Brad Carl, author and all-around great guy, recently invited me to appear on Backstage. It was a real treat and he graciously agreed to pop into Ink Drop Interviews in return. He offers a bit about himself, his work, and tips and tricks he’s learned along the way…
IDI – Good morning, Brad, it’s great to have you here. Let’s start with right now. What are you currently working on?
BC – It’s nice to be working with you again so soon.
I’m currently finishing up what I would describe as a psychological drama titled Craft Beer Burning. It’s about two young men who grow up best friends and end up opening a craft brewery together as adults. The storyline is somewhat of a departure from my debut, Grey Areas – The Saga, because it lacks any major crime elements. Instead, it relies heavily on loyalty, trust, and respect for some scandalous conflict. I originally hoped to have Craft Beer Burning released before the end of 2016, but it’s been a busy year for me and now looks like it will be January 2017. I can’t wait to share it with everyone!
IDI – You’re not too far off course, and it’s always better to be a bit late and have it be right than to rush it when it’s not.
How important are your reading habits to your writing habits?
BC – When I first started getting serious with my writing a few years ago I wasn’t taking the time to read many books. I used the excuse that I was too busy writing to also read. I didn’t understand the value of the relationship between the two. At the time I was drawing a lot of my inspiration from lengthy popular television cable shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Sons of Anarchy. I thought that was all I needed because the stories were deep and phenomenal. Since then, though, I’ve realized how important it is to soak up books and stories from others. Being a reader helps put the shoe on the other foot, so to speak. I can see what works for other authors as well as what doesn’t work. Reading helps spark ideas. It expands my vocabulary and also enlightens me with ways to handle the things I struggle with regarding my own writing. In 2016 my goal was to read 12 books – any subject or style. I’m going to come very close to reaching that mark, and I’m looking forward to upping the ante in 2017.
IDI – Absolutely! It’s very important to read often and widely. So many authors either don’t make the time to read, or only read within their preferred genre and I think it inhibits their work. I also agree about drawing inspiration from (well-crafted) television shows. Some of the best writers in the world work in television.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing and how has it helped you in your own writing?
BC – I’ve learned that it’s all about the storyline. If your story stinks it doesn’t matter how elegant your prose is or how many times you go to the thesaurus to find a fancy word – no one will care. I believe readers will overlook typos, misspellings, and the like (to a degree) if you still tell them a good story. Not that I suggest skimping on editing and proofreading – it’s very important and I work very hard to give my readers a “clean” reading experience. It’s imperative to worry first and foremost about the story. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But I think a lot of writers distract themselves so much that they lose sight of this. Remaining aware of this has helped me stay focused on my main goal: to give the reader an emotional ride they can relate to.
IDI – We all draw from within, there is an element of us in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in your work?
BC – This might sound silly, but I feel there’s an element of me in almost everything I write. Being able to feel emotions strongly is a major part of writing. If you can’t relate to people and their experiences and feelings, you can’t possibly express it on paper for someone else to read and experience. Basically, every character I create is developed from my own experiences in one manner or another. It might not be from a direct personal encounter, but it could be based on observing others or hearing stories from or about others. This is probably why I enjoy dialogue so much. The interaction of people – both in real life and in my writing – fascinates me.
IDI – It doesn’t sound silly at all. I agree. And like you, my writing also tends to be dialogue-heavy.
Is there a particular area of writing (getting ideas, research, revision, editing, and such) where you seem to struggle most and how do you overcome it?
BC – I love writing dialogue so much that I sometimes find myself struggling with the narrative. I’m a details kind of guy in real life, but when it comes to writing (and reading) I’m not a fan of too much description. How much is too much? I like to give the readers just enough information so they can develop their own images in their mind. I have a big fear of boring readers with too much narrative and description. I’d rather hold their attention by moving the story forward with interesting dialogue and explanatory but brief narrative and description.
IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished writers?
