In this week's episode, I welcome Justin Alcala! Justin is an author and tabletop gamer and his episode is packed with crazy, amazing stories, including about growing up in a house that was built on behalf of the South Side Mafia in Chicago with a tunnel to the house across the street. He shares about how his daughter has informed his work, along with his advice for aspiring artists. (Fun fact: the cover image is Justin's personal logo artwork!)


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Episode 68 - Justin Alcala

[00:00:00] Lindsey Dinneen: Hello, and welcome to Artfully Told, where we share true stories about meaningful encounters with art.

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[00:02:11] Hello. Welcome back to another episode of Artfully Told. I'm your host Lindsey and I am excited to have as my guest today, Justin Alcala, who is an author, tabletop gamer, self-proclaimed nerd ninja from Chicago. And I am just so excited to hear exactly what that means, because I know there's a rich history I can already tell that goes into, to becoming who that person is. So thank you so much for being here, Justin. I appreciate you.

[00:02:46] Justin Alcala: Thank you. Thank you. You can add literary misfit too.

[00:02:50] Lindsey Dinneen: I like it. I like it. Fantastic.

[00:02:53] Justin Alcala: And dork.

[00:02:54] Lindsey Dinneen: But now, oh, I can't wait to hear all about all of it. So I will just love if you wouldn't mind telling us a little bit about, you know, your background, maybe how you got started into art in the first place, and then what's occupying your life now.

[00:03:10] Justin Alcala: Ooh. All right. We'll start off with a doozy. So I was, I'm a, I'm a novelist, short story writer. And I was sort of my background I was raised in the sootier part of the south side of Chicago. By no means that I have it bad, but, you know, observed some colorful events here and there that everyday people might not be witness to. But that plus I went to a little more stringent Catholic school and, and sort of union of the two taught me "Be quiet, comply. Don't be weird." And what I realized though is, you know, life is weird. And so those, you know, those curious thoughts, the innocently, spooky, funny, kinky ones, you know, that's really what makes a human who they are that's hard to ignore. So once I figured that out and I figured out that I wanted to get into writing during college I just sort of combined it all sort to start my writing career.

[00:04:02] Lindsey Dinneen: Wow. Okay. Yeah. And so having the experience of feeling like you had to conform and fit a certain mold, how did that inform what do you do now?

[00:04:15] Justin Alcala: Yeah, so long story. You know, my parents were blue collar artists. My mom was a painter, my dad, he did glassblowing metal work. He did all sorts of things, but, you know, to, to make ends meet. They, they both worked very hard. And I was in Catholic school and there were many rules. And, you know, so you have these interesting things where you're you're in the-- we'll call it industrial world-- growing up in, and long story short, after a while it started feeling wrong to always stay quiet. Always I was the little pipsqueak nerd by the way. And so opening my mouth either could get me beat up. It could get me in trouble with the nuns' ruler. Or just get me funny looks. So I stayed quiet for a long time, but then there's just one day where, when I was going to college believe it or not, I started off, I was going to be a police officer. And thank God I didn't go down that one because I probably couldn't fight, fight my way out of a wet paper bag.

[00:05:11] I had always been writing since I was as a kid, my poor buddies, John and Dave, and all of them. Johnny, I would write them comics and notice sort of graphic novels and other small pieces and forced them to read them. But one day I was in college. I was taking an English class and I had that Eureka moment where I'm like, I'm already always writing. I had been tabletop writing for a while as well, just you know, my friends playing Dungeons and Dragons, all those great stuff. And I realized that I loved it. And so I started indulging into it and kind of talking to professors, and as well I knew a couple people who knew editors for publishers and it kind of just sparked off from there. And you know, eventually you get some good encouragement, you get bad encouragement too, but you're getting good encouragement and people saying, "Hey, you know, you're really good at this." And you know, that was, holy smokes, 15-16 years ago. And now, poof, what do you know? You know, we have four novels out, about 30 publications and still going strong and it's just been, it's been fantastic.

