Interview with Justin M. Kiska, Author of Now & Then

23 Mar 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Now & Then?

Now & Then is a time-shift police procedural set in a highly fictionalized version of my own hometown.

In the spring of 1981, Parker City is rocked by a series of brutal murders. Unthinkable crimes the likes of which are unheard of in the close-knit community. Under great pressure from the powers-that-be, it is made clear to newly minted Parker City Police Detectives Ben Winters and Tommy Mason that their first case could very well be their last if they can’t catch the killer.  Decades later, after distinguished careers in law enforcement, Ben and Tommy find themselves on the eve of retirement. But in their final days on the job, their very first case comes back to haunt them in a heart-wrenching twist, leaving everyone to wonder – did they get it wrong all those years ago?  Has the killer been on the loose for decades?  The investigation unfolds simultaneously in the ‘80s and the present as the case of the Spring Strangler looms large over Parker City.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

It sort of happened by accident.  I never intended on being a writer.  For the last twenty years I’ve been a theatre producer.  Back in 2005, I wrote an interactive murder mystery for my theatre’s season.  It was one of the mysteries where the audience gets involved and helps solve the case.  Well, it was a huge hit.  Two years later, I wrote another.  The interactive mysteries became so popular at the theatre, I started producing them as special events outside of the theatre.  That was over fifteen years and fifty mysteries ago.  A few years ago, some of the performers in the mysteries thought I should try writing a full novel.  So I did.  That first novel, Now & Then, is now the first book in my new Parker City Mysteries series from Level Best Books.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

A new book has recently made it on my list of favorites.  Hallie Rubenhold’s The Five is a fascinating read.  Like so many others, I’ve always been intrigued by the case of Jack the Ripper – the greatest unsolved mystery in history.  Rubenhold’s book looks at the lives of Jack’s victims and shows us they aren’t what we’ve always been told.  Which then begs the question, if the true nature of a killer’s victims is never understood, is it actually possible to solve the case?  Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express definitely makes the list because it has one of my favorite detectives and the story was so original (for its time).  My favorite historical mystery has always been The Alienist by Caleb Carr, which I read long before the television series.  I’d also say that The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson has been a favorite since I first read it when I was in high school.  It’s hard to single out just one more when I love Michael Connelly’s Bosch series, C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries, and William Martin’s Peter Fallon novels.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I think since my background is in entertainment, I might take a different approach.  I’d want to have British actor David Suchet on the show and ask him what it was like playing one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time and what he did to prepare for the role of Hercules Poirot.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Creating characters out of nothing.  A good story idea can only get you so far.  But I think it’s the characters that make it real for the readers and draws them in.  There have been so many times I’ve been reading a book but just could not get into it because the characters weren’t well developed or interesting – even if the situations in which they found themselves were.  So, if you don’t have the right characters to bring your story to life, I don’t think the readers can enjoy it as much.

What is a typical day like for you?

Sadly, my typical day does not include nearly as much writing as I would like.  As a theatre producer, I’m always working on a show, if not two at a time.  Whether it’s rehearsals, design work, or administrative tasks, I spend most of my day doing everything that helps to make the “magic” happen on stage.  But that doesn’t mean I’m not spending time thinking about the next thing I’m going to write or working through plot details and making notes.  Because when I do have the time I’ve set aside to sit down and write, I’ve already thought everything through.  Granted, during the pandemic shut down last year, I had six months where I was able to spend hours each day writing.  Which is how I was able to finish the first draft of Vice & Virtue, the sequel to Now & Then, in such a short time.

What scene from Now & Then was your favorite to write?

I can’t say there’s one specific scene that was my favorite, though I did really enjoy writing the opening because it set the tone for what was to come.  My favorite parts to write are the scenes where Ben and Tommy, the detectives in the series, are bantering back and forth.  They’re best friends who grew up together, so they can talk to one another like no one else can.  So even when tensions are running high and they find themselves struggling to make sense of the case, they’ll pick on each other or crack jokes to lighten the mood.  I really like being able to show how close these two guys are and how well they work together and can still have fun while being focused on the serious job they have to do.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

If I did have a quote I lived by, it probably wouldn’t be suitable for print.

Justin M. Kiska is the author of the new book Now & Then

Connect with Justin M. Kiska

Author Site


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