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A Conversation with Thriller/Crime Author Brandt Dodson

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Brandt DodsonBrandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which he would later choose as the setting for his Colton Parker Mystery series. Although he discovered in grade school that he wanted to be a writer, it would be another twenty-one years before he would put pen to paper.“I knew in fifth grade that I wanted to be a writer. Our teacher had given each of us a photograph which we were to use as inspiration for a short story. The particular photo I was given was of several young men playing handball in New York City. I don’t remember all of the particulars of the story now, but I do remember the thrill that writing it gave me.”

Later, while in college, one of Brandt’s professors would echo that teacher’s comment.

“But life intervened and I found myself working at a variety of jobs. I worked in the toy department of a local department store and fried chicken for a local fast food outlet. Over the course of the next several years I finished my college degree and worked for the Indianapolis office of the FBI, and served for eight years as a Naval Officer in the United States Naval Reserve. I also obtained my doctorate in Podiatric Medicine, and after completion of my surgical residency, opened my own practice. But I never forgot my first love. I wanted to write.”

During his early years in practice, Brandt began reading the work of Dean Koontz.

“I discovered Dean’s book, The Bad Place, and was completely blown away by his craftsmanship. I read something like 13 or 14 of his back list over the following two weeks. It wasn’t long after that I began to write and submit in earnest.”

Still, it would be another twelve years before Brandt was able to secure the publishing contract he so desperately desired.

“I began by writing the type of fiction that I enjoyed; I wrote edgy crime thrillers that were laced with liberal amounts of suspense. Over the years, I’ve begun to write increasingly more complex work by using broader canvases and themes.

Since securing his first contract, Brandt has continued to pen the type of stories that inspired him to write when he was a boy, and that have entertained his legions of readers.

“I love to write, and as long as others love to read, I plan on being around for a long time to come.”

Brandt Dodson’s latest book is the crime thriller The Sons of Jude.

Visit Brandt Dodson’s website at www.brandtdodson.com.

B7C8YX Chiffon Scarf on white backgroundQ: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Brandt.  Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

The Sons of Jude is my seventh novel. However, it’s the eighth book I’ve written. That book, which was actually my first, will never see the light of day nor should it. Some things are best left unsaid and I said them all in that first one.

I’ve published some short stories, too, but I prefer the long form. Novel writing gives me a chance to day-dream and cook the story ’till it’s done.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?

For a long time after beginning an earnest effort toward publication, I focused on short stories. I figured at the time that they were easier; that they were shorter, less complex and would help me establish writing and publishing credentials. Nothing could be farther from the truth. At least in my case.

When I began to focus on the long story form, my fiction began to pick up steam. Not so much in the sense that publishers were beating a path to my door, but that I was making headway as a writer; my craft was developing along the lines it should have. When I felt I was ready, I began to write the second book of my career. That novel, Original Sin, literally poured out of me in a week. I wrote the entire book longhand. It was a first-person suspense story, something I’ve since learned can be quite challenging. At the time, though, I didn’t know enough to know what I didn’t know.

But it worked.

When it came time to submit – and remember, this was 2004 – self-publishing was still in relative infancy with a lot of stigma attached to it that is not the case today – I felt the only realistic option I had was to seek out a traditional publisher. After completing Original Sin, I attended a writer’s conference the following week where I met with an editor from a small press publisher. He liked the book and that meeting eventually led to a three-book contract. I had a 12 year odyssey learning how to write, but when I got published, it happened rather quickly.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

After submitting Original Sin my editor asked for another novel so that he could show the committee that I wasn’t a one-book writer. I wrote the second novel in four weeks and he liked it better than the first. He told me to sit tight. It was almost a year to the day after he first saw Original Sin that the contract offer came. As I’ve mentioned, it was a three-book contract, but I already had two of them written. They brought the books out, as a series, spacing those four months apart over the course of a year.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I was attending the same writer’s conference a year later when I heard about the contract offer. The conference was held on a college campus in June so some of the attendees could stay in the dorms. It was a few minutes after ten p.m. and I was heading back to the dorm when my wife called to say she had just opened our email. She read the message to me. I can still hear the excitement in her voice. I was excited too, but unfortunately, there was no one to tell. Most of the attendees were either already in their rooms – if they stayed on campus – or had returned to their hotels. I drove around town aimlessly for the better part of an hour, eventually stopping at a McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. As low wattage as it is, this is still the way I celebrate each new contract.

Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

The very first thing I did was to develop a website. My son, who’s far more computer savvy than his old man, built it for me. He kept it in tune with the noir tone of my novels, complete with gun shots, squealing tires and explosions. It was rather animated to say the least.

Shortly after that, I began seeking interview opportunities on the web and even did some local radio and TV. I was all over the place.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

My knowledge of the business – and make no mistake, this is a business. – has grown exponentially. I make it my business to know my business.

But I’ve also grown as a writer. I’m reading more deeply and widely than I ever had before, and I am more willing to attempt new techniques when writing. I read everything on the craft that I can find, including books on: character, point-of-view, plotting and grammar.

When I read, I read the novels that are written by the leaders of the genre. And I read for knowledge too. I read biographies, science, and history … nearly anything that can later become grist for the mill.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

This industry is populated by some great people. That surprised me because I have often worked in areas where that was not the case.

But there is a certain fickleness to publishing too. One person at one house may say that such-and-such a novel will never sell and that quickly becomes the dictate for every other house. When someone writes that novel anyway, and then self-publishes to critical acclaim and huge sales, everyone seems stunned.

I’ve also been a bit taken aback by book stores and their seemingly never ending laissez faire approach to selling books. I’ve had stores in which I’ve sold hundreds of copies of my previous novels, refuse to stock more than a single copy of my next book until it could be proven it would sell.

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Getting to do the very thing you love to do and have been doing for years without pay or acknowledgment. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day than making up stories. Now that I get acknowledged for it and someone(s) is actually reading them, all the better. It’s a great life.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

A dream is a goal without a deadline.

Don’t quit. Nearly every author I’ve met has succeeded only after years of learning the craft. If you give up, it will most likely be just before the threshold of your success. And what a loss that would be for you and your readers.

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