[00:06:16] Lindsey Dinneen: That's awesome. Yeah. I know sometimes it can be hard too to finally let your voice be heard if you're not used to doing so, but kudos to you for getting to that place and, and, and, you know, recognizing that it, it's not only okay to be different, it's great to be different. I mean, people are unique and there are lots of different types of people who sort of end up liking the same things. Like, you know, I'm sure you met a whole group of people who were all tabletop gamers that just got along super well. And it's not like you by yourself anymore, you know, it's this group of people.

[00:06:54] Justin Alcala: You unionize, right?

[00:06:55] Lindsey Dinneen: There you go. I like it. I like it a lot. So, you know, as somebody who is not as familiar with that world, you had mentioned writing, tabletop writing, and I'm curious, because again, this is I, I'm not super familiar. So I'm just curious when you play these games, can you describe for those of us who don't know what it's like when you're playing them? So are you simultaneously writing it as you go?

[00:07:21] Justin Alcala: Oh yeah, I'm gonna warn you right here. This is about to get as nerdy as you can. This is going to sound painfully geeky, but let's, let's walk you through the process. So long story short you, and a couple of other people, you get together, you pick your game you want to play that's kind of your environment. That's your world. You know, you can think of fan fiction. It's, it's, it's what you want your protagonist to stay in. Your friends they go ahead. If you're going to be the storyteller. They pick their protagonist and they create them. And there's all sorts of rules that takes a couple of years of advanced math to figure out. But once you do all that, you are, you are their enabler. You tell their story, you move them through the story arc based off of this world that you've sort of created. And through rules of dice and stuff, you find out actually what the answers are. But what I found out was as I was going along, you know, everyone starts off pretty painful. That's the fun thing about the beginning is there are so many parallels with just writing a book, writing a graphic novel writing whatever, your novella, coincide completely with you just sitting around eating Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew with your nerdy friends while you play elves and wizards. So yeah, that's, that's in a nutshell and I promise it would be nerdy and holy smokes probably nerdier that I thought it would be.

[00:08:42] Lindsey Dinneen: No, I love it. And I do appreciate it. It is something that's really interesting to me, but I haven't dabbled in it yet. So I'm, I'm always curious to know, okay, these art forms that I haven't learned about yet to like, just tell me all the details. I, I love the nerdy nitty gritty.

[00:08:58] Justin Alcala: You put your, you had to put your, your guard down in order to enjoy, but once you do, holy smokes, I've, I've had some of the most serious uptight people play these games and afterwards, "Why can't we do this again?" It's a lot of fun, I promise.

[00:09:14] Lindsey Dinneen: It sounds like, it sounds like a great blend of creativity and storytelling combined with the element of a certain level of chance, I guess, based on the dice and things like that. So you kind of have your story going, but then you also get the elements. I don't know, sounds like real life to me. You, you plan ahead. You have this idea for your protagonist and then life throws you a couple dice that you wouldn't have chosen.

[00:09:43] Justin Alcala: Absolutely. Absolutely. And then to add to that, to piggyback to that, and then you're doing it all with your buddies and friends. So it's a relaxed environment. It's a lot of fun. You get to sort of just play chalkboard with your own brain. It's a great, yeah.

[00:09:59] Lindsey Dinneen: Well, and then, so I'm, I'm interested. Is it, how long do these games typically last?

[00:10:05] Justin Alcala: Oh, goodness. These days, so now that I have, now that I have children, I've had to taper it down a bit. So I you'll meet maybe once a week or so if all schedules workout and you'll do it for three or four hours long ago before my friends and I, the basement trolls, we had our responsibilities. You could do it all day, 13, 14 hours, show up to someone's house before lunch. Midnight, one in the morning, you're heading home and finally calling it quits for the day. So it all depends on your group, but they can go for a very long time and then they can go their campaigns themselves goes for years.

[00:10:45] Lindsey Dinneen: Wow. Oh my goodness. That's amazing.

[00:10:48] Justin Alcala: I told you.

[00:10:49] Lindsey Dinneen: It's commitment for you. I mean, I used to think that one game of Monopoly was commitment, but no.

