Poteet High School and University of North Texas graduate Justin Arnold wears many hats: He’s a Marine, actor and now a published writer and poet with “A Dog Outside at Night in a Fight.” His novel is described as a southern fairy tale that is a rhythmically lyrical modern-day experimental sound epic.
Where do you live?
I currently live in Austin, and living here came to me as a surprise. I was living in Dallas back in 2011 and I moved to the city of angels (Los Angeles) after working on a Spike Jonze film called "Scenes from the Suburbs" here in Austin. I spent seven years in Hollywood, landing movies and a guest spot here and there on TV shows, and I always felt like I could stand shoulder to shoulder with the great actors of our time, and I still feel that way. Though, I have yet to find a handle on this glass celling. I am still in pursuit. So I fell in love with a gal and we moved to an artist residency (The Fine Arts Work Center) in Province Town, Massachusetts. Shortly put, love didn’t last. I decided to move to Austin to lick my wounds and to reset my sights toward my dreams.
When did you graduate from Poteet High?
I graduated from Poteet High back in 2000, riding the fence line of Generation X and the Millennials. May the universe allow the Millennials and post-Millennials to save us all! This sentence alone just might predict to you exactly where I stand politically.
Why did you decide to join the Marine Corps? And for how long?
I joined the United Sates Marine Corps out of sheer necessity. The same reasons most any enlisted man or woman does, I’m willing to bet. I needed to get away from the wild ways of my nut-job family (kidding not kidding), and I needed to pay for my education, and I wanted to go and be a barbarian and have my own adventure about this globe with pistol and blade and, for me, a hellhound at my side. I was a bomb-dog handler. I spent four years in the Marines, 2000-2004. Went to war and came back. Never experienced any heavy combat and I’m not ashamed to say it. Back then the reason for war was that the “bad guys” had chemical weapons of mass destruction, but to this day none have been found. I found what I needed to find out, served with some of the bravest humans on the face of this earth and I got out.
Did you serve active duty? If so, where?
Yes, I was an active duty Marine. Boot Camp in San Diego, Combat Training at Camp Pendleton, Military Police School in Fort Leonard Wood Missouri, K-9 school at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, and went on to the fleet Marine Corps stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Assigned to a security mission for Gen. Tommy Fanks in Kenya, Africa. Served in Operation Iraqi Freedom / Operation Enduring Freedom.
What is your college degree in?
I received a degree in radio, TV and film from the University of North Texas.
What drew you to acting and writing?
I grew up a latchkey kid, so I watched a lot of movies and TV. My action heroes were Arnold, Van Damme, Bruce Lee, Stallone. I would re-enact scenes in the living room alone. I’d jump off the arm of a couch in swordplay with an invisible Inigo Montoya from the movie "Princess Bride." I loved movies like "The Goonies," "Labyrinth," "Conan the Barbarian," "E.T." As a kid those movies were like cups of coffee I’d fight to stay up watching. I’m sure I’m not the only kid who’s ever pretended to be the Ultimate Warrior in the mirror of a bathroom sink, balancing on the edge of a bathtub. The pursuit of acting in films and TV just made sense once the opportunities presented themselves, and I have not looked back.
Were you involved in theater or music growing up? If so, elaborate.
No, I was so shy as a kid. I remember being assigned to play the leading role in a theater production that my fourth-grade teacher was putting on and I was in absolute protest. I remember the teacher saying in class that if I didn’t want to be a part of the production, then the whole class wasn’t going to get to be a part of the production. I didn’t balk. I was fine with this. The class went on to stage the play without me and it was magnificent. I remember watching it as an audience member in the school cafeteria and thinking how wonderful the show was. It was brilliant. Mr. Perez, you were right!
What inspired 'A Dog Outside at Night in a Fight'?
"A Dog Outside at Night in a Fight" explores the life of danger amongst a ring of human traffickers scattered southwest of the Oklahoma pinewood and beyond the borders of devil's dust in Texas. Amid this, a man and a she-wolf walk a gauntlet. A love lost parallel.
I met a man (Thom Breitenbach) who had built himself a castle with his own two hands, stone by stone, and over the course of four summers. It then dawned on me that I could do anything if I took the amount of time it would take to do the thing out of the equation. Someone says to you, go build yourself a castle. Most people get to thinking about all the money and manpower it would take to build a castle, and then they don’t do it. People tend to count the cost, and that alone is exhausting. I think most people’s dreams are like that. We all could be living the life we want, but we overthink it. Stone by stone a castle, letter by letter a book. Often dreams come to you in these littler pieces, not all at once.
As a new author, how does it feel to put your work out there? And what do you hope readers get from this story?
It feels like a science experiment. You put all your magic potions into a pot and you see if it might explode. I hope it does explode, but I hope that we all come out the other side okay, too.
I want the readers to tell me what they get out of reading my book. That’s all part of the experiment, the explosion part of the process as mentioned above. I don’t want to put into words what I want. I’d just like to see it happen. The book will find its readers. Its words are magnetic. It has that power. The book is on its own adventure and with its readers now. Readers, let me know what you think.
Are there any writers that inspire you and your writing? If so, who?
I’m a big fan of Cormac McCarthy and Charles Bukowski to name-drop a couple of masters that I am in awe of. They do inspire my writing but in that they have a clear voice, set apart, tapped into the collective consciousness of the human race, and both of these men have an uncanny ability to tune into a vibrational frequency of genius that we readers can undoubtedly feel.
As new a writer as I am, I know this, the feeling of one’s words is what says it all.
Find me on Instagram @writejustinarnold or @filmjustinarnold
"A Dog Outside at Night in a Fight" can be found exclusively on my Etsy sales page.