I recently had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Crimson Pact author, Justin Swapp, about “The Transition,” a story featured in the anthology. As a writer, I’m often intrigued by the process of other authors and the mysterious wellspring of ideas that feed us with so many possibilities. “The Transition” is one of those stories that make you wonder. It sets up an interesting premise…but you’ll have to read it to find out more. Not going to give any spoilers here.
The Crimson Pact is a collection of short stories and flash that build on the introductory tale about demons loosed upon the universe and the people who’ve banded together to fight them. Like me, Justin has a flash piece in the anthology.
Flash fiction is a short short story told in a thousand words or less. Like poetry, its forced brevity compels for a tighter presentation, while still having all the classic story elements of a protagonist, conflict, obstacles, and resolution. However, some of these may be hinted at on account of the limited word count. It’s a challenging literary format.
So, with that preface, let me introduce you to Justin Swapp:
Well, let’s start with a synopsis of your story.
“The Transition” is a flash fiction story about a twenty-year-old man named Sloan who is visiting Spain as an exchange student. One moment he is studying at a café like normal, and the next he finds himself in a really strange encounter with an old, eccentric man. And the conversation quickly turns into a tragedy with a very interesting twist at the end that, I believe, leaves the reader wanting to continue with the story.
That’s the short it.
Okay. I think that still leaves some mystery for those who haven’t yet read “The Transition.” Let me ask, because often when I read, I try to read between the lines in terms of what the author brings to the story. Have you spent time in Spain? Were you an exchange student?
I was born in Spain, and I later served an LDS mission there. So, I have quite bit of time and experience with Spain and its culture. It’s a beautiful place to be, and the café is the center of social life.
For example, it’s very common for total strangers to just walk up to you and try to have a full-blown conversation, almost as if you were old friends, just because you are a foreigner.
That’s interesting. Looks like your life came full circle with the mission.
Yes, it did.
You’ve partially answered this, but where did the idea for “The Transition come from?
It was kind of serendipitous. Before I learned about the opportunity to write for The Crimson Pact anthology, I was coming home from work, and I had this interesting idea surface in my mind about somebody sitting in a café, having an odd conversation. Initially, I was going to have a couple of immortal people have a rendezvous of sorts after many, many years of being apart. The conversation would be mysterious, and curious, and lead to some kind of throw down. Originally I envisioned this as the start to a novel.
When I read the submission guidelines, I found out that it was not only okay, but also encouraged to leverage any existing stories or characters that we had created. So, I started considering different ideas I’d written down. Once I had remembered this idea, I thought that it might be an interesting piece for the anthology. Of course, the immortal idea was probably too big for the flash story, so I modified that into the twist at the end.
I actually have an interesting idea for the continuation story. It’s similar, perhaps, to how you approached your story. It would seem that you wrote your anthology story thinking that there would be a next story. I did the same thing. With “The Transition,” it reads like a first chapter to a novel. There’s definitely a hook at the end, and there’s a lot more of it to come.
I do like that ending. I want to stay away from spoilers, but “The Transition” is really fascinating in what you propose, how that’s conveyed. With your follow-up, can you share a teaser with us?
I was just going back and forth with Paul, the anthology’s editor, about that today. The hero learns that the transfer was a broader event than he knew. He deals with the ramifications of the event, and eventually has to come to terms with his role in everything as it all comes to a head.
How long have you been writing?
Oh, I’ve probably been at it for four or five years is all. When I put a number out there, my wife always corrects me. She says it’s been much longer (making sure I acknowledge her patience with me). I’m going to say about five years.
Tell us some about the projects you’re working on.
I’m currently focused on a young adult fantasy novel called The Magic Shop. Here’s a little blurb I wrote on the story line:
Troubled Marcus and Ellie think all is normal in the world until they are left to tend their grandparents’ Magic Shop.
Here’s the synopsis:
Marcus is a troubled youth. When his grandparents decide it would be good for him to tend the family business, a Magic Shop, Marcus is thrown into a world that he never knew existed. Not only is the family business a front, but Marcus learns that he has been marked as a dead man from the time he was born.
Marcus tries to learn to develop his powers before the Dun-Bahr find him and assimilate the magic he was born with, but can’t use. Will he survive? Will he find his parents? First he must discover the secret his grandparents have been keeping from him all these years. It all comes down to the Magic Shop.
I like that.
Thanks. So there is that book. I’m probably only a few chapters away from finishing the first draft. Kind of exciting. Kind of scary. Not sure how I’m going to end it. It’s one of those kinds of books I could just keep coming up with ways to keep it going. Kind of weird to be about done with the novel you have spent some much time with, you know?
Looks like you have a lot of questions to answer there.
Yeah. [laughs] I also have another novel that I started before The Magic Shop called The Cross Chronicles. It’s about an orphaned boy with magic origins that has been hidden away in a secret safe house for magic kids. Eventually, the bad guys come calling, and the main character has to discover his past before he can move forward.
Is that one finished?
Not quite, but it’s about three-quarters done.
So, you’re also juggling a few.
Yeah, a few novels, plus a bunch of short stories.
That sounds all interesting. I’m especially looking forward to the short story follow-up to see what happens with Sloan since I’ve read “The Transition.” Best of luck with your writing.
Thank you. You too.
To learn more about Justin, be sure to visit his website, http://www.justinswapp.com.