Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'The most hilariously funny and deadly serious mystery debut since Janet Evanovich's One for the Money.'
**Library Journal*starred review

When Brad Parks' editor asked me to blurb his book, FACES OF THE GONE, I said sure, send it, I’ll read it. Fellow journalist, good guy, St. Martin’s publishes the only highest quality. It’s probably going to be fine.

When I closed the book, I mulled it over for a bit, then handed it to my husband. I said: Honey? Could you read this, too? What I didn’t say: I thought it was such fun and so good—I figured somehow I might be wrong. But Jonathan agreed.

I have one little problem with it—smiling now—which Brad understands full well. And I’m sure he wont be able to resist talking about it.

HANK: What was the first seed of your book that you thought of? The main character? The twist of the plot? The setting. When did you think—oh, hey, this could work!

BRAD: In my case, it was the crime. I had covered this quadruple homicide in Newark, this grisly, execution-style slaying: Four people shot in the back of the head, left to die in a vacant lot. The crime was a total mystery. No one knew who did it, why, or even how these four people in particular had come to know each other. So one day -- with the real-life murder still unsolved -- I just started typing. I invented this journalism-hero protagonist, Carter Ross, a guy who was the kind of investigative reporter I maybe always hoped I could be. And, page by page, he solved the crime for me. Though, to be honest, I really had no clue what I was doing. It was pretty much a high wire act right until the moment I typed "the end." Then I had to go back and try to make it seem like I knew what I was doing all along.

HANK: So recently you got--an email? And the subject line says: Library Journal review.

BRAD: Yep, it was an e-mail from my editor at St. Martin's, Toni Plummer, and it came in at 8:51 a.m. on the last Wednesday in October. The subject line was "FW: FACES OF THE GONE LJ." The top of it, the part Toni had written, simply said "One word: Wow." I read the review, then calmly poured myself a spot of tea...

No, actually, I started parading around my home office (which also doubles as my kids' playroom), tripping over Thomas the Tank Engine trains while impersonating a marching band doing "STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER." I must have done this for close to 10 minutes, because my reply to my editor went out at 9:01 a.m., and it read: "One question: Do you think 'The most hilariously funny and deadly serious mystery debut since Janet Evanovich's One for the Money.' would fit on a tattoo? Because I'm about to have that inscribed on my chest." Shortly thereafter my agent, Jeanne Forte Dube, called and said, "Forget tattoos. I'm thinking Turnpike billboards!" And then we took turns hyperventilating for a while.

HANK: Having a first novel published is such a complicated thing. You see your actual book. There it is, the thing you loved, and worked on for so long, and it actually exists. I don't know about you, but I look at every person on the street, assessing: have they read it?
Tell me about what you're thinking these days.

BRAD: Well, first off, Hank, you're so popular, everyone you pass on the street probably HAS read your novel.

HANK: Oh, absolutely. They all wear I Heart Hank t-shirts. And I get all the good tables at restaurants.

BRAD: That's only because they're afraid you'll go undercover and expose unsanitary practices in their kitchens if they're not nice to you. Anyhow, what was the question again?

HANK: (You guys see what I mean, here...) Anyway, Brad, what's it like being a debut author? Heady? Humbling?

BRAD: I guess I'm still in that phase where I find it incredibly gratifying that anyone -- other than my mother or someone legally required by the bonds of marriage to do so -- wants to read my book. And if they actually like it? I start to get a little dizzy. My publication date was Dec. 8 and on Dec. 9 I got my first piece of legitimate fan mail from a woman named Maureen in Massachusetts. It began, "I just finished your first book...WOW. As an avid reader of mysteries, I can't wait until your next book." In some ways, getting a note like that is even better than the Library Journal review, because it came from a real reader who said she had never written an author before but just felt moved to do so in this case. I mean, getting a note like that, I felt like I could have flown all the way to Massachusetts to thank her personally.

HANK: (She wrote me that, too. Oh, gee, not really…but I know what you mean. A stranger—reads your book and likes it. That’s a real moment.) )So, your life is changing. After you get back from thanking the Massachusetts fan—are you thinking of yourself in a different way? The pressures? The—expectations? The lack of control over your future? (Or are you still just reveling?)

