Novels Alive is giddy to have Shamas, Nero and Lefty Award-winning author, the one, the only, Mr. Brad Parks!
With a wicked sense of humor along with a killer imagination, Brad is one of those author’s (and people) we just can’t seem to get enough of.
What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot?
Oh, it’s my characters. No question. My characters talk to me. They tell me their wants, needs, and desires. They tell me what they’re thinking. It’s my job to transcribe the interesting stuff—the stuff that drives the plot forward. The first time I heard a writer say that, back when I was a hard-nosed journalist who had never written fiction, I was like, “Yeah, your characters talk to you, huh? Do they tell you you’re a nutbag? Because that’s what you sound like right now.” But now here I am, five years into my career as a full-time novelist with a head full of people yammering at me.
If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The hero/heroine, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.
Let’s see, I made my protagonist a 6-foot-1, 185-pound WASP with brown hair, blue eyes and a predilection for pleated khaki pants. And I am a 6-foot-1, 185-pound, WASP with… You get the idea. For all intents and purposes, I already am a character in one of my books.
Do people you know end up as characters in your book? Be honest…
Oh, absolutely. And the best part is, at least some of them know it. They call me up and/or email me and tell me what they want “their” character to do.
Do you surprise yourself at your ability to write the vilest villains with such believability? Which book is your most vile villain featured?
I wouldn’t say I’ve surprised myself. You have to understand, every kid in my neighborhood growing up wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. Me? I had a life-size cutout of Darth Vader in my room. I’d say most of the people who write crime fiction have that kind of dark side. It’s what draws us to the genre. Our villains are where we get to express that aspect of ourselves. The challenge is to remember that villains are people, too. I endeavor to write villains whose actions are, at the very least, internally consistent—even if the outside world thinks they’re monsters. Toward that end, the villain in THE PLAYER, my latest novel, might be my best. Or worst. Or whatever. But I can’t say more about him/her because I doing want to spoil anything.
Which of your characters did you or will you enjoy killing off the most?
This is, again, hard to answer without spoiling a book for someone. But there’s a trigger pull at the end of EYES OF THE INNOCENT that was pretty damn satisfying. I can remember clapping when I was done writing the scene.
What is your view on independent (self) publishing? What do you feel are the benefits/drawbacks for readers and conversely, authors?
Let me be perfectly clear, lest I ignite any flame wars: I absolutely value diversity in the publishing world, everything from the Big Five, to smaller presses, to writers who decide to go it alone. As readers, we should encourage all of those voices. And for authors, self-publishing is definitely the right answer in certain situations. The only thing I worry about is impulsive self-publishing, particularly among newer writers: people who are so impatient to be published, they rush their work into the marketplace. Having a mess of inferior work out there doesn’t help anyone. Readers get an unsatisfying experience, which hurts all of us—I want people more excited about reading, not less. And the writers do their careers a tremendous amount of harm long-term by making that first impression a bad one.
Can you judge a book by its cover? How much input do you have on the look/feel of your cover?
I am colorblind and lack anything resembling design taste. I don’t try to pretend like I have great insight on covers. Mostly I just make sure they’ve spelled my name right and then ask them to make it bigger.
How much research went into your last book?
I made two phone calls, which is two more phone calls than I make for most of my books. You have to remember, I was an investigative journalist for a number of years. I’ve lived most of my research.
What’s one of the most important things you’d like your readers to know about you? What defines you most as an author?
I have a hard time talking about “my readers,” because the phrase always strikes me as a bit presumptuous. Even if they have enjoyed my books, I’m pretty sure most of them don’t introduce themselves at cocktail parties by saying, “Hello, my name is Sandy and I’m a Brad Parks reader.” That said, I want them to know how grateful I am that they have given me the opportunity to entertain them. I think a lot of that comes from having spent my twenties as a sportswriter. I was around all these rich, famous athletes, some of whom had lost all sense of how indebted they should have been to the fans who supported them—the people who paid their enormous salaries. I have never allowed myself to forget who I’m working for and what a privilege I’ve been given. If you buy my book and give me six-to-eight-to-ten hours of your valuable life to read it, I consider that an honor. I try to be equal of that opportunity every time I sit down to write.
Tell us one thing about you that may surprise your readers.
Everyone thinks my roots are New Jersey (where my books are set) or New England (where I grew up and went to college). But if you go to Tangier Island, in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll find the phone book—and the graveyards—filled with people named Parks. And I’m related to all of them.
Tell us a little bit about the project you are working on now.
I just finished up the sixth, as-yet-untitled Carter Ross novel and—modesty aside—I really think it’s the best yet. The action starts with a violent carjacking ring on a rampage and Carter’s girlfriend in her thirty-eighth week of pregnancy. I can honestly say I don’t know which one ends up getting Carter in more trouble by the end.
Tell us something about your latest release.
It’s called THE PLAYER, and I realized something before I wrote it: I had this burgeoning crime fiction series set in New Jersey and I had never once written about toxic waste or the mob, two of the more colorful aspects of the state’s culture. It was beginning to strike me as authorial malpractice, so I corrected that. About time.
Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero and Lefty Awards. He received the Shamus (for best first private eye novel) and the Nero (for best American mystery) for his debut, FACES OF THE GONE, the first book in history to take both awards. He has won two Leftys (for best humorous mystery) for his third and fourth books, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and THE GOOD COP. The series, which features sometimes-dashing investigative reporter Carter Ross, also includes EYES OF THE INNOCENT and THE PLAYER. It has received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. Shelf-Awareness has deemed the Carter Ross books “perfect for the reader who loves an LOL moment but wants a mystery that’s more than empty calories” and Library Journal has called the series “essential reading” and “a refreshing tonic for the mystery soul.” RT Book Reviews opined, “Parks has quietly entered the top echelon of the mystery field.” Parks is a graduate of Dartmouth College and spent a dozen years as a reporter for The Washington Post and The Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger. He is now a full-time novelist who lives in Virginia with his wife and two small children.