Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Interview with Brad Parks

Kim Hammond is back with us today with an interview with  Brad Parks, author of the Carter Ross mystery series. Book 5, The Player, was recently released. A former reporter, Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero and Lefty awards. He was recently toastmaster at Left Coast Crime

Kim: Where do you usually write? 

Brad: At a Hardee’s restaurant about five minutes from my house. Far enough away that I can’t hear the kids screaming. There’s no wireless internet and free refills on Coke Zero. What more can a writer ask for? At certain times of the year I am a fixture there. The manager and I have a joke that I’m on staff there. She’ll greet me and ask if I punched in yet.

Kim: Where do you get your story ideas?

Brad: In the beginning, I got them from things I covered as a newspaper reporter. My first book was based on a quadruple homicide I covered. The second was based on reporting I did about the subprime mortgage scandal. The third delves into the death of the newspaper industry, which, sadly, I’m not making up. As time has gone on, I’ve grown more comfortable making stuff up. But it’s funny how the things I covered can still work their way in there. I didn’t even realize it when I was writing The Player, but it turned out the inspiration for it came from one quote from an environmentalist, which was buried four paragraphs from the bottom of this story I wrote more than ten years ago. I had totally forgotten the quote, but obviously it was still rattling around in my brain somewhere.

Kim: Why turn to writing books? 

Brad: I always had this idea that writing mysteries would be the world’s best semi-retirement career after I burned out from reporting. What I saw happening to the newspaper industry just made me speed up the dream. My wife and I got this crazy idea that I should quit my job, we should sell our house, and we would move wherever she got a job so I could write books. And that’s what we did. My plan was to write books for five years and see how it went. My first book came out five years ago. So far, it’s going pretty well.

Kim: How long does it take to get a first draft written?

Brad: (no hesitation) Three months. 

Kim: WOW. Are you kidding?

Brad: Laughs. Sorry. Don’t hate me. I write a thousand words a day. And if you do that, you can get a book done in three months. I always say writing is like a muscle, the more you work it and the harder you work, the stronger it gets. I don’t really believe that there ought to be rules for writers, except for one: a writer has to have a daily goal. Whether its total words per day or time in the chair, set a goal and stick to it. 

Kim: Who do you like to read?

Brad: Lisa Gardner, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, who I consider a role model. I don’t get to read as much as I wish I could. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I can’t read while I am writing a draft, so there’s only a few months a year that I can read for pleasure. I treasure those months.

Kim: If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Brad: John D. MacDonald. He’s my first crime fiction love. I’d like to think there’s a little bit of Travis McGee’s DNA in Carter Ross. Just a little.

Kim: Are you shy or outgoing?

Brad: I’m outgoing…..all the time.

Kim: Ever stalked by a fan?

Brad: I wish. Actually, I have a Canadian stalker. She’s very polite. Maybe too polite. I wish she’d pick up her pace a little. As a matter of fact, I’d like to extend an offer for any would-be stalkers out there: I will grow an extra set of bushes outside my house for you to hide in, add a comfortable chair, and even serve you Coke Zero. All I ask is for you to violate your restraining order around release time for a new book. I could use the publicity.

Kim: Any say in your book titles or covers?

Brad: Titles, yes. I come up with a list and they usually pick from my list. Book covers, no. My contract says I have the “right to consult.” Kim, you’re a lawyer. You know that “right to consult” actually means “Yeah, we’re going to do whatever the hell we want. Deal with it.”

Kim: What do you do if/when you have writer's block? 

Brad: I don’t believe in writer’s block in the hopes that it won’t believe in me. When I do get blocked, I go for a run. Usually, it only takes about half a mile before I’m unblocked. 

Kim: And then you just turn around?

Brad: No, I complete the run—four miles, six miles, whatever I planned on doing. I really don’t call it writer’s block. I call it idea block. Because that’s what it is.

Kim: If you weren’t a writer what would you be doing right now?

Brad: Still trying to hang on to being a reporter, but knowing I’d be out of work some day in the next five years.

Kim: Favorite writing drink and/or food? 

Brad: Coke Zero. I can go through sixty ounces in a morning. I drink manically while I’m writing. Luckily, I don’t eat manically while writing, or I’d weigh eight hundred pounds. I mean, seriously, have you ever looked at the calorie content of a Hardee’s biscuit?

Kim: Are any of your characters based on people you know?

Brad: Oh yes, but I can’t say more because I need to maintain plausible deniability.

Kim: A guilty pleasure?

Brad: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I take pleasure in life and don’t get guilty about it.

Kim: Tell me something about you that readers might not know?

Brad: I can catch grapes in my mouth thrown from virtually any distance and any angle. 

Kim: How much of Carter Ross is you?

Brad: I always say we have nothing in common other than our shared height, weight, eye color, hair color, sartorial blandness, and general world view. That said, I do know where I end and Carter begins. When I envision a scene, I’m seeing a different person, not myself. And I do things to him I’d never do to myself. To be honest, it’s just a convenience writing a character who’s a lot like me. I can have him going into a housing project, as a six-foot-one, 185-pound stiff white guy, and I know how people will respond to him because I am a six-foot-one, 185-pound stiff white guy. That said, he’s better looking than me and a better reporter.

A big thank you to Brad for giving me over an hour of his time. For more about Brad, check out his website at

And if you would like to see Brad in person, come to the world's largest mystery convention, Bouchercon. He will be there. 


  1. Fantastic interview, as always. Brad is one of the funniest mystery writers around, on the page and in real life. Congratulations on the new book (and the new Lefty!). I’m looking forward to reading it.

  2. Thank you to both Brad and Kim for this wonderful Q&A. Brad - I hope you get the stalker you always dreamed of soon...

  3. That was great! I had the pleasure of meeting Brad for the first time at LCC (you have a new stalker as of LCC). See you at Bouchercon (that gives you 7 months to get that R.O.)!! LOL

  4. Thanks for all the nice wishes. Especially when it comes to the stalker. All you can do is put it out in the universe and hope for the best, you know?

  5. I'd like to apply for the position of stalker. I met Brad at LLC and told him he was gonna win The Lefty. I tell everyone that his writing is spit-take funny no matter what you're drinking. But Scotch hurts the worst.

    Laura H.

  6. I like Coke Zero too, but Cherry Coke Zero is my favorite. I usually drink two cans of pop a day.