Author Interview with Tom Bradley
January 16, 2014 Leave a comment
Nothing pleases me more than when I get to interview a fellow writer. I like to dig into their mind and get their interpretations on aspects of their writing and stories. It’s especially nice when I known the author, so this month I interview Tom Bradley, a writer friend of mine from Agent Query Connect.
So let’s begin…
1. Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and what genre do you write?
I was born and raised in south-central Pennsylvania but currently reside in the Las Vegas area. I’ve also lived in San Diego and San Antonio.
I write humorous crime and mystery novels set on the Big Island of Hawai’i and featuring a private investigator named Noelani Lee.
2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
I suppose we should first parse my pay-the-mortgage professional writing from my writing writing.
I began writing at a young age; I recall jotting down little stories when I was in second grade. I’ve always had an affinity for writing, since I have no other tangible skills—ask my wife, she’ll confirm I am definitely not a handyman. When I was in middle school, my ambition was to be a newspaper reporter. After serving in the Navy as a journalist for seven years (which afforded some opportunities for writing), I fulfilled my dream and landed a job reporting for a weekly community newspaper in San Diego.
Of course, journalists don’t make much money, and even when I went to work for a daily in Oceanside, Calif., I wasn’t making much more than I did working for Uncle Sam. I later got a job working in public relations for a Las Vegas-based advertising and PR agency, which opened the door to a different style of writing. The same has held true at other jobs since, both in San Antonio and back in Las Vegas.
Fiction writing came to me because in addition to my dreams of becoming a reporter, I always wanted to write novels. My first efforts, though, were awful and I usually shelved them after getting 120 pages or so into the manuscript. I managed to finish one about a dozen years ago but it, too, left much to be desired. Then I finished another one, which I thought was quite funny but in hindsight was terrible. Then I dug into a wealth of on-line resources and social networking sites and began to take writing seriously—learning about show versus tell, consistent POV, eliminating passive sentences and adverbs, etc. I went on to complete and self-publish THE KONA SHUFFLE, and have since finished and will soon release THE HILO HUSTLE. I hope to release a third novel in the Noelani Lee series by the end of 2014.
3. Now that you have a book under your belt, what’s your take on the whole self-publishing process? What was the hardest part for you? What was the easiest?
The most difficult part for me was keeping my hands of the manuscript once my editor finished her review. I would up making several post-editing revisions, which resulted in some new and embarrassing spelling and grammatical errors. At least one reviewer on Amazon called me out on them after I published, so I had to go back in and correct the mistakes I made. I guess one thing I learned was to leave well enough alone once I am finished.
The easy part? I’m not sure which part was the easiest. It was rather seamless; you write the book, you edit the book, you get a cover and—for better or worse—you send it out into the big, bad world.
4. Are there aspects of being a reporter that have carried over into your novel writing process?
As a reporter, I faced deadlines every day. I’ve carried that aspect of the job over to my writing, in that if I impose a deadline on myself, no matter how artificial, it helps me get things done in a more expedient manner. I did this with THE KONA SHUFFLE; I allowed myself a set period to finish the first draft, which I met with time to spare. When it came time to publish the completed novel, I set my target date for last St. Patrick’s Day. However, because I had a cover and the book was ready to go, I moved the timeline up and published it on my birthday, February 25.
As for how my newspaper background affects my writing, I am learning to be more succinct and less extraneous with my fiction. I assume this applies to most writers no matter their genre—keep the action flowing, make sure each character’s actions and their dialog drives the plot, etc. In writing for a newspaper, you have only a certain number of column inches available to tell a story, so you learn to be economical with your writing. I am learning to follow that same rule of thumb with my fiction, which explains why I try to eschew adjectives and avoid adverbs altogether.
5. Let’s talk a little about your latest project. What is the title and what is it about?
I am at work on another Noelani Lee mystery/caper involving a once-beloved Hawaiian singer, a major resort development project, political graft, real estate fraud, embezzlement, a murder or two, and owls, sea turtles, and mongooses. This one has had several working titles, none of which are satisfying. I have set aside temporarily while I make final preparations to publish THE HILO HUSTLE on February 3.
6. What is it about Hawaii that made you use it as a backdrop for your novels?
I wrote about this subject on my blog. Honestly, I could have set my stories anywhere, but I think of my novels and love letters to one of my favorite places on the planet.
7. What things influence your writing, and have you ever written them into a story?
I tend to cherry-pick ideas from the news or what I hear on the radio or see on TV and adapt them to my setting and characters. For example, in the beginning of THE KONA SHUFFLE, Noelani Lee is sexually assaulted in a parking garage by a senator who is running for governor of Nevada. This is loosely based on a real-life incident that took place in Las Vegas several years ago. The rest of the novel, however, just sprang up out of my head, as did the plot for THE HILO HUSTLE and the third novel I’m currently working on.
8. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?
A thousand times. What writer hasn’t? And there were occasions in the past when I did give up. Years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for me to start writing a book, get about 100 to 120 pages into it, realized it sucked, then quit. Even when I finished a novel—I am thinking of one I completed about a dozen years or so ago—I would abandon it when I realized it wasn’t any good.
What changed my mind was recalling my lifelong dream of seeing “…by Tom Bradley Jr.” on the cover of at least one book before I died. My first choice would have been for a publisher to do so, but as I got older and the rejections piled up, I realized this wasn’t likely to happen. However, the advent of self-publishing made things a lot easier and provided me with the platform to send my own work out into the cold, cold world. Now that I’ve done it, I believe I am growing as a writer and am developing more confidence in my skills, which induces me to continue writing and putting my work out there for anyone who wants to read it.
9. Is there a genre that you would like to write? Something you would find a challenge?
I am so comfortable in writing crime/mystery novels that I don’t give other genres a thought. However, because I am a complete history nerd, I have wondered what it would be like to write historical fiction, particularly about the Civil War, the Gilded Age, and the post-World War II era. Of course, this would require devoting more time to research, and because I am at my core quite lazy, I doubt I will ever make an attempt.
10. As a reader, what are some things that attract you to a story?
The story itself has to draw me in and keep a grip on my attention. But beyond that, I am drawn to compelling characters—especially those with human frailties and quirks—and realistic dialog. And it had better not insult my intelligence or I will put it down and never pick it up again.