I've really been looking forward to today's guest--Brandt Dodson, author of White Soul. You'll enjoly getting to know him, too.
Quite a bit. The old adage, ‘write what you know’ doesn’t mean we have to write only about the things we’ve done. If that were the case, no one could have written a space-opera that took place long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. But it does mean, write about the things we have experienced. For example, emotions like love, hate, jealousy, anger, revenge, fear, are common to all of us and my readers can relate to them. So a long way to the answer is ‘yes’. Now, I haven’t been in any of the situations that Ron Ortega confronts in White Soul, but I can definitely imagine what those situations would be like, based on my personal experience with the emotions he’s feeling at the time. So I put myself in those situations, or more to the point, I put myself into the ‘character’ who is in that situation, and then write in such a way that the reader can identify with them.
All of my characters have my DNA. I thought them up, so a little bit of me is in all of them.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
Wow, soul baring stuff, here, Lena. I was the best man at a friend’s wedding and just before we were due to emerge from the holding area and march into the sanctuary, I told him that I had hired an actress to suddenly appear at the “Does anyone find reason why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony …” point of the service and yell, ‘Yeah, his wife does.”
Of course, I hadn’t done that (it did cross my mind) but I deadpanned it so much, he believed me.
Well, as it happened, just at that point of the service, a young woman – a young woman who was clearly due to deliver a child soon – marched into the service, came forward, and – sat down.
I don’t know who was more worried, him or me.
That is really a hoot! When did you first discover that you were a writer?
It was grade school, around the fifth grade. Our teacher had given each of us a photograph and we were to write a story that went with the photo.
The picture I received was of several kids playing handball in the inner city of New York. Coming from a family of police officers, I wrote a story about a bomb being hidden inside the ball and that if the kids quit playing, the bomb would detonate.
Now, I’m not sure ‘who’ put that bomb in the ball, or why, but I liked the premise and my teacher did too. She was the first teacher to encourage me to write.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I’m eclectic. I enjoy fiction, particularly Chandler, Hammett, Dean Koontz, Robert B. Parker, Jack Higgins, some Stephen King, Tom Clancy, David Baldacci, Eric Wilson, Mark Mynheir, and Frank Peretti to name just a few.
But I also read a great deal of nonfiction. History, politics, biography (not the celebrity of the month kind, though) science, and books on social issues.
I even enjoy poetry. I particularly like T.S. Eliot, Yeates and some Dickinson. Of course, being a Hoosier, I’ve read most of James Whitcomb Riley’s work too.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I have one book that has never seen the light of a publisher’s desk lamp, nor should it.
The book is titled The Nature of God and it explores (in the broadest sense of the word) how God’s character and personality are reflected in His creation. For example; the God head, three distinct persons acting as one to provide life-sustaining force, is reflected in the water molecule, three distinct atoms, acting as one molecule to provide life-sustaining force. At the time, I thought it was deep. It was rejected in less than a week.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I try to keep the main thing – the main thing. I want Jesus to be the center of my life. I want my family to know that they come first. I have parents who are still alive and well, but who won’t always be with me.
So even though I have a 50-55 hour per week practice, and write two books per year, plus market them and serve in my church, I try not to let anything take over. There are times when I have to say ‘no’ to some church activity. There are times when I simply have to turn off the computer and spend time with God or my family. If I don’t do that, God reminds me of Jesus’ comment to Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing and that Martha ought to do the same. I’ve learned to compartmentalize and to lean on God more and more.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
When I first started to seriously write for publication, I thought coming up with names was the hardest part of the whole business. Now I feel differently. I try to choose names that are in some way reflective of the character I’m writing about, or that subliminally reveal something about that character.
For example, in my private eye novels, I wanted the name of my protagonist to project lethality. So, recalling the TV private eye shows of the seventies, I remembered that we had Thomas ‘Magnum’ (a revolver) and Tony ‘Berretta’ (a semi-automatic pistol). Keeping with that paradigm, I chose ‘Colt’, one of the largest American manufacturers of handguns, and called my protagonist “Colton”.
Likewise, the name, Emma Caine, the school teacher in my novel, Original Sin, was chosen because of Aunt Em from the Wizard of Oz (who could be threatened by her?) and ‘Caine’ because sugar cane is sweet. So, I had this non-threatening, sweet, lady who would never hurt anyone. Or would she?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
It’s going to sound corny, maybe even trite, but it’s true. Raising two boys who are happy and well adjusted.
That doesn't sound corny at all. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A dog. No question. In fact, I’d be a Boston Terrier. Dogs, in general, are loyal, friendly, and are truly man’s best friend. But I’ve had four Boston Terriers in my lifetime – my last one died just a month ago – and they are great family dogs; totally devoted.
What is your favorite food?
Wow, I have to pick just one?
I like steak, and the rarer the better. And I’m a big fan of authentic Mexican food. And Pakistani Kabobs.
So I think my favorite food would be a rare, steak-kabob with sour cream and guacamole.
(Chocolate cake isn’t bad either.)
(And hot and sour soup)
Interviewing you is so much fun, Brandt. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Self-doubt was the greatest obstacle – and still is. I haven’t overcome it and I’m not sure I ever will. Writing with doubt is like trying to write with a three hundred pound leprechaun sitting on your desk playing bagpipes. He’s always there, but you learn to drown him out.
Having gotten to know a lot of writers I’ve learned that doubt – ‘self-doubt’, the kind that says; “Is that the best you can do? Do you really think that scene adds anything? And that character – ugh – what box of clichés did you rummage around in to find her? – plagues everyone at one point or another. The trick, I think, is to turn the doubt into critical examination. That way you don’t get rid of the pesky bugger, but you do make him work for you – rather than the other way around.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
My advice is write, write, write and read, read, read. It is impossible to get good enough at your craft. No writer ever arrives.
And in order to be a good writer, you must know what’s already been written. You can learn a great deal about craft, from reading other writers.And try to have fun with this. If it becomes work, you’ve lost something. That’s not to say that writing is easy or that you shouldn’t take pains with your work. But it is to say that there ought to be something about this that completes you.
White Soul is my first stand alone novel and my most ambitious work to date.
All of us will face temptation. In itself, that’s not a sin. The big question though, is how will you handle it?
It isn’t the first look at a man or woman that begins affairs, it’s the second look.
It isn’t the first thought about taking a little extra money out of the till, it’s the second thought.
Many – if not most – undercover officers are confronted with the temptation of becoming the type of person they are investigating. Unfortunately, some officers fall into the trap and suffer the consequences.
In White Soul, I wanted to tell the story of a Christian man who penetrates a crime syndicate in Miami, where he is surrounded by beautiful women, drugs, money, and all the materialism that goes with them.
What will he do? And how will he answer the supreme question that every tempted person must face: Do the right thing or do the desired thing?
It's at the top of my To-Be-Read pile right now, so I'll start it sometime next week. How can readers find you on the Internet?
I have a website: www.brandtdodson.com, I blog at:
www.keepmeinsuspense.com and on Amazon.
I’m eager to hear from readers and I always respond to everyone who writes to me.
Brandt, thanks for spending this time with us.
Readers, check out his sites. Then leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of White Soul. And check out the other interviews where the winners haven't been chosen.