BRAD: Paaaaarty!! Wha? Huh? Were you sayin' somethin' Hank?? I'm having a tough time hearing 'cuz the music is so loud. Okay, there we go (had to find the volume control). I guess I AM really trying to heed the advice everyone gives a first-time author, which is: Your debut only comes once, so enjoy it. And I am. I mean, the notion that someone actually wants my signature on a book I've written? Incredible. That's just not getting old anytime soon. Of course, it probably helps that Book Nos. 2 and 3 in the series are already written. That takes some of pressure off. As for "the future," I guess I've tried to take a very long-term view. The fact is, writing books is my dream and it's what I want to keep doing for the rest of my life. So I figure I've got a long time to build an audience and can enjoy the process of doing that one book -- and one reader -- at a time. I don't know. Is that naive?

HANK: When someone asks-what do you do for a living—what do you say? Seriously, if you can.

BRAD: Usually I just say, "I'm a writer." But I'm thinking I need to change that. Because I think when you say "I'm a writer" I think what people hear is, "I'm a shiftless, lazy, unemployed bum who is only pretending to be a writer so you will be slightly less ashamed of me." Example: For more than a year now, I've been writing at this coffee house nearby me. I probably see the owner of this coffee house four, five times a month, and we always chat and exchange pleasantries. Finally, publication date comes, and we hold a big book launch party at my wife's school. Well, who should show up but the owner of the coffee house -- only he's looking at me in a whole new light, apologizing the whole time. "Everyone comes into my cafe and says they're a writer," he said. "I didn't know you were a real writer." So maybe I need to start saying "I'm an author." I don't know. Still feels a bit... pretentious or something. Or maybe I just need to bring my son everywhere with me. He's two-and-a-half. When you ask him what Daddy does for work, he says, "Daddy is auffer. He writes books."

HANK: Rewind a moment. Your Book 2 and 3 are already written? Are you daft, man?

BRAD: Darnit, Hank! Here I was going to try to go this whole interview without pointing out the inherent superiority of print reporters to TV reporters, and now you've forced it out of me. See, unlike you beautiful people on TV, who can get by on your charm and good looks, we lowly, humble newspaper reporters learn to work for a living. So that's what I've been doing. I signed my book deal in July 2008 -- and book No. 1 was written by that point, of course. It's now December 2009. So, two more books in 18 months? Really not that big a deal. I mean, shoot, James Patterson has probably published 28 books during that span.

HANK: Ahem. Happily, you don’t have to rely on TV reporters purchasing your books to make you a best-seller! And don’t worry, I won’t mention this to any of my pals on the Today Show or Oprah. (Just kidding.) (Probably.)

And just to prove there's no hard feelings, Jungle Red is giving away an autographed copy of FOTG! Just comment to be entered to win.

Brad Parks debut novel, Faces of the Gone, is the first in a series from St. Martin's Press (December 2009). Parks relied on his experiences as a staff writer at The Washington Post and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger to create Carter Ross, an investigative reporter for the fictional Newark Eagle-Examiner. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Parks lives in Virginia with his wife and two children. His website is http://www.bradparksbooks.com


  1. Congratulations, Brad! I live in Massachusetts and have NOT yet read your book, but I look forward to it.
    Happy New Year,

  2. Hank, this sounds like a fun read. Thanks for introducing us to Brad.

    dlodden at frontiernet dot net

  3. Hi Brad,
    Welcome to JR. So are books 2 and 3also based on true crimes? I certainly remember the shooting that was the inspiration for FOTG. Pretty horrific. When you first started writing about it did you plan to fictionalize?

  4. And yet another book to add to my growing list.

    When I tell people I'm a writer (or an author -- doesn't seem to matter), I get, "Have I heard of you?"

  5. As a former Jersey girl (Madison), of course I'll have to read it. Enjoy the moment! (Love the "auffer"!)

  6. Hey Everyone!

    Thanks for all the greetings. And, of course, thanks to Hank for having me on. If Carter Ross could meet Hank, he just might have to rethink his stance on TV news chicks.