[00:10:56] Justin Alcala: Oh no. This is a whole 'nother league.

[00:10:59] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, man. That's fantastic. Okay. And so obviously that, you know, sparked this interest in and realization that like, "Oh, if I can do this here, then I can also, I can write my own books." So tell me about the process of, of maybe your very first book. 'Cause I would imagine, and you can tell me if I'm incorrect, but I would imagine that might've been the hardest one just because the whole process was newer to you. But tell me about that.

[00:11:26] Justin Alcala: The first hurdle is always the worst hurdle, right? And I think I was, what I was doing if I can jump back into the way back machine, I was already writing, but I just didn't have the courage to really take it seriously. And so, because, you know, writing something for yourself is fun, but I'm actually creating something and sending it out to the world. That takes a great amount of courage and bravery. And most people, you know, they know they never want to do that. They never want to press that send button. And I think all that gaming actually really did was show me here's some of the other tools for, you know, creating yourself a plot and also gave me the courage to say, it's not that big of a deal. Just try it, do it. But my first book consumed-- which is, I think it came out in 2011 or 2012, its first edition-- was something that I had been brewing on for a long time. I, I grew up in a interesting house on the south side. It was the, some people call it the haunted house. There was, I could go into a whole 'nother story about. There was tunnels from the prohibition under our house and the house across the street from us that connected, but that's a whole 'nother thing, but there was a, it was a kind of a creepy house. And I always liked ghost stories as well.

[00:12:37] And when we'd go to the libraries, I would always pick up The Goosebumps. I'd pick up the scary stories to tell in the dark. And so I had been sitting on those and then along with borrowing my mom's "Interview with the Vampire" book and "Dracula" books, I sort of had all these stored up ideas. And so finally when I had the bravery to create something it was a mismatch, a mishmash of pretty much all of writer's first books are, holy smokes, borrowed his hack. It was a mishmash of everything from Sherlock Holmes, Bram Stoker's" Dracula" and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." And it was all put together in this Victorian London mystery. And I put it together. And when I finally said, "Oh, I think this is great," I sent it out to the world. And then I got rejection and then yeah, I got two rejections, three, four or five. And the only thing that I think really helped me to get that first book published, which if anyone's listening and you're thinking about publishing a book, your first one is by far the hardest one. The only thing that kept me going was that, you know, I, I, I just knew that if you continue, someone's got to be drunk enough or high enough to put it somewhere, right? So eventually I, I did get that all mighty heavenly choir email from publishing, which since unfortunately his closed up, but said, "Hey, we love it. Let's work with it." And it, they assigned me some editors, et cetera, et cetera. And it was a tough process.

[00:14:02] You have to, have to, have to be ready to take very raw, very straightforward opinions and not be afraid. A lot of people can't do that. And I will, I will say early on, I really did struggle with that nowadays. I, I, I ask people to rip me apart. Publisher Parliament House, I was talking to the editors during a production meeting, and I said, "Please, whoever, whichever editor you signed to. I want it extra ripped apart." I needed it. I need this to be torn apart, but early on, it was very difficult, but you go through that process. It's a year or two process of getting it on the pages and making it fit, right? And then you get out and there's no more special feeling than that first book getting out. Nowadays, I look at that first edition. I think I have an old, you know, dog-eared version somewhere in my office and it is cringe worthy, but, but at the time it was, it was amazing. It was a miracle.

[00:15:02] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, of course. And that is, that is so cool, just that moment of holding it in your hands. I bet after all that hard work and the rejections and all the things, and then you just get to hold it and you're like.

[00:15:15] Justin Alcala: Oh my goodness. Please, please, please. There's no-- it doesn't have to be me, but if you have any anybody you follow that's a writer or whatnot, even the big, the biggest of big dogs, even the, you know, Andrew Smith's and Christopher Moore's, every, every purchase counts. Might just be 15 bucks works for you, but every purchase counts towards things and every review is, is a little bit of saying thank you and I love you to those people for the crazy amount of work that you sometimes have to put in the books and authors love doing it. Don't get me wrong, but it does. It's a nice pat on the back.

