BOOK FUN MAGAZINE - FREE READ

NORA INTERVIEWS BRANDT DODSON


How did you get the idea for Original Sin? How did you think of the title – it’s very interesting. If this wasn’t the original title, what was the working title for this book?



After a particularly long day at the office, I came home and sank into the recliner where I immediately begin channel surfing. I came on the WGN news, a television station that reports the local news of the greater Chicago area. My wife and I used to live in Chicago so we follow the news there in order to stay up on what’s happening. That evening, as I was watching the news, they reported on the viscous murder of an elderly retired nurse who was well liked by nearly everyone in the neighborhood. Someone had shot her over a dozen times, but had taken nothing. There was no apparent motive for the murder. But having worked for the FBI, and having grown up in a family of police officers, I knew this wasn’t true. Someone wanted this lady dead and they wanted her dead very badly.



The next evening, while again watching the WGN news, the reporter said that the police had arrested a suspect. The suspect, as it turned out, was her podiatrist. Now you must understand – I am a podiatrist – so this caught my attention and started the wheels turning.



What if this lady wasn’t what everyone thought she was? What if she was into some very dark stuff? What if – as we used to say in my neighborhood – she needed killing?

I began playing the “what if” game with a news report. But I also wanted to develop an idea that would illustrate how we (as a society) came to this. How we “all” came to the point in our world where we can murder each other and think nothing of it.



That led me to the concept of original sin and the fall from grace. There is very little in our world that is pleasing to God. We (humanity) have fallen so far from Him and grieved Him so much, that He has already destroyed the world once.But he also sent his son to die for us and to redeem us so that we can be something better. It’s an amazing story, and here I had the chance to encapsulate it in a murder mystery. It was a golden opportunity.



The original title was going to be: Sins of the Father. We had the edited manuscript ready to go to print, the cover made, and then … my editor called to say we needed to change the title. Apparently, someone named James Scott Bell (does anyone know this guy?) had just released a book with the same title. Although titles can’t be copyrighted, you still don’t want to have two books with the same title, aimed at the same market.I chose Original Sin, because it filled the bill.

How did you prepare to write about the subject? I have read that you have family used to be FBI. Is that true? Did they help you writing Original Sin? Did your immediate family have ideas to share?


There was very little preparation in writing the story. My father is a 40 year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department so I asked him some technical questions – particularly for the interview scenes which occur in the Indianapolis (Marion County) jail – but other than that, there was little I didn’t already know. That made for an easier write (note that I said, “easier” not “easy”) because I was basically spared the need for expanded research.

My family wasn’t employed by the FBI, I was. However, my father, my cousin, and a string of uncles, aunts, and other relatives have all been employed by the Indianapolis Police Department – going back as far as 1930. I still have relatives who are police officers.



I didn’t go to my family for ideas on Original Sin. This was my first novel and I wanted to keep it under wraps until it was done. I needed to know that I could do this. But now, I have a string of first readers and my family constitutes a large part of them.

Some writers plot out what they are going to write, step-by-step, and others say they write by the seat of their pants. Which style of writing best describes your style?

I wrote for twelve years – off and on – before I broke into print. For the whole of that time, I was outlining in advance. It drove me nuts. I changed gears with Original Sin and went by the seat of my pants. I’ve been doing it every since.
The late Tony Hillerman once wrote that no one gets out of work. You either outline in advance, or you do a lot of re-writing later. I seem to do a lot of re-writing, but I prefer it that way. However, before I begin working I spend a lot of time “thinking” about the story, the characters, the theme and the plot. Is that outlining in the traditional sense? I don’t think so, but I do think it’s smart to know your novel’s features before you put pen to paper.

When you were growing up what were the three most important values you learned that have shaped your life. Please explain.



My mother always said, “God is watching”. Now to a kid, that can be a frightening thing. But today, as an adult, it is a comforting thing.





Both of my parents taught me three things without even realizing they were doing it. And today, if I violate – or think of violating – any of them, my conscience won’t let me rest until I make it right. Consequently, I don’t violate them.
My brother and I were taught: honesty, integrity, and perseverance.



Honesty is doing everything as though God were watching. (Because He is. Even if a thing is legal, it may not be right.)



Integrity. This is what you do when no one is watching. The man or woman that cheats on their spouse while on a business trip may not have been caught, but they also have no integrity. (Besides, God is watching.)



Perseverance. Nothing in life comes easy. Even when Jesus healed someone, He asked them to do something. “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” “Show yourself to the elders.” Furthermore, the bible tells us to pray without ceasing; in short, to not give up. Jesus told the story of the woman crying out for justice who, because of her persistence, received it.



I wrote for 12 years before I broke through. If it all went away today, I would continue to write until I broke in again.

I have read that you are a podiatrist and are a busy doctor. When do you have time to write?



