Brad Parks is the only writer to have won the Shamus, Nero, and Lefty Awards, three of American crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. Say Nothing is his UK debut and has kindly written ten things he would like his UK readers to know about him.
Right now I feel like the dude who wandered into the women’s restroom by mistake. Really, Female First? Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite comfortable with women. I love women. Especially my wife. And my daughter, who will someday kick the world’s ass. My best friends have always been women. Wait, does this sound like pandering?
It’s okay if you’re thinking, “Wait, I’ve never heard of this bloke.” I’ve had six books out in America, but this is my first in your country. So I’m the new guy here. Charmed to meet you. And about the title of this piece? I’ve always thought an author referring to “my readers” sounds a little pretentious. It’s not like people stand around at cocktail parties and say, “Oh, I’m a mother of three, a Sagittarius, and a Brad Parks reader. How about you?”
I’m the worst writer ever. Or at least that’s what I tell myself every time I get writer’s block. Self-loathing seems to be an important part of my process. So is having wistful thoughts about how I really should have gone to law school. But then I go for a long run, where I usually solve all my problems. This happens about four or five times a week.
I love being a guy. Really, it’s so much easier. And I’m not even talking about makeup, high heels, or push-up bras. I’m talking about the grocery store. If the kids act out with my wife, everyone thinks, “Look at that awful mother.” If the kids act out with me, everyone thinks, “Aww, look at that dad. He’s trying so hard!” (Yes, this may be pandering. But it’s also true).
Speaking of guys, I’m sorry about Donald Trump. It’s not like I voted for him. I just feel it’s my duty as an American to apologize that we inexplicably elected a narcissistic 70-year-old toddler who hasn’t yet learned the art of thinking before he speaks. Why is it we were smart enough to purloin your legal system, scones, and Harry Potter, but we didn’t think to borrow the “No Confidence” vote?
Speaking of liars, every time I hear authors say they don’t read their reviews, I suspect they’re full of it. I read all my reviews, even the nasty ones. I once got a one-star review that expressed disbelief that the book in question had won some awards. “I cannot fathom the enthusiasm for this egregiously opprobrious mystery novel,” it read. I responded in what I think is the most dignified way possible: I made a T-shirt out of it.
My wife and I have this debate about what I’d do if I won the lottery. I say I’d move to a Caribbean island, plant myself on the beach, and never write again—except for notes to my accountant saying, “Send more money.” She says that would last about two weeks, and then I’d find myself writing a novel about a guy who won the lottery and moved to the Caribbean... only to discover his new island paradise was home to a nefarious conspiracy. (She’s probably right, but this is not pandering. She’s pretty much always right).
I never know how my novels are going to end until I get there. Seriously. If you’re reading along and you get to page 50 and you say, “Oh, I know who the bad guy is,” I would like to offer you my congratulations. You’re much smarter than me. Because I guarantee you when I was writing page 50, I didn’t have a clue.
That said, the ending of my latest novel, Say Nothing, made me cry. And, yeah, it’s a thriller. But I not only cried when I wrote it, I cried every single time I edited it. And I must have edited it at least ten times. And every time, I’d think, Hey, stupid, you already know the ending. Why are you crying? But I couldn’t help it. The characters meant that much to me.
Oh, about makeup, high heels and push-up bras? You look great without them. Really. I think most guys feel that way about the women they love. Okay, okay, now I’m definitely pandering. So I’m just going to do what I should have done all along: Stop looking for a urinal and back out of the room with an embarrassed look on my face.
Say Nothing by Brad Parks is published by Faber & Faber (£12.99)