R.E. Bradshaw, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.
Thank you for inviting me, Jon. It is a pleasure to be here. I’m a bit of a lurker on the site, but I love seeing all the titles and blurbs. There are some great books being written in our community.
Let’s start off with, where do you live?
I currently reside in Oklahoma City, but I grew up in North Carolina and my heart will always be on the Outer Banks of my home state. My parents still live on Hatteras Island and that is where I call home, but my wife was born in Texas and grew up in Oklahoma. We’re a bi-state family.
As you probably know, writers rarely like to toot their own horns…lol, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Being in a twenty-six year relationship and raising a fine young man are my greatest accomplishments, I believe. But if we’re talking writing achievements—that happened recently when I became a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Mystery for the third straight year. Two out of the three books in the Rainey Bell Thriller series, Rainey Nights and The Rainey Season, are now sporting “Finalist” gold seals, along with Molly: House on Fire, last year’s award finalist. I also received the news in December that my novel, Out on the Panhandle, was declared First Runner-up for Best Lesbian Novel in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. It was a good end to 2013 and a fantastic beginning to 2014.
Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?
I live with my wife, our two cats, and two dogs. We will celebrate our twenty-sixth anniversary on June sixth. We have a grown son and his lovely wife also in our family. Laughter is the key to our happiness and survival. It resonates through our lives. We are renovating our home this spring, so I hope the laughter continues. Really, I’m a happy camper and am so fortunate to do what I love for a living, and to have such a wonderfully supportive spouse and extended family encouraging me to follow this dream.
Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines in detail?
With the Rainey Bell Thrillers it’s a must that I know where I am going. I have to weave psychological elements as well as crime clues in the telling. It’s important to me that the reader can look back in the end and say, “Oh, I see it now,” but did not see it on first blush. So, I have a fairly clear idea of the meat of the story when I start. Some elements and details may morph as I write the story, but the bones of the psychological and criminal behavioral profiles I began with will remain as planned. A lot of research goes into the development of the criminal mind in these books, so accuracy demands I stay true to the behavioral science. With my other novels, I am a panster all the way.
Have had you ever had to deal with homophobia after your lesbian novels are released, and if so, what form(s) has it taken?
The only real homophobic reactions I’ve dealt with came from my mother, who is forever asking, “Can’t you write a book about people that aren’t lesbians?” She means well. She believes I could become rich and famous, if I just wrote about “normal” people. (My mother is my best source of material. Don’t tell her. It will ruin the natural flow of mouth dropping—Paula Deen foot-in-mouth worthy—lines I use in my comedies.)
“No, Mom, I won’t sell out, at least not for less than six figures.”
Seriously, I’ve had quite a bit of positive feedback from the non-lesbian community about my novels. A group of straight male psychologist read Molly: House on Fire for their book group and then discussed it with me. That was a load of fun. My main characters are lesbians. They love women and have healthy sex lives, but the stories a reader finds on the pages of my novels will focus on the facets of life universally experienced regardless of one’s sexuality. I believe that is why many LGBT readers feel comfortable sharing one of my novels with a family member or non-gay friend. I hear from readers who tell me they hand my books to their mothers and say, “See, we are just people.” I totally get that. Oh boy, do I totally get that.
Can you share what inspires and challenges you most in your writing?
My inspiration comes from being a voracious researcher. Most writers say they read a lot. I do too, but almost always for research. I would go to school for the rest of my life if someone would pay me. I love to learn. When I come across something that sets my imagination to running, I will devour the subject. It will fill my dreams and thoughts for months, all the while a story will brew until it manifests and must be told. That’s how it works for most of my story ideas.
The main challenge I face is also because I love research. The trouble with becoming lost in the research is knowing when to stop digging and start writing. I also have a mean case of Attention Deficit Disorder, so focus is fleeting at times.
You have a very popular FBI thriller series featuring lesbian protagonist, Rainey Bell. What influenced you to create such a tough yet smart protagonist who just happens to be deeply committed to the safety of her family?
When I was in high school in the late seventies, I read about a new type of FBI agent, the “profiler.” Before that, I would sneak into my mother’s collection of true crime novels. I was probably the only fourth grader that had read In Cold Blood. This study of the science and the men and women who “profiled” serial killers became a life long obsession. I have a fairly extensive research library on the subject. I began my writing career with romances, but by book three, I was already dreaming about Special Agent Rainey Bell. The first book, Rainey Days, was a bit too much of a romance and very much an experiment for me in the mystery/thriller genre, but by the time I was finished writing it, I knew Rainey was around to stay.
I absolutely love getting inside the mind of a fictional, retired FBI Behavioral Analyst and creating a killer for her to catch is thrilling. If anyone ever looks at my search engine history, I’m afraid the real FBI may come calling. I’m completely dumbfounded at what can be accessed on the Internet, like the actual crime scene photos from BTK murders, and yes, I have them saved on my computer. Like an actor preparing for a role, I am committed to seeing things through a criminal behavioral analyst’s eyes, or committable, as some might think. This makes for interesting dreams, to be sure.