I’ve practiced podiatry for twenty years. I will typically see 35-45 patients per day, operate one day a week, see patients at our hospital’s Wound Care Center a half day per week, and teach residents, lecture to hospital staff, give talks to community groups, and sit on several committees. But I’ve also found that we can always find time to do the things we love.



I write in the evenings after dinner, after the kids have gone to bed, and I write on weekends as often as possible. Sometimes I’ll even write on my lunch hour.
I’ve found that being a writer is a lot like being a doctor or a police officer. I’m never “off duty”. My mind can be developing plot ideas even as I’m going about my daily tasks.

What books do you like to read to be relaxed or entertained by? What authors inspire you?



I don’t think there is any writer who can’t say they have been inspired by another writer. When I first opened my own practice, I discovered that patients didn’t beat a path to my door. So I went to my local bookstore one afternoon, and bought a copy of The Bad Place by Dean Koontz. I was struck in the first paragraph by the man’s ability to craft a sentence. Within two weeks I had read some 13 or 14 books from his back list. He’s been a major source of inspiration for me.



But I grew up reading. We didn’t have a television when I was a kid, so I spent a lot of time at the public library which, fortunately, was in my neighborhood. I read a lot of Beverly Cleary’s work along with the Hardy Boys, among others. As an adult, I began reading: Chandler, Twain, Poe, Hawthorne, and later, Robert B. Parker, Tom Clancy, Jack Higgins, Alex Berenson (a new author and one to watch) David Baldacci, Brad Meltzer and Ken Follett.

I have enjoyed nearly everything that Follett has written, particularly his ground-breaking Pillars of the Earth. This novel – a story about the building of a cathedral in medieval times – was such a departure from any of his previous work that many in his circle thought he was laying the ground work for the end of his career. However, the novel has developed a cult following and still sells over a 100,000 copies every year – twenty years after its release. He released the sequel last year, and all indications are that it will sell just as well. There are very few authors who can break their brand and not lose readers, let alone capture new ones.

Did you have a say in choosing the book covers for your books? Especially the Colton Parker series. They have been so amazing and eye catching. How did that process go for you?



I think that every writer has a concept in their mind of how the cover of their book will look, or should look. I certainly did.But I am sooo glad they didn’t listen to me.


The artist that Harvest House has chosen for my covers is outstanding. I had the chance to meet him at the CBA conference two years ago, and he showed me a mock-up for White Soul. I was thrilled.

I can still remember when my editor sent the cover flat for Original Sin. I had no idea what the cover would look like, but when I saw it I knew they had chosen the right artist.

How much of you is in this story? (Original Sin) Please explain. Did it make it easier or harder to write?


There’s a great deal of me in Original Sin in the sense that all of the characters have my literary DNA. I thought them up, I made them speak, and gave them the emotional reactions they have. But there’s more of me in it than that.

I saw this story as an opportunity to examine how far removed from God all of us are. Sin has separated us from the life he originally planned and every time we hear of a murder (like that of Emma Cain) or every time we hear of a child being molested, or a witness a drive-by shooting, or stand at the grave of a loved one, we can know that it isn’t God’s will. He didn’t design the world like that.

I wanted to show in story form what we all know to be true, but sometimes forget. Mankind cannot function on its own. We need God. We can’t get it right without Him.
I wanted Colton to be an everyman. Someone with whom men (and women) can identify. He stumbles through life, making a wreck of it, because he has chosen to live it his own way. In that sense, Colton is very much like me. Or at least, like I once was. But by story end, he has come around to the point of at least recognizing his short comings even if he isn’t ready to yield to Christ.

Colton doesn’t become a Christian. There are no trumpeted conversion scenes. Life rarely works like that.

How did you come up with the idea for Daniel’s Den? Was that the original title for that book? If not, what was the working title?

I choose all of my titles from the bible or biblical concepts. They give me the support for my theme that I’m looking for, and are phrases or concepts that are familiar to most everyone.








I got the idea of Daniel’s Den from the news reports of Hurricane Katrina. In the early days of that disaster there were people dying on bridges, streets, and in community shelters for lack of food, medicine, and water. Yet the U.S. government had ample supplies of all of these items and couldn’t get it to the victims. It occurred to me that the nation was learning that it cannot depend on anyone but God. Just like Daniel in the lion’s den.



At the time I wrote the book, the current economic crisis was not news. However, the backdrop of Daniel’s Den (corrupt politicians and CEOs meet easy money) has proven to be eerily timely. The United States is experiencing an economic meltdown that should show all of us we can only put our faith in God.

The title was the easiest part of the book. Once I had the idea, I knew the title I wanted. Harvest House has been very good about letting me keep my working titles.

Was it hard to change your style of writing from Original Sin to your current book, Daniel’s Den?

