When Denis and I walked into The Poisoned Pen bright and early for Brad Parks' event, I knew it was going to be a busy and fun evening because of all the reserved seats. Fortunately, no one reserved the seats I always think of as "ours" (I know-- shame on me), so I took care of that small item, bought my books, and then sat down with Denis to read, people watch, and chat. Time flew by and before I knew it, Brad and host Barbara Peters were with us.
|Brad Parks and Barbara Peters... and the back of a blogger's head.|
Brad's latest book, Say Nothing, is a standalone thriller-- quite a departure from his Carter Ross series (which I love). In honor of this, Barbara referred to him as "the new Brad Parks," and began to talk about the first book he'd written.
"If you want to get technical," Brad said, "the first book I wrote was when I was seven years old. It was about a bear wandering through the forest with his friends. Only... instead of spelling 'bear' b-e-a-r, I spelled it b-e-e-r. Dad loved that book!"
When Peters asked about changing to a new publisher, Brad told us, "After writing six books in a series, I'd been wanting to do something different. I hate to say it, but I was growing up a bit. While I was writing Carter, I was newly married, still in the honeymoon phase, with no kids and no real responsibilities.
I have two kids now, and a new trove of stuff I wanted to write about. I wanted to try something more ambitious."
|Sometimes you just have to laugh.|
Brad agreed. "I went to lunch with someone who'd just been to his publisher, and his publisher asked him, 'Can you give us anything that's not politics?'
"I owe Steve Hamilton a debt for this book because in 2011 or 2012 he told me, 'You have to write the book that scares you.' I was out jogging one day, and I was thinking about what would scare me the most. That would definitely be something happening to my kids.
"What could happen to my kids? Being kidnapped and held for ransom? That would mean my main character isn't a writer because writers don't have money! Then it came to me. What if my main character were a federal judge who's hearing an important case, and the only way for the kidnappers to get the verdict they want is to kidnap his children?
"I finished jogging, went back to the house, and immediately started to write. I knew nothing about the case being tried. I didn't know what kind of character the judge was. I didn't know anything, but those first 2,000 words just poured out of me."
"Are you sure this isn't going to turn into a series?" Barbara asked.
"No, this isn't a series," Brad said. "This guy has nowhere to go at the end of the book. It was fun to write this and be able to say that there is no tomorrow for the characters."
Brad immediately said, "Domestic suspense means that the main character is the type of person I could meet in the grocery store. A regular person who's been placed in extraordinary circumstances."
The two hashed through details. No military or ex-military. No police. No investigators. Just an ordinary person who, when placed in an extraordinary situation, must dig deep within themselves to survive. This led to a little discussion of Lee Child's Jack Reacher, which you can find on The Poisoned Pen's Livestream feed of the event. Both agreed that the character Parks described tended to be more meaningful for readers because readers can identify with him/her.
Brad loves his new editor, Alice, "and Alice knows it." She did something invaluable when editing Say Nothing-- placing asterisks in the manuscript to mark the places where, she said, Parks broke his own tone. "I have a breezy personality. I like to make a lot of jokes, and I don't take myself too seriously," Parks said. "I didn't realize how often I was interjecting my own personality in Say Nothing. That worked for Carter Ross, but it certainly didn't work for my federal judge. Realizing this is part of the growing up that I mentioned earlier."
"What I never forget is that the primary reason why I write is for you," Parks said, looking out over his audience. "An author shouldn't forget that he's entertaining an audience. The question I always ask my Beta readers is 'Were you bored anywhere?'"
Peters said, "I think that's a good question for authors to ask themselves: Who are you writing for? I've read a book or two that made me wonder about the intended audience."
Their conversation then wandered into newspaper editing versus book publishing editing, why the first printing of the first edition of a book is the most valuable, and some other things. Once again, I do encourage you to watch this event on Livestream!
One of his fans asked Parks if he were still writing at Hardee's (a fast-food chain that's known as Carl's Jr. out here in the West). He is. He and his family have moved to Staunton, Virginia, because of the better schools in the area for the children, and Brad is happy to report that-- although it had nothing to do with the move (*cough*)-- Staunton has an even bigger Hardee's. He was able to "write under the radar for about four months." Being a former sportswriter, Parks is used to lots of noise when he writes, and another plus in Hardee's favor is that the restaurant doesn't have wireless internet. No wi-fi and no smartphone mean that Parks can stick to his writing and not get distracted by shark videos.
So Brad bought Bob's table for $100. Shortly after that, Bob left to spend the winter in Florida, which he does every year. (And he's probably telling all his Florida buddies about the weirdo who bought his table from him for $100!)
After a fun-filled and informative hour, the evening ended on a bit of a somber note when one fan asked Parks about Carter Ross. "The trouble with Carter is," Brad said, "that newspapers will die before Carter does."
I always have a blast when Brad Parks visits The Poisoned Pen. For any of you who do watch the event on Livestream, the book that Parks holds up several times is the copy of Say Nothing that I bought. Yes, I got my "show and tell" edition autographed, and yes, I'm reading it now!