Introducing a family into this very independent and at one time very broken woman’s story parallels her life’s journey. Too many years studying man’s inhumanity to man had taken its toll on the wounded agent. Rainey has since learned to love, to trust, to forgive, and all of these things prove she is like us. We, the readers, can identify with the struggle to give the world a chance, when the staggering blows it hands us are too much. Rainey’s family and her love for Katie have allowed her to soften, as well as keeping her vulnerable. Without that family to protect, Rainey might just go rogue. Katie and the kids keep Rainey grounded in the good life, because she’s seen plenty of the evil man has to offer. (The fact that Rainey and Katie have triplets, well, that was one of those panster moments sneaking into my thriller.)
Besides your thriller series, you have written a mystery of murder and mayhem titled Molly: House on Fire. Your protagonist, Molly Kincaid, has appeared in your other novels, but Molly: House on Fire focuses on the successful, wealthy defense attorney as she faces her past head-on…or suffer the consequences. Can you share why you felt the need to write her story?
Good golly, Miss Molly. I love Molly Kincaid. She’s what I dreamed of being, when I first left high school, before I fell in with the theatre crowd and changed course dramatically, no pun intended. In my first novel, the characters needed a lawyer. I thought it would be funny to have a lawyer look so much like Jodie Foster that someone in that backwater courtroom would say, “I didn’t know Jodie was a lawyer, too.” That’s how Molly came into being. She grew a life of her own, but always in the background, popping in as legal advisor or friend, and then fading out of the story. She is the hub around which all of my characters revolve.
The demand for her very own story came from the readers. They wanted to know her backstory and they most desperately wanted her to have a romance. I wasn’t up for another lesfic romance novel at the time, so Molly needed a mystery. I was given, and writers know what I mean by given, the prologue one afternoon. It came fast and furiously. When I finished typing, I read it aloud to my wife, or attempted to. I could not finish it. With tears flowing down my cheeks, I said, “Whoa. I did not mean to write that.” But it was Molly’s story and it needed telling, so I did. Mystery, thriller, romance, comedy, it’s all in there. Molly is a great character and I look forward to working with “the female Matlock” for many years to come. Besides, she drives such cool cars and Rainey Bell needed a buddy.
Which living actor would you cast to play your protagonist, Rainey Bell, from your thriller series and why?
If I could hand pick and money was no object, no question it would be Angelina Jolie. Jolie is a fantastic actor, able to play complex, layered characters. Rainey is a bit less physically imposing than Lara Croft, but they share survival skills and a puzzle solvers mind. Angelina was magnificent in The Bone Collector and Mrs. Smith certainly shares traits with Rainey. Besides, my God, look at her. Sorry, lesbian moment. In all honesty, I think Angelina gets far less credit than she deserves for the complexity of the characters she plays. She makes it appear so effortless that it doesn’t look like acting. Funny that, how those who make it look easy never get the credit they are due. Rainey is complicated, cerebral, yet will shoot you dead in a heartbeat. I think Angelina Jolie could rock that role, and who wouldn’t want to watch her walk around strapped with fire power, in a black leather jacket, driving a badass car, and married to a cute little blonde, and I don’t mean Brad. <Big Grin>
Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?
I’m finishing up the next Rainey Bell Thriller, Colde & Rainey, due out in April 2014. (The extra “e” in the title will make sense when it’s read.) This time Rainey revisits a cold case, spending some of the narrative in memories from the past with her father, Billy Bell. He was deceased when the series began, so not much is known about him. We get to see some of Rainey’s traits in Billy, and learn just how short a distance from the tree she really fell. Meeting a fully fleshed out Billy Bell character was interesting for me as a writer. I was not expecting it, but it has been a real treat. The reader will see, more than hear of, the relationship Rainey has talked about in the previous books. Rainey Bell is a daddy’s girl.
This story contains very little of the previous characters. Rainey is away from home and on her own for the majority of the book. Of course, we will catch up with Katie and the now two-year-old triplets, but for the thriller part of the story Rainey is alone with her memories in a strange little town. Attending the funeral of an old friend of her father’s, Rainey gets caught up in a rare North Carolina blizzard and a cold case from her past. Can she spot the killer before another murder, or is she now the intended next victim?
(Strange note: I wrote the blizzard in before one actually hit NC this year. Weird, huh?)
On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre want to know.
I want to thank you for the time and effort you put into promoting our work, Jon. It is very much appreciated. I enjoyed the questions—particularly fantasizing about Angelina in a leather jacket for a bit there. Thanks for having me on the page.
Find R. E. Bradshaw on the web: www.rebradshawbooks.com