Oh my, was it ever. It was like pulling teeth without anesthesia.



The Colton Parker series are very much written in the paradigm established by Chandler and Hammett. It’s the style that the old Dragnet TV show often used.
Short, terse statements, mouthed by a no-nonsense guy who’s seen and done it all.
And, of course, they are written in first person.

Now I know a large number of writers and many question their ability to write a suspense story in first person. After all, you can’t reveal anything to the reader that the protagonist doesn’t also know. But I’ve found that point of view to be the natural story telling method and since it is part of the original format for a story of this type, I stayed with it.

Daniel’s Den on the other hand, was going to have to be written from the omniscient viewpoint and that presented some challenges. A change in style always does.

I will read my work out loud before closing the day. Especially my dialogue. If it doesn’t ring true – and so many novelists fall short on this – then I re-write it.
With each novel I write, I try to push the envelope. I try to force myself into new techniques that challenge and grow me. Consequently, each novel I write is far more difficult than the one before it. There are many times that I wonder if I have what it takes to finish my current project. But somehow, with God’s help, I’m always able to find the needed reserve.

QUESTIONS YOU REALLY WANTED TO ASK BRANDT BUT WERE AFRAID TO,SO I DID!!

1.Ok, Brandt, I just have to ask you this question. On the back of all the Colton Parker books you have a picture of this serious rugged type guy in a leather jacket. You signed the guest book on my blog and if you didn't put your name under the picture I wouldn't have recognized you. This is good when you become famous you can be your natural self and no one would recognize you. How did that picture come about? Who's idea was it to put that picture on the back of those book? It was brilliant.



When I began publishing I was told by just about everyone and their sister that I needed to establish a brand as quickly as possible. During my years of reading I had seen photos of authors like Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and Louis L’Amour that were taken “in character”. So I thought, why not?


One of the nurses at our clinic is an excellent photographer and agreed to do the shoot for me. We shot the photos (over 200 hundred of them) on October 28th. It was in the low forties and very windy. We chose the alley for the photo that you have here, because it shielded us from the wind – as well as added to the look we were trying to capture.

2.Enquiring minds want to know in your house who in charge of your remote control?


I’m in charge of the remote. My wife controls everything else. (She’s going to read this.)



3. Someone has just created an invention that will allow you to change one thing about yourself. First of all would you use the machine?Second Once you decide to use the machine how would that one change look like in your life?


It’s probably heresy to say this since the bible tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but … I’d like to be able to sing.

4.What movie most impacted you as a child?






The Birds. I was afraid to go outside for weeks. I’ve not looked at a robin the same way since.


5. Out of all the high tech gagets out there today please name three that have really impacted your life? How?




Cable TV. We refused to get it for a long, long time. But now that we have, we love it. We don’t watch a lot of TV, but there is so little on regular programming that when we do watch it, we have a choice. We don’t subscribe to HBO, Showtime, etc, but do have basic cable.









I like Monk, my wife likes CSI, and we both like Law and Order. Other than that, it comes down to the news programs (the real news shows, not the politically spun argument sessions) travel channel, History channel, and Animal Planet.





My Blackberry would have to be next. I resisted any type of cell phone or PDA for years. But with the volume of emails I receive – some of them coming from my agent or publisher – I felt the need to acquiesce and join the 21st century. I’m glad I did.



Third? It would have to be the navigation system in my car. Even with having the thing I can still get lost, which probably tells you how geographically challenged I am. I do a lot of traveling now, and I no longer have to print out directions or carry an Atlas.

6. If you had all the time in the world and just as much money, what would you do? Why?


This is really going to sound corny, but I have enough money to meet my needs and most of my wants. I’d make sure that my kids, parents and in-laws had all they needed and then give the rest away.

Time? I don’t know that I want that much time. I truly want to see Jesus and when he’s ready for me to go – so am I.

7.If you had to pick a super hero to be for 48 hours who would you be and why? (You are the author here you can mix and match powers and costumes.) Ha!

Mix and match? Could I be WonderBat? (Get it? Wonder Woman and Batman? Pretty lame, huh?)







I’d probably go with Superman. George Reeves had a lot of influence on me when I was a kid. I even still have the Superman suit that I received on my fifth Christmas.
The guy can fly. Come on. Who doesn’t want to do that?

8. If money wasn't an object what would be your favorite resturant to eat breakfast? What would you order? The same deal for dinner? What would be your favoriate spot be for dinner and what would you order?

Breakfast?

My wife and I had an opportunity to go to Hawaii a few years ago and stayed at the Waikoloa Hilton which is located on the Big Island. The resort has this great breakfast bar that is locate in a carved out cave. As you eat, swans swim around your table.


The food was great, the location was fantastic, and we had a great time. Although I truly like Bob Evans, I just haven’t been able to re-create the mood there that I found in Hawaii. Go figure.

