ABOUT BRAD PARKS:
Brad Parks is a Dartmouth College graduate who spent a dozen years as a reporter for The Washington Post and The Newark Star-Ledger and is now a full-time novelist. Parks' debut, Faces of the Gone, won the Nero Award for Best American Mystery and the Shamus Award for Best First Mystery, making him the first author in the combined 60-year history of the Nero and the Shamus to win both awards for the same book. The book launched the career of Brad's fictional investigative reporter Carter Ross, who readers voted "The World's Favorite Amateur Sleuth" in a 64 sleuth, tournament-style bracket, beating out Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in the finals. Carter has since appeared in Eyes of the Innocent (Feb. 2011),The third Carter Ross adventure, The Girl Next Door, was released last week.
You're the best defenseman of your generation. When you played for the New York Rangers...Oh that's right, you're Brad Park's', plural. Of course! The former freestyle skier and the pioneering founder of wheelchair tennis and member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. You've inspired so many people. How did you keep your positive outlook in the face of adversity?
Aaaand right off the bat, Chantelle wins the I’ve Never Been Asked That Question Before Award. Congratulations. Your prize is a warm bucket of melted cheese.
Oh, you're the author. (Note to self: vet guests more thoroughly) So...how's the whole writing thing going for you?
C’mon, Chantelle, I know all about your plot to get me into a MerMan costume. And, I have to tell you, you’re going about it all wrong. A better approach would have been to ask me about the awards I’ve won… you know, make appeals to my ginormous ego, blinding me to your real agenda until I’m absolute putty in your hands. It won’t work now, because, of course, I see you coming. And, besides, it’s not like I’m that self-centered that I’m open to such simplistic manipulation.
As we all know, you're the first author ever to win both a Nero and a Shamus Award in the same year. Do you take them everywhere you go?
Okay, I’ve got the MerMan costume rented. Do you think I should get the MerMan trident, too?
(And to answer the question: No, not everywhere. I had to draw the line at the shower. Nero was starting to get rust on him).
Like many authors I've spoken with, your protagonist, Carter Ross, shares your profession: journalist. What influenced your decision to write a journalist rather than explore a different world?
I gave it a lot of thought – and I’m talking many, many long, agonizing minutes – and realized that if I wrote any other protagonist, I’d have to do actual research. And since I wrote my first two Carter Ross books either at 6 in the morning or 8 at night, there weren’t a lot of experts I’d be able to get on the phone. So I wrote a journalist out of necessity. Or laziness.
What is the strangest thing that happened to you on a story? What was the most frightening or dangerous situation in which you found yourself as a result of reporting?
Strangest? Probably the day I covered the Buff Bowl, a flag football game contested at a nudist colony. One of the guys sat me down and explained to me that the most crucial thing was that you made sure it was the flag you were grabbing. Most frightening? Yeah, same day. I discovered most of the people at a nudist colony are not people you want to see naked. Most dangerous? There’s probably about a thousand-way tie for first place, since I went into all the scary places Carter did on a regular basis. But I walk on the wild side, I laugh in the face of danger, etc. etc. And, really, I think I was the right combination of non-threatening (look at my clothes, for goodness sakes) and large (I’m 6-foot-1) that people didn’t bother me.
I know your experience reporting on a quadruple homicide influenced your debut novel Faces of the Gone. Have any of your babysitting experiences ended up in your novels?
There was this one time I was watching some kids and my friend called me and said she had run away from home and asked me to pick her up at the bus station in downtown Chicago. So I threw the kids in the car and off we went! But things got complicated on the way to the bus station when we got a flat tire and there was no spare in the trunk and I was looking strangely like Elisabeth Shue and the next thing I knew…
Oh. Wait. That’s actually the plot from Adventures in Babysitting. So, no.
The state of New Jersey is definitely a strong character in your novels, yet you've lived in Connecticut, Washington and Virginia. Why is New Jersey the right setting for Carter Ross?
