Monday 14 February 2011

Dancing With Myself: BRAD PARKS interviews BRAD PARKS

For Valentine's Day, some give chocolates and some give flowers. You might even be luck enough to get a poem.

Me, I give you Brad Parks.

Love you all.

1. At conferences and book signings, you present this façade of the happy-go-lucky guy, always well-groomed, ready with a smile or a song. But while that’s your public face, who are you really, Brad Parks?

Umm, I’m, uhh… pretty much just a happy-go-lucky guy who showers regularly and likes to sing. My second book, which just came out, is called
EYES OF THE INNOCENT . It’s gotten a blurb from Michael Connelly and a starred review from Library Journal. My debut, FACES OF THE GONE , became the first book ever to win both the Shamus Award and the Nero Award, and… I’m sorry, is this not what you’re looking for?

2. No! Didn’t you see the way my eyes went all narrow and piercing at the end of the ‘who are you really’ question? You were supposed to expose yourself, spill your inner angst. Instead you go and give me a damn infomercial! You’re pretty full of yourself, aren’t you?

Yeah. You’re not the first to notice. My Dad tells the story about the first time he and my mother took me to see Santa Claus. I was five years old and when my turn came, Santa asked me, “Have you been a good boy this year?” And I looked Santa right in the eye and said, “Oh, Santa, I’ve been great.” Dad says he knew at that point he’d never have to worry about my self-esteem.

3. You’re aware some people don’t find that particularly attractive, aren’t you?

Believe me, I’ve learned. Sometimes the hard way (if you think I’m a cocky bastard now, you should have seen me at 22). I try to dial it down whenever possible. Self-deprecating humor can be a nice shield for me. But, deep down? Yeah, I think I’m pretty good at this. And, frankly, if I didn’t, I’d be in real trouble. I sit down every day to write, and I have to believe the story I’m telling is worth hearing, that I’m the best person to tell it, and that I know how to tell it in the best way possible. If I lose that confidence, I might as well go sell shoes for a living, because I am done as a writer.

4. Okay, Mr. Uber Confident, so let’s delve into your insecurities. What are your greatest fears?

Heights and spiders.

5. Stop being such a smug bastard for once and answer the question.

Okay, sorry. I used to worry that one day I’d wake up and the words would be gone – just gone – and that there wouldn’t be another original phrase in my head. Then, at a certain point as a writer, I came to realize stories matter more than words. So these days I worry about my stories. There’s a certain amount of fiction writing that’s like magic to me. Things just sort of happen: That random detail I stuff in the manuscript at word 30,000 – without even knowing why – becomes absolutely crucial at word 75,000. And it might seem like I planned it, except I didn’t. I don’t even know how it came about. So I guess my biggest fear is that one day magic like that will stop happening. And then I’ll go sell shoes.

6. What’s with selling shoes? You got a foot fetish or something?

Uh, no. Though I do have big feet, which makes shoes a little hard to find sometimes. Probably the most difficult time of my life was when my feet had grown but the rest of me hadn’t. Imagine a chubby little kid, 5-foot-2, voice higher than half the sopranos in the choir, walking into the shoe store and saying, “Uh, I’d like size 13, please.” That was me as a freshman in high school. I’m 6-1 now but I didn’t get there until sometime in college. I don’t think I started shaving regularly until I was 22.

7. Being a longtime observer of you, I suspect that had a large impact on your personality?

That’s very perceptive of you. Err, of me. Whatever. But yeah. I mean, here I am, award-winning author (I love saying that!); Phi Beta Kappa Ivy League graduate; women want me, men want to be me, blah blah, blah. I’m hot stuff, right? But somewhere inside me there’s still a short, fat kid who has a huge crush on Teri Hjelte, that cute blond girl on the volleyball team who barely even notices I’m alive. And I’m desperately trying to figure out how I can convince her to go to the Homecoming dance with me.

8. And now you’re going to say, here on Valentine’s Day, that you kept at it and today Teri Hjelte is known to all as Mrs. Brad Parks?

Uh, actually, no. She totally blew me off. I was way too much of a dork.

9. So that means you really are just insecure beneath all the self-involved bluster? Dude, you are such a cliché!

No, no. I’m just saying, at my core, I’m a striver. If I’m proud of anything about myself, it’s that I never stop trying to improve. I was an awful writer when I first started (heck, according to a one star review I just got on Amazon, I’m still awful). But writing was something I enjoyed – or at least took satisfaction from – so I kept at it, kept trying to make myself better. The older I get, the more I realize the desire for self-improvement is one thing shared by every successful person I’ve met. Even now, I’m not the least bit contented by what I’ve accomplished. Hell, if I stopped here, I’d think of myself as a massive failure, as a guy who took a lot of advantages – doting parents, comfortable upper middle class upbringing, wonderful college education – and squandered them.

10. Oh, bloody hell, you’re not going to start singing “Climb Every Mountain” now are you?

Well, what would Valentine’s Day be without a nice serenade?

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  1. Entertaining as always, and really motivating.

  2. What, no invitation to everybody for a toga party? I am crushed!

    Nice work, Nigel and Brad, as always.

  3. No surprise this was a great read. Thanks for giving Brad the forum, Nigel.

  4. This was fun ~ very entertaining! Thanks, Brad! It was great to see you at The Mysterious Bookshop in NYC last Friday evening. I'm loving EYES OF THE INNOCENT. I'm blogging about your reading next Tuesday on Women of Mystery (I'll send you the link next week).
    BTW - my husband's shoe size was 13 at age 13 (The "act your age, not your shoe size" advice didn't apply to him!).

    Thanks, Nigel, for having Brad dance here!

  5. Thanks Nigel. To see such a blistering, merciless assault of self; such an exposed raw nerve of clinical analysis; such a hell fire and brimstone, pulpit-pounding indictment of the Ivy League;such a mind chilling journey to the id of a handsome man; in a public forum; is vividly surreal. I cannot go on (for one thing I've run out of semicolons). Outstanding conversation Brad. I'll smile about it for days.