For dinner?





I had a sales rep take me to Morton’s Steakhouse once. It was great. Way too pricey for me, but hey … if money’s no object.

9. If you had 48 hours to hang out with anyone alive or dead in the history of the world; what two people would you pick and why? What would you do? What would you ask them?

I’d love to hang out with Abraham Lincoln. The man was wise. Maybe not educated, but very wise. I’d like to pick his brain. I’d like to see where he’d stand on the issues of our day. As a nation, we owe him a lot.












Other than Abe? Probably Billy Graham. I had a chance to see him once, up close, but that’s the best I’ll ever get. I’d like to see how he kept his ministry largely free from scandal. That’s particularly hard to do when you’ve lived all of your life in the public eye – as a Christian – with the whole world watching.

10.I've discovered this crazy secular book called Zobmondo! I just had to ask you a question from it to see what your answer would be. Here goes it, are you ready? You are the first one to take this test.

WOULD YOU RATHER(you have to pick one)

Live in a world without grass (OR) Live in a World with no roads?


Wow. This is truly deep, Nora. (You need to get out more. Widen your circle of friends :D)

I’d probably rather live in a world without roads. All of us are in too much of a rush anyway. We need to take the time to relax, lay on our backs in a grassy meadow, and watch the clouds drift by.

ANY FINAL COMMENTS YOU'D LIKE TO LEAVE MY READERS WITH?

Absolutely. In all seriousness, everything we do should be for the glory of God.After all, we can't take our next breath unless He permits it. Whatever success He allows me in the publishing world is for His glory.

Thanks Nora.

Brandt

Hey Brandt, I'm working on my circle of friends. That's why I do book club and interview authors. (one of the reasons anyway Ha!) Thanks for taking the time to drop by. EVERYONE is excited to meet you really soon. I appreciate you answering my fun questions. I say if you can't laugh and have a good clean fun why bother!! I've enjoyed your books and look forward to meeting you at book club.

Blessings on your writing and journey to Atlanta friend.

Nora :D

9 comments:

  1. Ah...my favourite podiatrist!! Ok, so the only one I know :)

    Thanks Brandt and Nora - fascinating Q & As as always ;-)

    Love your work!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great interview guys.

    One thing I found really interesting was how you play the "what-if" game to craft your story but then you also seem to think about the message you're really trying to get across [as in Original Sin]. Since you write SOTP do both things simply flow out naturally as you write or do you work your "theme" in rewrites?

    Tiffany Colter, TheBalancedLife.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Nora for such a great interview. I've just started reading "Daniel's Den" and now am looking forward to reading some of Brandt's other books.
    Blessings to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Tiffany,

    For me, theme is critical. This is particularly true in Christian fiction.
    Every writer I know writes because they have something to say. That is especially true of Christian writers. So I begin with a theme in mind: The love of money, the difficutly of forgiving someone, etc. Then, with that in mind, I begin writing the story - with no future thoughts on the theme. Sounds odd, doesn't it?
    Once the story is done (the first draft, anyway) I read the story to see if everything in it - including all of the symbolism I used - is tied together by the theme. If not, I re-write it.

    I'm not trying to preach in my work. But novels that resonate with readers must have something that holds the work together and addresses their felt needs.

    At the end of King Kong (the original movie) we hear the line, "It was beauty that killed the beast". That line underscores the movie's theme. Which is: "Man is the most dangerous animal"
    Even though we are initially lead to fear King Kong, we eventually feel sorry for him and feel sympathy when he is shot down. Only then do we realize that WE are the culprits. We went after him and pulled him from his world and then killed him.
    That movie is a classic, I believe, because of the theme which unified virtually every scene.

    Brandt Dodson

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, what an interview!! And I especially loved Brandt's comments to Tiffany about King Kong. Can't wait to read Original Sin and meet Brandt at book club. Thanks Nora, enjoyed the interview as usual.

    Gail Mundy

    ReplyDelete
  6. Nora & Brandt
    I really enjoyed the interview and I especially liked Original Sin. I am a suspense/thriller addict. I am looking forward to getting to know Colton Parker better in the rest of Brandt's series. Can't wait to meet Brandt at book club.

    Ann Kinamon

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great interview! I love his books! I wish I could be there Monday night but I have an extra credit night at school and I need it with graduation coming up.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great interview. I am really looking forward to meeting Brandt at the meeting. I love a book filled with suspense and this one grabbed me from the very beginning. I can't put it down. I left it in the car so that I wouldn't be tempted to pick it up while working.
    I look forward to reading more of Brandt's books and introducing the book club I lead to his work.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really enjoyed the interview and the book. I am looking forward to reading Daniel's Den. It sounds great! I'm also looking forward to meeting Brandt at book club.

    ReplyDelete