Justin Sirois is a novelist and game maker living in Baltimore, Maryland. His books include MLKNG SCKLS (Publishing Genius, 2009), and Falcons on the Floor (Publishing Genius, 2012) written with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy, The Heads (Newlights Press 2013), as well as So Say the Waiters books 1, 2, and 3 (2012, 2013, 2014), The Last Book of Baghdad (Civil Coping Mechanisms 2016), and the series Two Girls (Amazon's Kindle Press). He founded Narrow House, an indie publishing company, that ran for ten years. He has received five individual Maryland State Arts Council grants for poetry and fiction. One of his novels is currently part of SUNY Buffalo's undergraduate curriculum and The Baltimore City Paper has said, “Justin Sirois is well on his way to becoming Baltimore’s most important novelist.”
He has also taught kids and teens how to create interactive tabletop games through Bright StARTs and his own Game Changers RPG. He has invented the games, books, and other tabletop game utilities that help people create unique roleplaying stories.
Writing believable characters and stories is the way I empathize with and understand our modern, global society. No matter what environment I am writing about, be it Fallujah Iraq or Baltimore Maryland, I have to dig as deep as I can to create a realism that is honest, fresh, and engaging. The book of short stories and three novels I have written in the past seven years have pushed me to the limits of my researching, creativity, dedication, and focus.
Writing stories about the people of Iraq has changed my life in ways I never thought it would. When I started outlining the novel Falcons on the Floor, I knew I would have to research more than I ever had before. It would be a project that would take over my life, and it did. I would go to sleep thinking about Fallujah—the sieges—the people affected by the war, and I would literally wake up imaging my characters and plot.
My online interviews with Iraqi refugees developed into friendships, one of which became a powerful artistic collaboration. Haneen Alshujairy, the most responsive of my interviewees, gave me the courage to finish the novel. Later, I wrote a book of short stories, which she consulted on as well. Together, Haneen and I are finishing another novel that is a follow-up to Falcons on the Floor titled The Last Book of Baghdad.
I believe that collaboration is a vital part of community building within your chosen discipline. Creating Narrow House, my independent publishing house, has brought me closer to writers from all over the country, but most importantly, within the local writing community. Publishing innovative writing was Narrow House’s mission for over ten years. For the past thirteen years, I have collaborated with book artist and professor Aaron Cohick of Newlights Press (Colorado Springs, CO). From internationally shown broadsides to beautifully crafted letterpressed books, I am honored to work with such an amazingly talented figure in the fine book making world.
My three book fiction series, So Say the Waiters, explores the way social media has dramatically changes the way we interact with the world. It reveals what liberties we, as users, give up when we hit submit. The series also shows what happens when app/social media founders abuse the power they are granted. In an age of web surveillance and privacy rights, So Say the Waiters is a critical response to the spectacle of social media and how individuals navigate the cultural shifts within it. It was also important to me to create a serialized drama set in Baltimore that didn’t exploit the violence and drug culture that so many other series do. So Say the Waiters celebrates the art, music, and other creative subcultures of the diverse city of Baltimore.
I founded Severed Books, an independent publisher of fiction and roleplaying games. My new book, RPG (roleplaying game) World Building for Beginners teaches young people the power of interactive storytelling. This has been my venue to directly engage with the community in a creative way.