[00:15:49] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that probably goes for all art forms. Anytime that you have a chance. I'll just get on my soap box for a second here. But anytime you have a chance to show an artist, a little love, even it doesn't even like money is obviously very important. So we have all have bills to pay, but even if it's just like, "Hey, I, I see you. I see what you're doing. Good job." Those kinds of things matter so much. I don't know if you're the same way, Justin, but just those kind of little affirmations --it doesn't have to be anything huge, but it makes a big difference for sure.

[00:16:23] Justin Alcala: For sure. Right. And you know, I've, I've kind of to this day, I, I've, you can say grown thick skin to where I don't need the confirmations, but when I get-- I'm not going to lie-- it kind of gives a little, you know, Thumper from "Bambi" look, my eyes get big. And I think it's, yeah. You know, it does feel nice, but yeah, for sure.

[00:16:47] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. I relate to that. I think especially early on in your career, the more encouragement you can get and constructive criticism, I mean, you have to have both, but the more that you can get feedback the better. But then I do agree that, you know, later on as you're an established professional, and you're like, "Well, I, I do kind of understand how to do this" then, but it is still nice every time. I'll just throw that out there. So. Yep. Absolutely. Well, okay. So we're just, we're going to have to, we're going to have to talk about those prohibition tunnels. I just, I can't let that.

[00:17:19] Justin Alcala: It's a itch that must be scratched, huh?

[00:17:23] Lindsey Dinneen: Tell me about this whole thing.

[00:17:26] Justin Alcala: Not a problem. So I grew up in a house where, you know, some spooky, interesting things happen. I, we, we could go on the debate of what it was if it was explainable or not. But the legend behind the house we had like an old school, you know, that guy in the corner, who's, you know, 70, 80, and he's seen it all in this town. You know, there's always a legend that there's tunnels under our house and he would tell us how you'd see gangsters back in the day go in there into our house and then come out the other house with bags. Or there's a golf course across the street from us as well that, that allegedly the tunnels went through too. And they'd see them coming out. But long story short, the rumor is that Al Capone's south side school squad pretty much, they, they financed those houses for the builders and the catch was that when we need to pretty much run booze, you just comply and you get the house for free, right? When you went into our basement, there was all, it's a creepiest, as creepy as it could be the set of a horror film, cobwebs and cement floors and rafters, but on the walls, it was all just solid and blank except for one little section where it was bricked up, and if you went into the house across the street, which a buddy of mine lived there, same exact thing facing each other and everything. If you went down there, you'd feel cold breezes.

[00:18:48] And we never wanted to open it up. So because obviously that would, you know, it could destroy the structure, but later on in life it was very strange. Later on in life though, you know, it was always myth and legend. I was working the corporate world and this manager came in out of nowhere and said, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I, I used to live on the south side of Chicago." Yeah, well, I lived on the south side. We were both working downtown at the moment and we started comparing notes, turns out his great uncle was the guy who helped build those tunnels in between. And he said that they were paid triple. And this was during a time when jobs were really at an all time low. So they had to take the job, but they were sworn to secrecy. And the only time he said anything was on his death bed, that there were tunnels under there. And I was like, "You've gotta be kidding me. I lived in that house!" You know, he was just trying to tell a fun story. And I was like, "No, no, no, that was my house. That was my house." So turns out to this day, it was true, but also a lot of schools, interesting things happen in between sounds and some weird sightings that we just can't explain. And we think it's maybe the builder of the house or the gangsters that are.

[00:20:02] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, my goodness. That story is fantastic. I think I was just sitting here smiling, but with my mouth open the whole time of like, what?

[00:20:12] Justin Alcala: And obviously these have been, you know, helped me inspire some of my some of the horror stories that I've had in anthologies, because you don't grow up for 18 years in a house like that, not tell any of those stories in other ways.

[00:20:26] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, of course. Oh my goodness. That is wow. Well, that is a very unique like background to draw from. So, I mean, obviously it gave you lots of material if that's any.