    To answer Rosemary's question, books 2 and 3 are not based on real crimes, though they still borrow heavily from my reporting experience, obviously. As for Book 1, I don't think I walked away from the crime scene going, "Aha! That's my novel!" But, at the same time, I had just finished up another manuscript (that precious first manuscript that will probably stay in the desk forever) and I was looking for something new to write when that crime came along. I started working on it a few months later.

  7. Hey Brad! Congratulations on all the raves..

    Can you tell us what the new books are? Or is that still secret?

    Was it more difficult to write books two and three? How did your outlook--or writing and yourself--change? Or after twenty plus years as a reporter, did you just--do it?

  8. Hi Brad! Hi Hank! What a fun interview! I love you Jungle Red ladies, you write great blogs. :>

    Brad, as a Washington Post reader, I'm thrilled to know you're a writer too. Grins. I'll wave across the river at you from Maryland *waves* since, as you know, it seems that as close as we are, neither Maryland nor VA seem to admit the other state exists. Weird, eh?

    I was totally LOL about the coffee house incident. I write in two of my local Starbucks. These people know me so well they sent my "usual" drink and pastry to the hospital when I had my second child. Yeah, I'm an addict. "Hi, my name is Jeanne and..." You get it.

    So, the books come out and suddenly (drum roll) you guessed it, I'm a REAL Writer.

    Huge congrats on your St. Martin's Debut which if Hank doesn't give me in a win, I'll go buy and increase your sell through. Ha!

    BTW, I'm hyperventilating for you on the LJ review. WOWZA!!!

    I'm curious about the answers to Hank's question and do give us a hint on books 2 & 3...

    Hey Hank, when are you going to come visit us on the Romance Bandits? (You're welcome to come guest too, Brad!)

    Grins, Jeanne
    Dark and Deadly, Kensington, 2009
    Dark and Dangerous, Kensington, 2008

  9. Ah, a conversation with two of my favorite authors. Hank, always one of my favorites. And, I loved Brad's debut. Can't wait for the next one. Congratulations, Hank, on a fun interview. And, I'm looking forward to your new book in 2010, as well!

    Lesa - http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com

  10. Jeanne! So wonderful to see you...thanks. And of course, say the word! Adore the RBs!

    Lesa..aw. Thank you. xo.

  11. This was a great interview Hank and Brad! I have a question, though...where in the marriage vows does it legally obligate your wife to read what you write, Brad? ;)

    Congrats Brad! You so deserve this success. Happy New Year - hope 2010 is even greater to you!

  12. Jen, I was wondering that too...My DH isn't living up to the "rules" if that's the case! Hahaha!

  13. Well, Hank, I see I'm toooooo late! My fellow Romance Bandit, Nancy Northcott snagged you for a guest spot in February! Just in time for Drive Time...

    Can't wait! The Lair tends to be rowdy, so you'll fit right in.


  14. Wow, such unbridled curiosity about Books 2 and 3. Quick, someone call St. Martin's Press and tell them to move up the pub date!

    Okay, book 2, EYES OF THE INNOCENT starts with a house fire that claims the life of two young boys. The mother is nowhere to be found. But Carter -- working with a new intern, alias Sweet Thang -- tracks her down and gets her story of woe... a story that turns out to be a total lie, thus plunging Carter and Sweet Thang into a twisted world of housing flips, political kickbacks and more.

    Book 3 -- no title yet -- starts with a hit and run that claims the life of Nancy Marino, who happens to be Carter's faithful newspaper carrier. As Carter pens a simple appreciation to this otherwise anonymous, hard-working woman, he learns the hit and run wasn't an accident after all. And the publisher of Carter's newspaper suddenly seems to know a lot more than he's letting on. With the help of yet another new intern -- a hulking young man known as Lunky -- Carter works the story, against the publisher's wishes, to the peril of his career.

    Of course, re-reading those, I realize I need to work on my elevator pitches for those... but you get the point.

  15. Jeanne -- Maryland? Where's that? Is it somewhere near Idaho? Anyhow, would love to come see you at Romance Bandits sometime. But make sure it's not anytime around Hank. I can't handle following her act.

    As to my marriage vows, I may not have implicitly put it in there. But my wife has been copy editing for me since we were college sweethearts. She knew what she was getting herself into. (In that and SO many other areas).

