I’m alive, folks! I know I have been a little MIA over the past few weeks; I moved into a new apartment and have been completely preoccupied with life; however, I had to crawl out of my blogging whole to celebrate the paperback publication for one of my favourite novels I read this year, Say Nothing by Brad Parks!
This book I have recommended countless times to family and friends who all feel the same as I do: this book is pure entertainment and absolutely unputdownable!
In case you missed my original review (and the reviews of Chandra and Jessica- this one was a #cjsreads pick!), you can find that here. Otherwise, keep reading for a Q&A with Brad Parks!
Say Nothing isn’t your first novel, but it is your first standalone, and it’s a real departure in tone and style from your previous work. What compelled you to write this kind of thriller?
After six books in a series, I felt like I was ready, creatively, to write something more ambitious. I was also ready emotionally. When I began writing my series, I was 30 years old, newly married, no kids. I had a job and a mortgage, yeah, but developmentally I was still in a kind of extended adolescence. All I really had to take care of was me. By the time I began Say Nothing, I was 40, a battle-scarred veteran of marriage, with two kids. A lot of the previous decade had been spent worrying about other people and their needs. Put simply, I’m no longer the most important person in my life. It’s a shift in focus that means every time I see my wife and kids hop in the car and drive off somewhere, I think, There goes my whole world, right there. That sense of fragility and vulnerability permeates Say Nothing.
In Say Nothing, a federal judge is left doubting everyone he thought he could trust when his twin children are kidnapped and held for ransom. Where did this idea come from?
An author buddy once told me you have to write the book that scares you. Say Nothing is me taking that advice to heart. My kids are Elementary-school-aged. I can think of nothing more terrifying than someone kidnapping them. From there, it was a matter of finding a character who had something compelling enough—besides just money—to motivate a kidnapper. A judge ruling on an important case struck me as just that character.
What kind of research did you do for this novel?
Federal judges are notoriously publicity shy, so it was difficult to penetrate that judicial wall at first. But I was eventually able to find a judge who was gracious enough to let me into the world and talk with me about what the job was really like. I can’t reveal too much—I promised the judge anonymity—but I couldn’t have written the character of Scott Sampson without those insights. As for the family side of the novel, a lot of my “research” comes straight from my life as an engaged father. I confess I may have played some Baby Hippo in my time.
Each character in Say Nothing has a distinct voice and their real motives are often counter to what Judge Sampson perceives. Did you find it challenging to create plausible doubt in each character?
I love using analogies to physics, because there are only about twelve people on the planet who can tell me I’ve gotten them wrong and none of them will read this Q&A. So here goes: When I write, I treat characters as if they’re being governed by Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. They’re distinct atomic units—each the protagonist of their own story—bouncing against each other in seemingly random fashion. The more I turn up the heat, the more violent their collisions become. And we can never know their position and momentum at the same time.
Which character was most compelling to write?
I loved writing Senator Blake Franklin, Scott’s former boss and the lawmaker who nominated him for the federal bench. It’s a complicated relationship, because Blake used to be a mentor to Scott, but they’re now equals of a sort—except we’re never really on equal footing with our mentors. Their back stories are also tangled in ways that become more interesting as the novel progresses. Plus, in my mind, Blake Franklin’s voice sounds like the late former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson of Law & Order vintage: He fills the room with this big, booming Southern accent.