[00:20:40] Justin Alcala: Oh yeah. So yeah. You know, and to this day, once again, I mean, these days I'm fearless about it, but you know, you can bring it up to some people and they look at you like, "Okay, this guy is not dealing with a full deck here," but it's a, it's true, weird things that happen in our house. But there were definitely some tunnels in between our houses that the south side mafia used during the prohibition to flip, to flip booze, and funny add on to that story: when I was moving out, my father passed away when I was 18 and I decided I wanted to go and do the, you know, the, the head on out and live my own life story. But my friend and I just out of curiosity said, "Dude, let's see if we could break a breakdown in that wall." We did. And there was another brick wall, clay bricks after that, but the installation there was crumpled up newspapers in between and sure enough, they were from the twenties. They were barely faded and you could barely read some of them, but yeah, they were dated from the 20th, et cetera. It was, it was pretty neat. We didn't go any further. We, we chickened out after that though.

[00:21:40] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, my word. That is amazing. And also I am so curious. Do you know if anything has ever come of those houses? Like, has anyone decided to be like, "Okay, this is historic. We're going to figure out what actually happened. Is there anything like that?"

[00:21:56] Justin Alcala: So regrettably it's quite the opposite. The house across the street, a lawyer bought it and turned it into a business where he just works out of his house. It was a beautiful house too, across the street and our house, unfortunately it had always had, even growing up, so some mild issues with, with it. And then we had a fire that is a whole 'nother story. I had to jump out of a window of my, in my underwear when I was 17 to survive. But after it was repaired from the fire, it was not repaired correctly and the entire walls and everything from the water damage to the firefighters, molded everything up. And I hear it is unfortunately in ruins now.

[00:22:37] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, sorry to hear.

[00:22:39] Justin Alcala: Yeah, I know. I know, but no, that's okay. But so I, you know what we should probably do is go in on it and buy it. And then finally go break out that basement and see if there's any money in there.

[00:22:50] Lindsey Dinneen: Huh? Right, right. Or anything. I'm just like, there could be so much. It's killing me a little bit. There could be so much historical, you know, anything there. It's just fantastic. What a story. Oh, my word.

[00:23:06] Justin Alcala: Yeah. When I was a kid, I was afraid and, you know, that I would tell stories about that. That was going to turn to a Goonies episode where there was skeletons and slides with spikes. And, but now, nowadays I'm thinking, "Ah, there's probably just old garbage in there in between. Who knows?"

[00:23:23] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, probably, but still that's the fun thing, I guess, about being an author is you can create your own ending to it and you don't have to go with what it actually is.

[00:23:32] Justin Alcala: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:23:35] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, that is so fun. Well, I'm curious, I know you're a dad now and congrats on that and I'm.

[00:23:43] Justin Alcala: Thank you so much.

[00:23:44] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. I'm curious how that has informed your work or has it changed? Obviously it's changed your time availability, but has it changed other elements about the way that you produce arts?

[00:23:57] Justin Alcala: Absolutely so, but in a good way. So as far as the schedule goes now, it just means I have to wake up super early. I wake up at 6:00 AM and try to get as much in before I hear the first "Oh, Daddy!"S from my daughter, Lily. But you do have to wake up a little bit earlier, but I think what it's also done is that children are fantastically innocent and they can say these amazingly prolific things to you that is just raw thoughts to them that gets you thinking again, it gets you questioning things, pieces that you might have thought back in the day were overused or just hack as far as stories and ideas. Your kids can really inspire you to do something with them, but it doesn't change your DNA as a writer whatsoever. I mean, I am working on a story right now that will be out 2022, "The Last Stop," which is pretty much a kid's horror book. Think of, you know, the things that probably growing up, you had The Goosebumps, and, and whatnot.