    We could probably do a whole separate post on how our spouses deal with/react to our writing. My wife mostly just knows to ignore me when I start getting mopey because I'm stuck somewhere. But it's funny what impresses her. Do you know the biggest deal to her in this whole process? The thing that made her finally start looking at her husband like a REAL writer? It wasn't when I got my advance check. It wasn't when she saw the book in print. It was when I got an ISBN assigned to me. Hey, whatever works... :)

  16. hey brad, the day i got my isbn, i spent an hour picking out a font to blow it up in, like, eight-zillion point type, then carefully cut it out with safety scissors, and pasted it above my desk where it sits to this day. I LOVE my isbn. I wanted to name my puppy "0312559208"....

    can i be a little sappy and just say how nice it's been having you as my newbie buddy? it's been so nice sharing all the firsts with you...

    so my favorite "i's a real author" moment was...
    recently i got my car fixed at my home-town Big-O tires. (BIG shout-out to the fellas there - honest, hardworking, fair, etc. etc. etc) I go there a lot because I drive a 12-year-old Toyota minivan with 165,000 miles. I was asking my favorite guy how a person would, um, steal gas from a gas station after an apocalypse. I *did* mention I was an author to make it ok. So when I went to pick my car up he admitted to calling our home town bookstore and having them look me up to make sure I was for real...

  17. Kudos to Brad. And to you, Hank, for exulting in his success with him and with us. Thank you.

  18. I know--I come out of the study and say to Jonathan: Did I say (insert name of previous-and-now-beloved book here) was derivative? Boring? Predictable?

    He hardly looks up. Yes, he says, you did.

    Just checking, I say. And go back to work.

  19. And Sophie, you'll come visit for A BAD DAY FOR PRETTY, right?

    When is that pub date, anyway?

  20. Brad, congratulations on your first published book! I know it's said "don't judge a book by its cover" but I always do. If the cover doesn't grab me, I'm not likely to take it off the shelf at the bookstore. I like your cover. :) I like the excerpt I just read on your website :). Looking forward to reading it.

    Jenny Hanahan
    Moderator, Mystery Most Cozy

  21. Oh, Jenny--so happy to introduce you to Brad! Brad, Jenny. You'll like each other..

  22. I would LOVE to come visit y'all!! thx Hank! PRETTY is out June 12, I think. (also trying very hard to come up with a reason why my tour should include boston, other than to visit my incredibly darling niece and nephew.)

  23. Sophie, I had one of those too...asked my local arson investigator (whom I KNEW, btw!) if I needed more than a molotov cocktail to blow something up.

    "Ummmm, why do you need to know this, again?"


    Brad, when's book two out? Let's have you on the Bandits then.

    Can you see me waving from the far-away province of Mary-land? Yes, that little figure in the distance, across the River, beyond the White House....

  24. Hank, my DH comes home and if I'm all happy and gleeful with my writing, he rolls his eyes and says, "Okay, how many people did you just murder?"


  25. Sophie! If you go to Boston, you need to put Cleveland on, too! Afterall, you'd have to fly over us to get to Boston...I can hook you up with a wonderful library or two or five! ;)

  26. Let's all go to Cleveland! (Um, in the summer..)

  27. Yay! I'm all for that...summer is best - I HATE our winters! ;)

  28. Cleveland Rocks!! I went twice this year and I'm definitely going back for Dead Head..

  29. I love it! Will run "Cleveland" past tour partner poste-haste. :)

    (PS I am descended from a band of Cleveland Poles.)

  30. Brad, I can't wait to read FACES OF THE GONE. It sounds terrific and I see that you have a wonderful review from Oline Cogdill. I'm sending a big box of mysteries and cookies to the 389th in Iraq and your book will be included!! I just ordered a copy. And Hank, I'm putting the Charlie McNally Mysteries in there, too. Maybe we can make the New Year a little merrier for some folks who are doing a really tough job over there.

  31. Mary, you're amazing. Thank you. When is DEAD AIR out?

    And yes, CLEVELAND. Ro, shall we do the Jungle Red magical mystery tour?

