In between haunting bookstores to make sure that copies are really there, checking that there was not some printer's error that left them all blank, and hoping that someone will buy a copy while he's watching, he's going to be popping in here to talk about "Have you ever worried about your family's reaction to a scene you wrote?"
Go ahead, Brad!
On page 37 of my debut novel, FACES OF THE GONE, the protagonist – an otherwise nice, clean-cut, upstanding young man named Carter Ross – propositions a hooker.
On page 43, he visits a seedy strip club.
On page 77, he smokes marijuana with a bunch of gangbangers.
And so on, and so on. By the end of page 330, Carter has stolen heroin, plunged into abandoned inner-city housing projects late at night, spent more time with strippers than a dancing pole and generally done things you wouldn’t do if mother was watching.
And it would all be well and good – because this is fiction, right? – except for one small thing: Carter and I, uh, we have a few things in common. We’re both 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, brown hair, blue eyes. We’re both journalists. We were both raised in comfortable, middle-class families, went to expensive private schools, prefer pleated slacks to plain front, part our hair on the side, etc. etc.
Suffice it to say it’s clear to anyone who knows me that there’s more than a little bit of Brad Parks in Carter Ross.
Yet I wasn’t really thinking about that when I proudly presented the manuscript to my dear, sweet Mom for the first time.
Now, a note about Mom: Love her. Love her to death. She has borne every sacrifice a mother should bear in raising me, her precious youngest son.
But if I had to pick a shape to describe her, it would definitely be square.
When I was in high school – and my Dad’s idea of sex education was, “Son, wear a rubber” – her constant reminder was that she was a virgin when she got married and I should be, too.
When she was done reading my manuscript, she said all the things a mother should say about how clever and entertaining it is. (Mind you, she would have said the same thing if I gave her a 92,000-word exposition on origami).
Then she paused.
Then my dear, sainted mother said what was really on her mind: “You… you haven’t actually done all this, have you Bradley?”
Now, a note about my relationship with my Mom: I never lie to her. Except when it’s for her own good.
So I very quickly said, “No, Mom, of course not. I made it all up.”
Then when it came time to write the second Carter Ross book, tentatively titled EYES OF THE INNOCENT and scheduled for 2010, I sent Carter into all the same kind of compromising positions and places, once again not considering what it would do to Mom’s image of me.
I guess it just comes down to the shopworn advice you’ve all probably heard before: You can’t write to please your editor. You can’t write to please your critique group. You can’t even write to please dear old Mom.
You can only write for yourself.
And be ready to lie about it when the time comes.