[00:24:52] But in my opinion, and you know, people have scoffed at me before, is like those books for me as a child really helped me out. They were great tools for me. Because if you deny a child, the, the chance to understand that there are things out there that are bad-- you know, there are dark and spooky things out there-- you're also denying them the tools to deal with those things. So for me and my kids, I mean my kids and I, so Halloween spooky stories, it's all fun for them. They are very much acclimated to it. They know scary stories. We do it. We were not The Adams Family about it. We do it in small increments and we have fun with it, but they understand that we do not keep that from them. And it's gone so much as to inspire me to try to go ahead and indulge middle grade writing and see where it takes me as far as writing spooky stories for kids.

[00:25:50] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, I really like that. And I think that you're spot on. I think that sometimes in an effort to want to protect innocence-- and that is noble too-- but in an effort to do so, we sort of veer a little too much on the other side and protect too much instead of giving kiddos an opportunity, especially through stories 'cause what a powerful way too. It's fiction. It's not real. So what a powerful way to share truths about life and get them, you know, to a point where they can learn how to overcome some things that happened that are scary. So, yeah. Kudos to you.

[00:26:27] Justin Alcala: And art. It's so interesting. Because kids get art, you know. Art is creation through aptitudes and inspiration, you know, in order to communicate something wonderful. And you know, and for me, it's using also what's playful, awkward, maybe a little spooky, little dorky to tap into the human element and entertain. And I'll tell you what, kids, I feel like far better than adults, you know, there's a lot of complications that come with adults when it comes to taking in art of any form from painting to writing. It'd be just because you have your, a lot of your own experiences that you filter it through, but kids, they take it, they take the lessons of it. They take the, the metaphors, all of it, and they put it to great use. So, you know, we, I don't think sometimes we give them enough credit when it comes to art and the translation of it, but they're fantastic at it.

[00:27:19] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And it's such a fun, different perspective when you talk to a, a kid about their experience with art versus an adult. And I think, yeah, well, they just have a more, like you said, kind of filtered view because of things that they've gone through or just their perception and things like that. And kids are just like, "Well, it's a butterfly clearly." Like.

[00:27:41] Justin Alcala: Right. Oh my God. And my daughter, it's funny, you know, she can say the most prolific things to me, you know, about, about "Why did you do that, Lily?" And, well, "My heart told me to, it feels right." And I think that's something that everyone should do. And you hear that you sit and you go, wow. And then her next sentence is, " Let's go get some Cheetos." It's the, it's the best of, it's the yin and the yang of life.

[00:28:07] Lindsey Dinneen: I love that. And that's, it kind of sounds like something I would say now though, like.

[00:28:15] Justin Alcala: Right, exactly. Exactly. Right. It's just, it's just a filter.

[00:28:21] Lindsey Dinneen: Oh, that's awesome. Oh my goodness. Well, this is fantastic. And I know that, you know, a big thing that you're passionate about sharing with people is to embrace your, embrace your inner dork or your nerdy side, or what makes you unique. Do you want to share a little bit about maybe some advice you have for somebody who's afraid to put their work out there because they just don't feel like they go along with the majority or, or what's normal, whatever that means.

[00:28:52] Justin Alcala: Yeah, absolutely. The problem is a lot of times, you know, and, and hopefully my contribution to life someday is, is inviting people to embrace what makes them unique, you know, and I do it through stories obviously, but it's just life in general. You know, we have these unique situations in life, strange characters, and people like to suffocate that within themselves. They like to tell themselves, you know, this is nothing society wants me to act this way. I am supposed to interpret how I feel, not by my own, you know, in the words of my daughter, not by my own heart, but by the way people tell me to do things, and we invest far too much in what people think. I will tell you now, the most liberating thing I ever did was, it was just right. Because I'm nerdy and yeah, weird. And I'm a little strange and I just, I wrote it. I got it out. And let me tell you, at first, when I was writing and suffocating all these ideas, people would tell me my writing was just meh. Stepped up and just let it be free. And, and put myself on the pages. People are like, this is fantastic. I could feel the human element of this. The dialogue is great. I, this is, this seems real to me, it's this tangible, even when I write some of the goofiest of things. And so I would encourage anyone to just, you know, metaphorically walk down the street naked, and I'll tell you what.

