Monday, January 16, 2023

The 40 But 10 Interview Series - Justin Bryant


New year, new interview series! Looking forward into 2023, I have decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Justin Bryant is joining us today! Justin is the author of the 2013 memoir ‘Small Time.’ His fiction has appeared in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Monkeybicycle, Thin Air, and others. He is a 2008 graduate of the MFA program at New York University and lives in Raleigh with his wife Sarah and their dogs Roxy and Bryce.


What made you start writing?

I started keeping a journal one year when I lived in England, and I found myself looking forward to sitting down to record my day every evening. Because it wasn’t really creative, I soon became a little frustrated, and I thought, ‘Well, I love reading fiction, so why not try to write some myself?’ The very first story I wrote and submitted was published, in The Iconoclast in 1991. Then reality kicked in and I picked up several hundred rejections before I was published again.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I coach soccer for a living, which fortunately allows me a decent amount of free time to play with my dogs, work on my car, and play tennis. My life’s main priority is making sure my wife and my dogs are happy.

How do you celebrate when you finish writing a new book?

I enjoy this question because I’m not sure I have actually ever celebrated this. Maybe I should. It feels good to finish a first draft, but I know I have years of revision ahead of me, so I tend to be pretty understated about it.

Describe your book in three words.

Something is wrong

Would you and your main character(s) get along?

Yes, but they’re a lot younger than me and they would probably find me tremendously boring. They walk through jungles chasing supernatural jaguars and shark-human hybrids, while I sit on my couch with my wife and dogs, which is just the way I like it.

If you could spend the day with another author, who would you choose and why?

Olga Tokarczuk. It would be fascinating just to sit and talk about books and writing and try to get an insight into how her mind works and the way she sees the world.

What are some of your favorite books and/or authors?

The novel that made the greatest impact on me was ‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann. ‘Memoirs of a Survivor’ by Doris Lessing and ‘Cancer Ward’ by Solzhenitsyn are up there. ‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates will always be a favorite. Most people find ‘Jude the Obscure’ depressing, but that book is special to me. I love Graham Greene, Peter Matthiessen, Fitzgerald, John Fowles, Donna Tartt, Colson Whitehead, Bolano, Nabokov, Valeria Luiselli…I could go on forever and I’m forgetting a lot.

What is your favorite book from childhood?

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

What are you currently reading?

‘Minor Characters’ by Joyce Johnson. Her memoir of growing up around the Beat Generation writers, and how the women in that movement were marginalized or trivialized. It’s a fascinating book and her prose is incredible.

Do you DNF books?

 Yes, definitely. Life is short and I’ve already lived 56 years of it. If I don’t connect with a book, I put it down and move on with no hard feelings.


The Big West: a largely unexplored region of Calem, Central America, where time and gravity obey different laws, where sloped lakes and mineral snow decorate the landscape, and where a grand resort hotel existing simultaneously in three different eras hides from the modern world. As satellites rain from the sky during a solar storm, Geoff has come here to fulfill a mission he once believed in, but increasingly suspects is pointless. Is it just a malarial fever dream, or are his dead parents really here? Who is the shark-human hybrid always waiting ahead in the shadows? What business does a mercenary known only as ‘the tall man’ have with him? And is there any way for him to find his way back home?


In Thunder from a Clear Blue Sky, Justin Bryant creates a world as irresistible as it is unsettling, as soulful as it is strange. While a rag-tag team of military operatives navigates dystopian conditions, from extreme weather and technology blackouts to a fabled jaguar and a mysterious mercenary, this fever dream of a novel becomes increasingly feverish. But for all its beautiful ambition, at its heart lies a simple and powerful tale of love, longing, and devotion. I adore this bold, poignant book!

 - Jennifer Wortman, author of This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love


"Readers who enter the world of Justin Bryant's Thunder From a Clear Blue Sky will find themselves in a setting at once familiar and elusive. Here, a young man opts for military service as a way to alleviate his student loans -- and soon finds himself enmeshed in a surreal conflict, seemingly without end. Things get stranger from there, and that's before the solar storms come into play. Its reference points aren't the ones you'd expect -- Paul Auster's In the Country of Last Things, Lucius Shepard's Viator, and Adolfo Bioy Casares's The Invention of Morel all come to mind -- and its destination is wholly unexpected. This is a journey worth taking."

 - Tobias Carroll, author of Ex-Members and Reel

Buy the book here: 

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