Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Brandt Dodson's Seventy Times Seven

Colton Parker has had it rough lately. His wife died in an accident and his daughter blames him for it. Being fired from the FBI and opening his own private investigation business was easier than single parenting. But at least he has a new client.

Millionaire Lester Cheek's wife, Claudia, has disappeared for no apparent reason. Colton is charged to find her before the poor man dies of loneliness. Seems an easy enough job until Cheek cranks out a long list of enemies. Perhaps there's more to this case than meets the eye.

Before long, Colton is in a race against time to stop a hit man while keeping his own family out of danger. Can he put down his pride and admit past mistakes so he and his daughter can move on?

This mystery breaks a mold for me. It's not your typical whodunit, which I like. The plot was good, but the down to earth characters clinched this for me.

Seventy Times Seven is second in the Colton Parker Mystery series. Number three, The Root of Evil, releases in January, 2007. Can't wait.

Me: What made the Colton Parker Series a "must write" for you?
BD: I think it was my love for the form. I grew up watching the Bogart movies that featured characters from Chandler's and Hammett's work, and that lead to reading them. And, of course, as a Christian, I feel compelled to write from that perspective. As I grow closer to God (and I feel strongly that is something I must do--shame on me if I don't) I find less and less in the world's definition of entertainment that is satisfying. Thank God for the CBA.

Having recently attended the Bouchercon in Madison, Wisconsin, I had the opportunity to meet mystery writers that I've read for years. I even got to sit on a panel with some of them. When I was asked; "As a Christian writer, how do you get around some of the demands for bad language that is inherent in the PI novel?", I answered by saying that neither Chandler or Hammett or Ross MacDonald felt the need for "bad" language in their work--and they are the recognized masters of this particular literary form. After I answered, it was very pleasing to see the other writers on the panel agreed that some of the language in secular writing has gone too far.

Me: How long have you been a Christ follower? What impact does He have on your writing?

BD: I was raised in a Christian home, but didn't commit to Christ until twenty years ago. Having done that, and having the benefit of looking where I've been, I can honestly say that there is no other way to live. Christ is everything. He placed the desire to write within me. He opened the doors at the time I was ready. He directed me to exactly the right editor and publisher. And He has continued to guide me along the way. I promised Him that I would write for Him as long as I live. It's my way of "casting my crown"--giving back, in His service, what He has given me.

Me: Maybe I'm not well-read enough (who knew?), but I found it a bit unusual to see a protagonist who isn't a Christian, nor feels any need to be one. Is it acceptable as long as there are other Christian characters in the book helping him along?

BD: I suspect that you're more well-read than you give yourself credit for. But, yes, you are right in saying that it is a bit unusual for the protagonist to not be a Christian - in a Christian novel. And there is a reason for that. I have always seen the Colton Parker Series as being somewhat evangelistic.

While I attend CBA conferences, I also attend secular meetings as well. The opportunity for a cross-over market is present - and growing - and I want to be able to reach those who, like Colton, (and me), think they can do it all by themselves. Hence the theme in my first novel, "Original Sin". But I also want to reach Christians. All of us were once without Christ. And if He had come for us at that time, we would've been lost. But through His patience, we found Him. Still, I see Christians who tend to separate themselves from those who don't know Christ, and I often believe it is because they have forgotten where they once were. Seeing Colton as he is, should help to restore us to a sense of where we once were, and renew our gratitude to Christ for all that He has done. But, stay tuned.

Me: A little birdie told me that you used to write horror, but you just didn't have it in you, so to speak. Some say that there may be a home for a type of horror in the CBA. Have you thought about revisiting that genre, or do you want to stick to mysteries?

BD: Was that little birdie a bat? I believe, very much, that there IS a place for horror in the CBA. After all, as Christians, we battle spiritual powers all the time. What could be more horrible than that? But I think the writing would have to be very carefully handled if it were to be acceptable to the publisher and the average CBA reader. I do have, in the back of my mind (a scary place in itself), the framework for a horror novel that I would like to write--and someday I will. As far as sticking to mysteries, I would like to write the Colton Parker series indefinitely. At least, if readers still want them. But I also want to do other, more complex work. I have already contracted for a non-Colton novel, with Harvest House, and will do some police procedurals and pure suspense novels as well.

Me: What is your favorite and least favorite part of writing?

BD: Having worked for over 12 years to get here, I really don't have any least favorite parts. I like the writing process, most of all, and I like the re-writing almost as well. When I write, I don't outline. I begin with a premise, and then go with it. I often write 2000 words a day, and 5-6000 isn't uncommon. (That's after coming home from a 8-12 hour day.) But when I get "in the flow", I can go on for a long, long time. It's cathartic. I tend to write the first draft out of my subconscious, with very little thought, then go back and find where the true story is, before I begin the work of carving it out of what I have already written. I enjoy all of it.

Me: Where do you go (cyberspace or real life) when researching your novels? Anyplace unusually interesting?

BD: Since I write crime novels, most of my research is done by contacting family members and asking them. (Nearly all of my family has been police officers, going back as far as 60 years ago.) But I do a lot on the internet, too. In the book I'm currently writing, I will visit a local pathologist and watch an autopsy. So not everything can be done by a phone call, or a click of the mouse.

Me: You're quite a renaissance man, having been an FBI agent, Navy man, and now a Podiatrist. Would it be hard for you to choose just one thing to do with your life?

BD: I enjoyed my time with the Bureau (I clerked. I left the FBI before going to Quantico so that I could go to Podiatry School), and I enjoyed the Navy and I enjoy my work as a Podiatrist. But, to be honest, all of them pale to being a writer. Like most people who write, if I could do this full-time, I would. Choosing one thing to do with my life would be a blessing, if it could be writing.

Me: Can you recommend any good books on writing that have proved helpful for you?

BD: Oh, yes! Lots of them. For starters, I'd recommend:
How To Write Best Selling Fiction by Dean Koontz (out of print, but available)
Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham
Make Your Words Work by Gary Provost
The Career Novelist by Donald Maas
Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Writing Mysteries by Sue Grafton
Structuring Your Novel, from basic idea to finished manuscript by Robert Meredith and John Fitzgerald
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
Simple and Direct by Jacques Barzun

There are many, many others, but this would be a good start.

Me: What else would you like for readers and writers to know?

BD: If you're a reader, and you enjoy what you've read, spread the word. This is especially true in the CBA market. If we do not support the writers we enjoy, they cannot continue to write. And in a world that truly needs what Christians can give, that would be a shame.

If you're a writer, work at the craft. If you're a pre-published writer, work at the craft. In either case, it helps to raise the bar for all of us.

Thank you, Karri for the chance to reach your readers. I've enjoyed it very much.

Me again: You're very welcome. I had fun as well. God bless you!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:41 PM

    Thanks for the interview, Brandt. I've thoroughly enjoyed the Colton Parker series, and look forward to the next installment.

    Keep up the great work!