[00:30:12] People, people you don't need in your lives, they're going to go away. And so people who stick around after they hear your true voice not only will it be liberating for you, but those are the greatest people that will encourage you to the future. And that's not just writing. Obviously for me, the, the lesson is to do with writing, but that's just life in general be you. And I guarantee you, for me, I was me and it really helped me kick off my writing career, but it also just helped me be a happy person. People who know me, where they know what they're going to get. They're going to get some weird, weird, strange talk from me some ideas on what would happen if we could fly through space, goofy, goofy ideas about everything from consumer Lou to Tony, the tiger. But if they're laughing about it, fantastic, that's what you get with me. But you should do the same. You should just stop being who people want you to be and be yourself. It's very rewarding.

[00:31:11] Lindsey Dinneen: Yeah. Thank you for that. I love that advice and I agree something that you said kind of stood out to me too. You know, you're talking about the people who don't need to be in your life will leave. And the people who do need to be in your life will, will stay in the, and there'll be supportive. And I think one element to that too, is the more that we are able to liberate ourselves, the more liberating that can be to other people. And so the more that we're willing to be vulnerable in a sense, and put our true selves out there, I think that opens up opportunities for other people to do the same, where they might feel otherwise nervous or scared too. But then in the context of you being willing to be honest and talk about your failures, talk about your successes, talk about the bumps and the good points, I think it makes a big difference for other people.

[00:32:04] Justin Alcala: Absolutely, absolutely. I think you hit the nail on the head. Once you start seeing other people do it, or once you do it yourself, the other people will inspire you, but and once you start doing it, you will inspire others. And I think it's all very good for the world. We are such a-- I don't want to, I don't want to go on too long-- but we are such a society who just needs approval of others. And I tell you what, that's probably the biggest cancer of my life was when I did do that. And, you know, there are things that dictate it. You know, obviously if you're working a corporate world, you have to have managers' approvals and et cetera. But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about letting other people affect your life. And I think hopefully someday, you know, with, with the, if you pick up one of my books, you, you will get that there will be examples left and right tell you to be yourself.

[00:32:55] Lindsey Dinneen: I love that. And speaking of that, where can we find your work and follow it and be a part of your journey and, and support you?

[00:33:05] Justin Alcala: Oh, yeah, well, you can go to that sort of has a portal to everything. But I'm on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, anything, anywhere where great books are written and, and sold and currently I am-- October 6th, I believe, Parliament House Publishing and I are working on "A Dead End Job." And that will be out. You can pre-order that. Please do, if you can, it's-- you get a little discount if you do it now, but it's a fantastically weird story. And I think I, I'm really proud of it. I think we've really worked hard, the editors and I, in getting it out for readers.

[00:33:43] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. Yes. And I just want to make a quick note and I hope I'm speaking correctly. But pre-orders are really important for book sales. They're really important for the author and for, yeah. So as much as you can support the authors ahead of time and go ahead and pre-order your book, the is just, it, it It helps those books once they are actually published to rank higher on the list and more people can see them. So if you're interested in supporting authors, please do so that way.

[00:34:13] Justin Alcala: The more pre-orders you get, the higher in the rankings and the free advertisements and the recommendations other people receive. So literally people pre-ordering, you know, a lot of people say, "Well, I'll just get it when it comes out," literally pre-ordering is going to an artist, a writer on another tier as far as their sales go and it literally helps them once the book comes out start going shoulder to shoulder with the big dogs, instead of possibly just going with a, you know, as something that is someone's, you know, possible fun fan fiction that they went ahead and published and it's just for fun. And they're, it's more of a good hobby for them. Not to say that's not important, but it, it helps, it helps the artist all the work that they've put into it, go shoulder to shoulder with other people who deserve it.

[00:35:01] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. Yes. Awesome. Okay. Well, this has all been fantastic. I do have three questions that I always like to ask my guests, if you're okay with that.

[00:35:12] Justin Alcala: Sure.

[00:35:13] Lindsey Dinneen: Okay. Okay. Fantastic. First of all, how do you personally define art or what is art to you?