BC – Don’t do it to get famous. Entertain people, tell a good story, listen to your audience and readers, make it all about them. Don’t neglect any piece of the writing or publishing process – especially the expense of editing. Find an editor that you can learn from – someone who makes you a better writer. Last but certainly not least: Read your work out loud.
IDI – Excellent advice.
Everyone has their own style and voice (if we’re doing our jobs right). That being said, if someone would compare you, who do you think they’d most likely compare you to?
BC – I’ve been told my efforts resemble those of the late Robert B. Parker, creator of the
Jesse Stone series and Spenser novels. When I first heard this comparison I was flattered but had not read anything by Parker. When I read Night Passage it all made sense. It’s cool to be compared to a successful author, but it doesn’t mean I’m done growing. In fact, it only makes me want to read more so I can continue to learn and pick up things from others.
IDI – Not too shabby. I don’t know a writer who would have an issue being compared to him.
Can you tell us three interesting things about yourself you’re sure we don’t already know?
BC – I am listed on imdb.com under the pseudonym “Brad Westmar” for my supporting role in the 2013 movie House of Forbidden Secrets as well as for the lead role in a short titled The Request that appears on a DVD horror compilation, Hi-8.
Give me an acoustic guitar and you will wind up playing and singing with me for hours – whatever you want to hear. I have been playing, singing, writing, performing, and recording off and on since I was about 16 years old. Always for fun, never for money. Strangely, I still feel to this day that I very well might be a better songwriter than I am an author.
In addition to being a disc jockey in the 90s, I had an internet radio show from 2005 to 2008 and a podcast from 2011 to 2014. Both were sarcastic/comedy/variety shows. If you Google search “Brad Westmar” you can probably still find some audio or video clips.
IDI – I admit, I went to imbd and checked you out. Impressive.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
BC – Keep writing. Don’t stop. Don’t get discouraged. You will get better and better at the craft. By the time the publishing landscape changes when you’re in your forties, you’ll have a ton of material to put out there for people.
IDI – Amen!
Okay, time to fess up. How many unpublished and half-written books do you have sitting around your house?
BC – A lot. For fun, I’ll give you a quick rundown.
I have two short stories that I wrote about 12 years ago for a Writer’s Group I was in. I’m also looking for another story that was hand written in 1990 or 1991. This one is special to me because it’s more controversial in today’s day and age than it was back then. I’d like to re-work all of these stories in the near future.
I also have a series of short stories and micro fiction that’s collectively titled Company Man. It’s a fictitious look at the ridiculous (and often comedic) side of business.
I have a free-verse poem I’d like to do something with. I’m not sure if it’s any good, but maybe some day we’ll find out…
I think this covers it, aside from the numerous ideas I have.
IDI – Trust me, I can relate.
Where is your favorite place to write, and what are your writing quirks?
BC – It varies. Sometimes I like to go to my local Starbucks and sit with a cup of coffee for a few hours. Other times I’ll sit at home. If I’m out of town I might write in my hotel room or possibly in a bar or at another coffee shop. There are two necessities (quirks): I need to have music (usually earphones unless I’m home alone) and I absolutely must be comfortable. This means sitting in a comfortable chair (some coffee shops and bars have) and putting my feet up if possible. (recliner, foot stool, coffee table)
Truman Capote declared himself “a completely horizontal author.” He claimed he couldn’t think unless he was lying down. I can somewhat relate, though he also wrote everything in longhand – no thanks!
IDI – Like you, I can write anywhere. Unlike you, I cannot listen to music while I write. I have more than 2000 songs on iTunes that shuffle on a loop 24/7, but the minute I sit to write, I hit the mute button. I find myself either singing along or being taken back through the years depending on the song (I grew up in the 70s and still prefer the music of the era).
Brad, I am so happy you agreed to chat with me and share a bit about yourself with my readers. Best of luck with your upcoming release and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.
Grey Areas FREE Pilot Book Video Trailer:
Would you like to know more about Brad and his work?