I figured since I was going to be writing crime fiction, it would help to have a place where there’s always lots of crime. Jersey also has just about every religion, race, creed and ethnicity – and, as a consequence, just about every ethnic mob. Then there’s the fact that New Jersey is the most densely populated state, so this great diverse lot of humanity is all mashed together. They can’t help but bump into each other. It’s no accident that so many writers have turned New Jersey into such fertile ground for crime fiction – Harlan Coben, Janet Evanovich, Mary Higgins Clark, David Rosenfelt, Wally Stroby… and so on, and so on. It’s a place that really loads a writer’s toolbox with possibility.
What's the best advice you can give a new writer, or, what do you wish you had known when you started?
It sounds counterintuitive, but I really believe the best way to become a good writer is to do a lot of bad writing first. You just have to find a safe place to do it. For me, that place was newspapers. I did a lot of crappy writing for newspapers when I was younger. (According to some of my Amazon reviews, I’m still doing it. But that’s another story). If anything, I see a lot of new writers who are getting a little too impatient, not giving themselves time to do their bad writing in a way that doesn’t damage their careers or reputations. Just because you can self-publish on e-books doesn’t mean you should.
Any tips on marketing or social media?
I’m not sure I’m doing it right, so I don’t know if I should be giving anyone tips. Generally, my approach is just to have fun and be myself. (Yes, I’m this obnoxious in real life). Probably the best example of that is my newsletter. It’s written by my interns, and we’ve had toga parties, sexy photo shoots, all sorts of stupid fun. Right now, the interns are trying to smear Reba McEntire’s reputation, probably with little success. I don’t know if it sells a single book. But I have fun doing it.
What can we expect to see next from you? More from Carter? I've heard rumors about a young adult, I'm guessing wizards and sparkly brooding teens abound, right? Tell us also about any upcoming appearances?
Carter Ross Nos. 4 and 5 are written and in the pipeline so, yeah, you’re stuck with him for a little while longer. I have written a YA. It’s about a dystopian world where food is scarce and teenagers can enter into a competition for limited resources in what I call “the malnourishment olympics.” I’m really excited about the potential of that one. (Okay, okay… my YA is actually set at a boarding school, but there are no wizards, werewolves or dystopian themes, so we’ll see where that goes). I wrote a standalone last year, but decided to ball that up and throw it away (see aforementioned answer about bad writing... apparently, I wasn’t done with all of mine yet). So now I’m going to try another standalone, one that hopefully won’t suck as badly. As for appearances, my full tour schedule is here. And, yes, it includes a swing through Arizona on April 5, when I’ll be appearing in the Authors at the Teague series with Lesa Holstine and at the legendary Poisoned Pen. I hear this chick Chantelle Osman might show up. Can’t wait!
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(NOT SO) QUICKIES WITH BRAD:
Writing ambience: A Hardees restaurant about five miles from my house. There’s no wireless Internet, which knocks out my biggest distraction; and there’s free refills on the Coke Zero, which means I’m sufficiently caffeinated to get to at least a thousand words every day.
Reading now: FIRE AND ICE by J.A. Jance – it’s one that combines two of her most beloved characters, J.P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady. You might think I gave that answer to pander to your Arizona readers. But that fact is I have the privilege of moderating a panel with her and Jeffrey Deaver at the Virginia Festival of the Book coming up soon and I want to be able to ask questions that are more probing than, “What are you reading now?” (Zzzzzzing! Score one for Parks!)
Book or eReader? Both. And I hope we can all get comfortable with the fact that both are going to be around for a long time.
Favorite protagonist (other than his own): Travis McGee.
Favorite big or small screen detective (or journalist): Fletch.
Cats or dogs? Neither. I have two small children. I have enough on my hands worrying about their feeding/watering/pooping/peeing. I really don’t need to add another dependent life form into the mix.
Favorite online resource: The random name generator. I struggle to come up with unique names, and this helps.
Favorite independent bookstore:
(COP OUT ALERT). I adore too many. I could never pick a favorite.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Invisibility. What can I say? At heart I’m a shameless voyeur and this would let me spy on everyone.
What's your plan for the zombie apocalypse? According to this, zombies are colorblind. So I’m thinking blaze orange camo is the way to go. Actually, I think blaze orange camo is the way to go in general. It’s hawt!
Is it Brad, Bradley, or Bradford?
Actually it’s Bradelle. My parents just liked names that ended in elle.
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