Brandt 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.”
Visit Brandt Dodson’s website at www.brandtdodson.com.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a Hoosier, born and bred, and grew up on the southwest side of Indianapolis, a blue collar, working-class section of the city. A good portion of my family was in law enforcement with police officers on both sides of my family going as far back as the 1930s. Today, when I watch television shows like Blue Bloods, I'm reminded of the dinner table conversations we had and the way in which my extended family interacted with each other. I was six years old when I met my first murderer, a sixteen year old who tortured a young girl to death. Law enforcement is in our DNA.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Christmas was always special in our house. We didn't get a lot during the year, but mom and dad always showered us at Christmas. Now that I'm a father myself, I understand the excitement I saw on their faces when my brother and I would slide under the tree and start the day.
It's still a big deal to me as well as the idea it represents. I'm the biggest kid in the house.
When did you begin writing?
I've always had a creative bent, going as far back as grade school.
I was in the first grade, and we were in art class. Our teacher had us paint on one side of a piece of construction paper and then fold it to make a symmetrical version of what we had just painted. I was really into it and having a great time when she suddenly paused at my desk and snatched my painting. She told all the other kids to put their brushes down. She held up my work and asked them if it was any good. They answered with a reverberating "no," and she set my painting down and walked away.
I can remember tossing my brush onto my desk with the realization I was never going to be an artist.
Fast forward to the fifth grade. Our teacher gave all of us a photograph with instructions to write a short story that matched the photo. I had a black-and-white picture of two kids playing handball in an inner city alley. I wrote a story about the ball containing a bomb that would go off and level the city if the kids quit playing. I'm not sure how I got them out their predicament, but the teacher read my story as an example of the type of creative thinking she wanted. I received my first affirmation as a writer.
What is this book about?
The Sons of Jude is about standing firm in the face of certain consequences. It tells the story of two detectives, Frank Campello and Andy Polanski, who are polar opposites and who despise each other, yet who must put aside their differences while battling ingrained corruption when investigating the murder of a young girl. Throw in a steely local reporter, Christy Lee, who has her own grudge battle with the police, and there's enough conflict to fuel a dozen stories. It was a lot of fun to write.
What inspired you to write it?
I was living in the Chicago area in the fall of 1986 and took the train into the city daily. After missing my train home one evening, I had to hang out at Union Station. I stumbled onto the set of Brian DePalma's The Untouchables when they were filming the climactic shout-out scene with Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia. It was fascinating, and I promised myself I'd see the movie when it was released. In the film, Sean Connery's character, Malone, refers to St. Jude as the patron saint of lost causes and policemen. When I was approached by a publisher about writing a police procedural, I remembered that line. A bit of research revealed that St. Jude is also the patron saint of the Chicago Police department. The concept fit well with the story I wanted to tell - that police officers fight a lost cause - and hence the book was born.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
Both. I began writing earnestly after reading The Bad Place by Dean Koontz. I was impressed by the way he got into the head of Thomas, the character with Down's syndrome. Shortly after, I began writing and submitting, but after a few rejections, I knew I didn't have what it takes. So I took time to learn to write before re-submitting. It was a twelve-year learning curve for me, but I did more learning than submitting. When I did finally break through, it came from a novel that I had written in a week. The book poured out of me, longhand. I submitted the novel the next week and it lead to a three-book contract. So the road was arduous, but when I was published, it happened very quickly.
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I began my career by writing and submitting short stories because I thought it would be easier to break in and there would be less of a learning period. How wrong I was.
Short stories and novels are two different forms. Novel writing is fun. Short stories are far more difficult - for me, at least - and I would begin today by writing what I want to publish. I would begin by writing the type of novel I'd like to read but can't find.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
The Sons of Jude is available in bookstores everywhere and on all internet outlets including Amazon. It is also available in Kindle format.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
I do. My website is: www.brandtdodson.com. I also blog on the site, often writing commentary on high-profile crimes. I'm also on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
The trailer for The Son of Jude is the best one I've had to date. My publisher put it together and went to considerable lengths to capture the noirish tone of the book. You can view it at my website: www.brandtdodson.com
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
The best investment I've made - and the one I recommend to any author, aspiring or otherwise - is to take the time to write a good book. No amount of marketing will sell a book that no one wants.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
Read. Read widely and deeply. If you want to write mysteries, for example, then read Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler. They are both mysteries, but very, very different. And read romance. And suspense. All good novels have elements of romance and suspense.
All of the novelists who broke through early in their careers did so by writing something that no one had ever seen. Stephen King's Carrie was a hit because he had done something no horror writer had done. He brought horror into our daily lives in the form of an average-appearing young girl.
Mario Puzo revealed the mafia as it really is. Dickens illustrated the truth behind child labor. Tom Clancy showed us the hardware on which our military depends, and in a way we could understand and appreciate. Patricia Cornwell exposed us to forensics in a way that was unique and entertaining, and still is.
The only way any aspiring writer can write something that's not been done is to read what has been done.
And then you have to write. Writing is like exercising a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger you get.
What is up next for you?
I'm working on the next book in The Sons of Jude series. Chicago Knights will take place in the CPD's 28th district, but will feature a different cast of characters although some from The Sons of Jude will make minor appearances.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you for the interview and for the opportunity to meet your readers. I hope they enjoy The Sons of Jude.
Visit Brandt Dodson at Twitter: http://twitter.com/BrandtDodson
Like Brandt Dodson on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/brandt.dodson
Become a friend with Brandt Dodson at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2597.Brandt_Dodson
Pick up your copy of The Sons of Jude at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sons-Jude-Series/dp/0857212052
Book excerpt here http://www.amazon.com/The-Sons-Jude-Series/dp/0857212052#reader_0857212052
This post first appeared at The Book Connection