Writing With … Brad Parks

Brad Parks and I worked at the same newspaper for more than a year, yet we never actually met until years later, when we both became published authors. His debut, FACES OF THE GONE, became the first book in history to win both the Nero and Shamus Awards. His second book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, released in February from Minotaur Books, has been hailed as “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut” by Library Journal. A former reporter with The Washington Post and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, he is now a full-time novelist living in Virginia. You can visit his website at www.BradParksBooks.com.

Q. Tell us about your book and what inspired you to write it.

Todd, we’re both journalists by training and nature. And, as journalists, we must tell the unvarnished truth. So, for real? What inspired this? Quite simple: I had written one novel featuring Carter Ross, a sometimes-dashing investigative reporter for a Newark-based newspaper (sound familiar?), and when Minotaur Books bought it, they offered me a two-book contract. Hence, Carter needed another adventure. EYES OF THE INNOCENT is the second of those books. Mind you, by this point, Carter has taken hold of me and is more or less calling the shots — I’ve written installments Nos. 3 and 4 as well, and I’m not sure I could stop writing him if I wanted to. But at least where No. 2 is concerned, it the inspiration was mostly contractual.

Q. Did you need to do any special research for the book? If so, what’s one of the most interesting facts you discovered?

My research regimen went something like this: Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. See, I was also a reporter for a large New Jersey newspaper. So my research pretty much involved living. The bulk of the part of my life that later became relevant to this book was a four- or five-month stretch in 2008 when I did a series of stories on the subprime mortgage scandal. That was where I learned about the house-flipping, greed, fraud and corruption that had been absolutely rampant during the real estate boom — and about the pain caused when the bubble popped. So while I’m not sure this is an “interesting fact,” one lesson I certainly learned: If you ever again see real estate increasing by 25 or 30 percent a year, run like hell.

Q. Many people are content to just be readers. How did you become a writer?

I got into writing for the money and the sex. This is true, actually. I was 14 years old and saw an ad in my hometown newspaper saying, “Sportswriters needed.” The job paid 50 cents a column inch, which meant I could make slightly more per week writing sports than I could babysitting. So that’s the money. The sex? My assignment was to cover the Ridgefield High School girls basketball team, and I figured this would be my in — after all, if I was the guy who could get their names’ in the paper, they’d have to talk to me, right? And from there I could work my charm and … uhh … yeah, didn’t quite work out that way. But it got me writing, helped me fall in love with storytelling and launched me into a line of work that I continue to enjoy immensely.

Q. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read. Golf. Swim. Run. Garden. Sing. Act. Play tennis. Play softball. Play basketball. Play … Well, you get the idea. I’ve got a variety of interests and hobbies. Mind you, I don’t get much time to do any of them. I’ve got two small children. Much of my non-work time involves being yelled at by toddlers.

Q. What are you reading right now?

James Lovelock’s THE VANISHING FACE OF GAIA. No, I’m not trying to sound like an intellectual. It’s just research for my next novel. On the side, I’m also reading some of Robert J. Randisi’s work, because I’ve been given the honor of interviewing him at the next Bouchercon and I figure if I read five of his books it will at least mean I’ve read one percent of his (very impressive) canon.

Q. If you were stranded on that proverbial deserted island, what five books would you want to have with you?

I would want four extra-large, waterproof coffee table books and the JUMBO DUCT TAPE BOOK (that comes with the free samples). That way I could lash the coffee table books together, make myself a boat and get the hell off the island. Or at least get myself to an island with the library on it. I mean, really, who wants to be stuck with five books forever?

Q. What’s your favorite movie?

Hoo boy. Now you’re going to know one of my deep, dark secrets: When it comes to music and movies, I’m really a 16-year-old girl. So. Ahem. Love, Actually. Just a great flick. If I watch it when I’m sick, it makes me cry.

Q. What’s your favorite food?

When it comes to chow, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Wait, that’s two foods. Okay, just the meat. Filet mignon, if you’ve got it. Cooked rare. Super rare. Purple-in-the-middle-stick-a-fork-in-it-and-it-moos rare. Yum.

Q. Cats or dogs?

I’ve got to go with cats, if only because Carter Ross has a cat — named, appropriately enough, Deadline. And if I judge based on reader mail alone, Deadline is everyone’s favorite character over Carter by a about a 5:1 ratio.

Q. Name one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you.

I’m fairly obnoxious, ceaselessly outgoing and an egregious self-promoter, so by this point I’m not sure I could really surprise anyone. (I just don’t think anyone would be that shocked to learn I do community theater). Okay, let’s make it a boastful, seemingly outrageous claim that you, Todd Ritter, could actually verify if you choose: I once hit three home runs on my first three swings in a Star-Ledger softball game. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to start playing Bruce’s Glory Days.

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One Response to Writing With … Brad Parks

  1. Eric

    Great interview with and by my two favorite former co-worker authors! (Somehow, I think that’s also a disclosure declaimer.)

    Anyway, in the interests of proper journalistic research for you, Todd, ask around and see who has the the Softball team stats file. Maybe Frass? But I’m pretty sure the home run leader would be one Brad Parks.