[00:35:21] Justin Alcala: Yes, I think I may have said it before that art is creation through the aptitude and inspiration in order to communicate something amazing. And for me, you know, it's using what's playful, awkward, and a little dorky to tap into the human element and entertain.

[00:35:38] Lindsey Dinneen: I love it. Okay. And then what do you think is the most important role of an artist?

[00:35:43] Justin Alcala: The most important part is communicate and inspire. If you have to find a fundamental way to connect to someone through your medium, and once you communicate with them, you inspire them to take what you said and make it their own. And for books, any characters' story, once I get it out in the world, it was no longer my story. It is the reader's story. What they think is far more important about the protagonist /antagonist, the plot than anything that I've dreamed up, it is their world to be inspired and kind of take it into their own lives and contribute.

[00:36:18] Lindsey Dinneen: Perfect. And then my final question, and you sort of maybe touched on your answer for this. So I'll be curious to know where you go with it, but do you think that art should be inclusive or exclusive? And I will define my terms. So by inclusive, I'm referring to an artist who puts their work out there and provide some context behind that, whether it's program notes or title or something, versus exclusive referring to an artist who puts their work out there and doesn't provide the context. And so it's left entirely up to the viewer or the participant to decide what they do.

[00:36:53] Justin Alcala: I am 100%-- I'll fight people through the end of the earth-- exclusive. I think that once you create something and get it out to the world, what do you hang up a painting or write a book, it is no longer yours. You don't need to describe it. I think when you do the only thing that you really do-- for me writing, I'm taking the best medium that I have in order to create something for enjoyment. Why would I take something like my clumsy tongue and then try to explain what I've already created for the person to enjoy? It is theirs. It is exclusive to them. And over-explaining, it just really is always a bad idea.

[00:37:36] Lindsey Dinneen: Sure. Yeah. So do you, so then out of curiosity, as my follow-up question, do you ever personally do like author talks where people can ask you specific questions?

[00:37:47] Justin Alcala: Absolutely. But I always, I always make sure to, to let them know this is just one idiot's opinion. This is, this is just my opinion. And hopefully you could take whatever's in my books and come up with a better answer for it. But I am more than happy to take talks and I, and I've done. So I, I'm probably rubbish at them, but I do do it, but I always warn people that you're probably best just reading the book to get that answer out of me. Sure, of course, I'll always answer.

[00:38:20] Lindsey Dinneen: Fair enough. Very good. Well, Justin, I have thoroughly enjoyed our conversation today. Your stories are, your stories are fantastic. I can't wait to read your books and just yeah, thank you for just embracing who you are and sharing that with the world. Obviously it's resonated and it's going to continue to resonate. It's going to continue to inspire people who might feel like they can't do that. So thank you for, for leading the way in that. And yeah, this has been so much fun. I really appreciate your time together. Thank you.

[00:38:56] Justin Alcala: Thank you so much, Lindsey. I had a great time.

[00:38:59] Lindsey Dinneen: Good, good. And thank you so much to everyone who has listened to this episode. I highly encourage you to check out Justin's work, pre-order his latest book, help support his artistic journey. And if you're feeling as inspired as I am right now, I would love if you would share this episode with a friend or two and we will catch you next time.

[00:39:21] If you have a story to share with us, we would love that so much. And I hope your day has been Artfully Told.

[00:39:31] Hi friends. I wanted to share with you another podcast that I think you're going to fall in love with just as I have. It's called Harlem with a View, and it is hosted by Harlem Lennox, who was a previous guest of mine on Artfully Told and a dear friend. Just because it looks easy doesn't mean it is. There is so much that goes into the work of your creative. She wants to know how the artists got into their line of work, what inspires them, but most importantly, what keeps them going? She'd asked them about how they make it through the blood, sweat, and tears. She wants to know what it's like to live this creative life: the good, the bad, the ugly, and even the magical. So she goes behind the scenes with creatives, from different genres and she explores their history, their take on life and talks about the business of art and the dedication of making art. She has a brilliant, brilliant platform. I think you will fall in love. I highly recommend that you search for Harlem with a View. Thanks!

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