Welcome, Brandt. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
I’m a big fan of jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain. I grew up listening to him and eventually played the clarinet, in part, due to his influence. In high school, I eventually landed first chair because of my tendency to “jazz up” the numbers we were playing. (I think our band director was a closet Fountain fan so he tended to favor my playing style.)
Several years ago, after Hurricane Katrina devastated Pete’s home, I read an interview where he was asked the same question. (Why do you play the music you do?). His answer was poignant. He said; “I play it because it’s what I grew up listening to. It speaks to me.”
I think that’s the best answer that any artist, whether they be a musician, painter, sculptor, or writer, can give. I write the kind of books that I do because they speak to me.
Besides when you came to the Lord, what is the happiest day of your life?
I know this is going to sound trite and maybe even a bit corny, but the happiest day of my life was when I married my wife, Karla. I don’t tell her that as often as I should, but the rest of my life – everything I’ve been able to accomplish, regardless of how trivial or important – has come off of that foundation. Having the Lord with me and my wife by my side has made everything else possible.
Sometimes corny is good. How has being published changed your life?
Being published hasn’t changed my life to any great degree. I’m still the same man I was before, still struggling to put the right words on paper in the right order. I still have to take out the garbage (actually, my sons do that now, so maybe some things have changed) and I still enjoy the same things that I’ve always enjoyed. But writing has added a dimension to my life that was entirely unexpected. I’ve grown closer to the Lord as I learn that my plans aren’t necessarily His. He is clearly in control of my life – and that includes my writing – so I’ve learned to trust Him and leave the consequences to Him. I’m resting in the Lord to a much greater degree than I ever did before. If sales are up, thank God. If not, He will work it out in His time and for His purpose. That isn’t fatalism. He still requires me to do the best that I can. But it is to say that I know God will never leave me, and that especially applies to the work He has called me to do.
Writing has also brought new friends into my life, people I would never have met otherwise. I’m grateful for that.
Isn't that the truth? It's a blessing to be included in the army of authors God created. What are you reading right now?
I’m one of these people who tend to be an eclectic reader. I read widely, both fiction and non-fiction, and I read several books at one time. Amazingly enough, I tend to finish all of them at about the same time, before moving on to the next group. Currently, I’m reading: The Messenger by Daniel Silva, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, The Art and Craft of Storytelling – A Comprehensive Guide to Classic Writing Techniques by Nancy Lamb, and Finding Peace by Charles Stanley.
My wife and my sons are also avid readers. Karla tends to prefer reading the same genre of fiction that I do, and is currently reading the collected works of Mickey Spillane. This shouldn’t surprise me. Although I write what has been termed, “male-oriented” fiction, my largest group of readers is actually women.
I know I loved White Soul, and I'm sure I will love Daniel's Den. What is your current work in progress?
I’m currently writing a suspense thriller with strong political overtones. The book is titled: The Hand of God and features Martha DeLuca, an FBI profiler and James Dillback, a United States Deputy Marshal. The two have very different investigative styles and definitely do not mesh well. The story is set in Washington, D.C.
Sounds like a good read. I'll be looking for it. You'll have to come back on the blog when it is published. What would be your dream vacation?
It changes periodically. I would love to take my family (parents and in-laws too) on an extended world-wide cruise.
Now, Brandt, how do you choose your settings for each book?
Setting is extremely important to me. It becomes a character in its own right, when written correctly, and adds flavor to the story. For Daniel’s Den, I chose New Orleans because the over-arching theme of the story is that we can only rely on God. Human efforts, though noble, can and will fail. Industry falters, and government will drop the ball. But God will never fail. But a secondary theme is redemption, resurrection. Daniel Borden and Laura Traynor, the two protagonists of the story, are in need of both. New Orleans, a city that is undergoing its own resurrection, seemed to be the best place to highlight this.
For White Soul, I chose Miami for its glitz and glamour, but also for its materialism. I wanted my chief protagonist, Ron Ortega, who is in a spiritual battle of his own when it comes to following God or following the world, to be thrown into the Crock Pot, so to speak. The back drop, the setting, added the flavor I wanted while supporting the theme. Setting is important.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Billy Graham. No question. The man has been used by God in a way that no one else has ever been used. His ministry has largely remained untouched by scandal and his lifestyle has reflected a man who seems truly committed to the Lord and the calling that He has placed on his life. I am not trying to diminish the calling and the work of others. The man or woman who mops the church floor every Sunday – and does it faithfully – will receive as great a reward. But Graham has been required to live his life and ministry in the public eye in a way that most of us could never imagine, and he has done right by the Lord.
I haven’t met him, but I did get within a few feet of him during a crusade, once. It’s probably as close as I’ll ever get to talking with him.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
You mean there are other things to do?
I like to travel. It’s becoming an increasingly important part of my life. And I like history. I’m just beginning a study of my family. Besides that, I like to cook, work-out, and target shoot. I also follow boxing. (Sorry, but I’m a man. It’s what we do.)
What is your most difficult writing obstacle and how do you overcome it?
Wow, I have to choose just one?
I’d say time. I have a very busy practice, I’m teaching residents and lecturing to several medical staffs, and that easily runs 50 – 60 hours per week. So time is a problem. And then, when I have the time, it’s usually at the end of a very long day and I’m mentally exhausted. But I’ve learned that “scheduling” time in the day to write can help. So I’m learning to ease up on the hours in my practice and “scheduling” time in the day to write, when I’m the most fresh. Early morning is going to become a big part of my day. It’s amazing how many ideas and plot twists come to me in the shower that are often gone by the end of the day.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
I lecture at writing conferences (both Christian and secular) and this question invariably comes up. The best advice I can give is to:
1. Read. Read widely and deeply. Reading Agatha Christie is only going to give you a small window into the world of mystery. Reading Robert B. Parker is going to give you an entirely different view of the mystery. Both are excellent authors with large followings. But they are entirely different. So read, but read widely (more than one or two genres) and read deeply (several authors within each genre). I would also recommend reading the “leaders” in each genre. If you’re going to learn by reading, you would be well served to read the best.
2. Write. It’s easy to fall into the trap of becoming a reader or conference go-er. Both have excellent benefits (see below) but are not the same as actually writing. You learn to swim by swimming. You will learn to write by putting words on paper. There is – as Porsche used to say – no substitute.
3. Attend a good writer’s conference. You can get critiqued, make contacts, learn craft, learn marketing, and have face-to-face meeting with editors and agents. I’m the product of a good writing conference and I can’t stress this enough.
4. Be persistent. Word hard - work smart - and don’t give up. Ever.
Brandt, tell us about the featured book.
Daniel’s Den is the story of two very different people who must wrestle with the same question. Can I depend on God?
Daniel Borden is an investment analyst who, seemingly, has everything.
Laura Traynor is a struggling, single mother, trying to manage the demands of a bed-and-breakfast while raising her son and working a second job. She, seemingly, has nothing. But when unseen forces seek to destroy them both, stealing even their very identities, they are thrust together in a struggle that will leave them with no where to turn, but God.
Like Daniel in the lion’s den, the question is: “Where will you turn when the lions come?”
The Bible tells us that Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he will devour. The lions in our life may come in the form of financial disaster, a family crisis, medical concerns, or a myriad of other possibilities. But regardless of the form they take, they will come and they will come at a time when our resources are insufficient, exhausted, or gone altogether.
But the Bible also talks about another lion. The Lion of Judah. And of him, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “He is no tame lion.” And He is on our side.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I’m at: http://www.brandtdodson.com/ I love hearing from readers and will respond to all questions or comments.
Thank you, Brandt, for spending this time with us.
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