocks against many minorities, not only gay people, to a time of fear against anyone who looks or acts different, and this is appalling in so many ways.
What is your current project?
I am finishing a long collection of four dark and supernatural horror novellas, some of which are just shy of being novel length. I will release each one separately with an original dark short story and then publish a complete edition by the end of 2017. Half of these stories are finished and awaiting editing.
What book are you currently reading?
I’m reading one of the most thrilling suspense novels titled Security, by Gina Wohlsdorf, and it is a doozy of a tale about a luxury hotel and complex near Santa Barbara that is a week from opening, and the skeletal staff is racing around the 20-floor building trying to make sure everything is perfect, and secure, with state of the art surveillance systems and a crack security guard team in place, running drills, when someone begins to murder them one at a time. It’s the best kind of beach book.
***Thank you, Justin for taking the time to answer my questions.
Justin Bog is a member of the ITW: International Thriller Writers.
Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and raised in Granville, Ohio by two artists and teachers who met in graduate art school, Justin pursued his own creative path at the University of Michigan. He then received an MFA from Bowling Green State University in Fiction.
Justin moves every twelve years, with three chapters completed. The Michigan years helped a younger Justin see life, all yearnings, as a possibility, while the Sun Valley, Idaho chapter taught Justin to dig deeper, see life as an intricate and rich source for new stories to tell, and now, living in Anacortes, Washington, Justin feels at home. The water is his muse and many of his current tales are set in this island area. Justin lives on Fidalgo Island with his mate of almost 30 years and his long coat German shepherd, Kipling, and his two barn cats, Ajax The Gray and Eartha Kitt’n. R.I.P. Zippy!