  32. Aww, heck, let's just all jump in a tour bus this summer and drive all over the place. Jen could be the cruise director. Hank would be the moderator/spokeswoman/public face anytime we needed to look respectable. We'd dress Rosemary in black, thus giving us mystique. Sophie could play the Mom role (sorry, darlin'... I know it's not sexy... but I can just see you doling out the snacks during the long stretches of interstate). I'll turn tricks for food...

    (In other words, Soph, you better bring a LOT of snacks, or we'll all go hungry).

  33. Waah. How come I have to be the respectable one?

  34. Mary -- THANK YOU so much for putting my book in your care package. That's just awesome! And if you wouldn't mind, please slip a little note in telling the brave men and women of the 389th that their service means so much to me. And if they had a free moment to e-mail me at brad at bradparksbooks dot com I'd love to hear from any of them!

  35. Hank -- That's what you get for always looking so pulled together. Such is the burden of exuding polish.

  36. Great interviw, Hank. Thanks for introducing us to Brad. I can't wait to read FACES OF THE GONE. Congratulations, Brad.

  37. Hank -- Of course, I meant polish (small p) not Polish (big P). But I assume both would be accurate: Anyone born Harriet Ann Sablosky has more than a little Polish running in her blood, yes?

  38. Well, Aunt Portia says it's Austrian. Grandpa Dave said it's Russian. I guess it all depends on where there borders were, and when.

    Happy that everyone got to the US, no matter where from, huh?

    Brad, your new books sound terrific! Are you still on tour? Where can we come heckle, um, see you?

  39. oh, I *LOVE* that I get to be the trip mom! I have many years of snack-doling experience (scouts, sports, etc.) and I'm also real good at settling squabbles if y'all get feisty with each other. Yay!

  40. The Tour is ongoing, yes. Two big stops coming up in New Jersey: Jan. 26 at Caldwell College, where I'll attempt to fool people into thinking I'm intelligent; Jan. 28 at Princeton Library, where I clearly won't be fooling anyone. Feb. 5 I'll be at Books on the Common in Ridgefield, CT (my hometown!) and there may be another CT stop thrown in there. Plus there may be a DC stop. And some more Virginia visits. Oh, so much more.

    Not sure if I get as far North as Boston. But if I do, Hank, I'll likely be visiting someone we have in common. Think hard: When you read in FACES OF THE GONE about Tommy Hernandez, a Gay Cuban newspaper reporter, did that sound familiar at all? Ever bumped across someone like that?

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  42. The tour sounds great, Brad. Congratulations on everything..it's wonderful and well-deserved. And I'm sure there are many more wonderful things to come.

    I'm putting together notebooks and posters for the tour, making sure we all have luggage tags and boarding passes and probably t-shirts. Cleveland, here we come. And yes, there'll be room on the bus for your interns!

    As for our mutual pal--that is HILARIOUS and the world is as small as it can get. Amazing!

    Thanks for being here today!

    Stay tuned for more fun guests each day this week..Wednesday, Toni Kelner and a mysterious pin-up girl. Thursday, a special treat. And Friday--a big preview of 2010!

  43. Brad, I will definitely put in a note from you to the brave men and women of the 389th! A lot of them are from New Jersey and I think all of them are from the east coast. They will love your book. It was exciting to hear a radio interview with Lt. Colonel Lisa Scheiferstein from the 389th on the Bob Marrone show in Westchester. Hank, DEAD AIR is coming out January 5th. I tucked an ARC of DEAD AIR in my last box of goodies to the 389th, and they loved it and took turns reading it. So I'm sending some "real" books this time. It was very touching to hear how much they appreciate receiving reading material. It provides a few minutes of escape in a really tough situation. I'll include a note from Brad with FACES OF THE GONE, and Hank, I still have that drop-dead gorgeous promo piece from the CHARLIE MCNALLY MSYTERIES and will tuck that in with your books. I'm adding chocolate chip cookie dough truffles (Janet Rudolph's recipe) and egg nog cookies (Cleo Coyle's recipe) And Kahlua brownies, (my recipe) Books and food, I can't go wrong! I'll keep you posted, thanks for introducing us to Brad!

  44. Mary, where can I find info about sending mysteries to the troops?

    And Hank, glad to meet Brad...thanks for the "formal" introduction. lol

    Jenny Hanahan