Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How did you write that?

OK, so that's not a picture of me. I'm not that tall. Or even a guy. It's a picture of Brad Parks. Today is a big day for Brad, because his debut novel, FACES OF THE GONE, comes out. Library Journal loved it so much they gave it a starred review, saying "this is the most hilariously funny and deadly serious mystery debut since Janet Evanovich's One for the Money."

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.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

I can't even lie to my mother, Brad, so you're doing better than I am.

Congrats on your big release today! I hope you are celebrating somewhere!

Joshua Corin said...

Congratulations, Brad, on your release date! Your novel sounds very Charlie Huston, very deliciously dark and I've just added it to my Amazon queue. I am a fan of the deliciously dark (unless we're talking about snow -- dark snow is not delicious.)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Josh, neither is the yellow stuff.

Darkly delicious chocolate is good.

Joshua Corin said...

Darkly delicious chocolate is excellent, but I simply refuse to partake of the 99% stuff.

It frightens me.

Jeannie Holmes said...

Lying to your mother? And then admitting it? On a public internet forum? For shame!

If you're going to lie to dear ol' Mom, never admit it! *sigh* Oh, dear...I have so much to teach y'all. ;)

Unknown said...

Family is in line *behind* my internal editor during create phase. Otherwise I'd only write about nice people doing nice things and having a nice time ;)

After something is written, I don't worry so much as warn my family that they may or may not want to read it, and they are free to stop reading it and never mention it again if they want. No hard feelings!

In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that both my parents are dead. But while he was alive my dad never asked to read my screenplays, and I never thought a thing about it -- this is the man who stopped watching TV when Richard Nixon fell from grace, after all.

My mom, had she lived, would probably have written wilder things than me ;)

That's another interesting question -- has a relative of yours ever written things that embarrassed you?

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I don't eat that 99% chocolate either, Josh. It doesn't have enough sugar and good, tasty fat.

Jeannie, we need your guidance, so don't hold back (also, remember that if you have a hot book cover that you want to put at the end of your post like CJ does you are totally allowed).

Mysti: My family can embarass me without writing a word. And when my mom took the manuscript for SMOKE she said somethign like "I hope it's got some good sex and violence!" She's way tougher than I. That's why I lucked out and pawned the blog off on Brad today.

Shane Gericke said...

Or in the immortal words of Frank Zappa's song, Rebecca ... "Watch out where the huskies, don't you eat that yellow snow, great googly-moogly."

Couldn't agree more, Joshua--that 99% stuff is for the birds. It doesn't taste good, it tastes Good For You. Not the same thing in the least, yuck.

So congratulations, Brad, on a sparkling debut that prompted us to talk about yellow snow, dark chocolate, and lying to one's family. All good stuff for a thriller indeed! Seriously, though, thanks for a great blog today, and great good luck on the book.

Shane Gericke said...

Er, make that, "Watch out where the huskies GO, don't you eat that yellow snow ..."

Kelli Stanley said...

Welcome, Brad, it's great to see you here, and big congrats on the release!! :)

And really, gang, I can't sit idly by and watch dark chocolate--especially the 100% Peruvian type, which I've enjoyed on occasion (Richart chocolates from France--the French know wine, chocolate cheese and sex very well, not necessarily in that order or at the same time. Ahem.)

Anyway, the 100% stuff actually made me high. You totally get why the Mayans used it, once you try it ... it just fills you with a sense of exhilaration that's quite remarkable.

Untutored friends of mine have called it "Peruvian Dirt", but never you mind. It's good stuff, and what's more ... it's legal. At least for now ... ;)



Jen Forbus said...

So, Brad already knows that I think he's the cats pajamas. But I would just like to inform you all, from a certified "square." I think we like the crazy stuff in books more than anyone else. Most of us are just not daring enough to do it ourselves...so we like to read about others who do! Keep it coming Brad!! :)

Michael Wiley said...

Congratulations on the release, Brad -- and the starred review!

Now I'm going to go eat some chocolate.

Sophie Littlefield said...

So let me get this straight, Brad. Remember when you and I and M were having that great dinner at the little indian restaurant...you remember, right before that thing in the balcony when we were talking about fashion...those stories you were telling me - they weren't actually ***true***?

Giant clunk as illusions fall to earth and shatter


Anonymous said...

Okay, so I'm the WORST blog guest ever. Because, in all the excitement of my big debut day -- and all the anguish of learning that my book wasn't, uh, actually in stores yet (but that's another story) -- I totally forgot to check in on 7Criminal. And I missed this engaging discussion about all things dark, yellow and motherly. (Hmm... maybe I shouldn't have combined all that).

Anyway, sorry for being a lousy guest. But thanks for having me here and thanks for the kind comments!