Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Interview With Brandt Dodson
Today I’m pleased to present an interview with Dr. Brandt Dodson. Brandt is one of the brightest new stars in the area of Christian suspense fiction. I was privileged to meet him at last year’s ACFW meeting, where I took his workshop in suspense writing. For those of you thinking of attending this year’s ACFW meeting, I’d highly recommend that you check out Brandt’s course.
RM: What was it about writing that first grabbed your interest?
BD: Writing is something that I have to do. I can’t not write. God has placed the desire within my heart, and when I promised to write for Him as long as He gave me the grace necessary to do so, He began to open doors that I am convinced would never have opened otherwise.
RM: You come from a family of police officers and have worked in an FBI office. Does that help you in your writing?
BD: Since most of my plots revolve around Indianapolis law enforcement, I will often turn to my father or other family members for a tricky police procedural question. That’s one of the advantages of “writing what you know.” Unfortunately, I often rely on my own failing memory for FBI procedures, and I find that things have either changed or I’ve just plain forgotten how things work. It’s those moments that make me wish I’d called someone and just asked.
RM: Rather than following in the family footsteps, why did you decide to become a podiatrist? The two fields don’t seem that similar.
BD: I loved the FBI. The general mindset of the bureau employees and the commitment with which they carry out their duties borders on a calling. The vast majority of them would never do anything that would tarnish the badge or violate the trust that they have been given. But the job is stressful and demanding, which results in a large number of divorces within the bureau. I didn’t want that. Medicine had always been in the back of my mind. Science fascinated me, so the healthcare industry seemed like the natural outlet for that. I never had any real doubts as to whether or not I could accomplish my goal, but I must admit there were times that I wondered if I had chosen the correct field. After all, cutting someone open with a knife isn’t a natural act.
RM: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue the dream to write?
BD: Too many people live lives with too many regrets. And I’ve found that the single biggest barrier between people’s goals and their accomplishments is fear—specifically, fear of failure. If God has given you a dream, or otherwise spoken to you in a way that makes your spirit restless, then I would suggest listening to Him. And pray. I wrote for twelve years before I was published. I was beginning to wonder if I was chasing a fool’s dream. But one day, as I was about to drop a manuscript of a magazine article into the mailbox, I asked God to either carry it to the right editor or relieve me of the burden of an unfulfilled dream. Six days later, I received an acceptance for the manuscript.
RM: Talk a bit about the inspiration you’ve received from writers like Raymond Chandler.
BD: Chandler (along with Hammett) set the paradigm for the hardboiled PI genre. Chandler, perhaps more so than Hammett, is responsible for tying the PI into a specific locale. Marlowe’s Los Angeles is near palpable. The city comes alive and is an integral part of the PI’s world. Robert B. Parker, who candidly admits to the influence Chandler had on him, has done the same thing in his Spenser series; Boston is Spenser and Spenser is Boston. Other PI writers have done this also, but with much less success. In Sue Grafton’s case her fictional Santa Teresa is a thinly veiled Santa Barbara, but the fictional setting loses something in the translation. While Grafton’s writing and her character are top notch, there isn’t the same feel for how the character’s environment has impacted her or how she has impacted the world in which she moves.
RM: How did you come up with the name, “Colton Parker?”
BD: I wanted to project a certain level of “lethality” to my character. I wanted him to be an “everyman”, but also one who struggles to control (or subdue) his dark side. Colton is like a boiling pot with the lid ready to fly off at any moment. Looking back, we can see how many writers have done the same. The names of guns or gun manufacturers seem the easiest way of accomplishing this task. For example, we have Thomas Magnum, Tony Berretta, etc. I chose “Colt” or “Colton.” I used “Parker” to pay homage to one of my favorite writers, Robert B. Parker, who restored the PI genre at a time when everyone was saying it was dead. He was also recently named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.
RM: You’ve written four Colton Parker novels. Tell us a bit about White Soul. Is this the start of another series?
BD: White Soul was designed and written as a stand alone, but may also represent the beginning of a series we’ve called, “To Serve and to Protect”. The series will focus on cops and the lives they lead. Joseph Wambaugh once said he didn’t want to write novels on how cops work on the job as much as how the job works on cops. I want to take the same approach, but I want to do it from a spiritual angle.
In the novel, Ron Ortega has infiltrated an organized crime family that is on the verge of a major comeback. As often happens in real life with undercover officers, Ortega begins to find himself slowly adapting to the lifestyle, which conflicts with his stated faith in Christ. Will he succumb as so many officers do? Or will he live out his faith? How far will temptation take him? Or will he stand true, even if it means he won’t live at all?
These are questions that every Christian has to face at one time or another. But in the case of Ron Ortega, there exists the possibility of immediate death if he answers “wrong.”
Brandt, thanks for dropping by. I'd encourage folks who'd like to learn more about you to visit your website. I look forward to reading White Soul, and I’ll look for you at the ACFW meeting this fall.