Interview with Bradley Wind – Grand Master of the Creative Arts
I met Bradley in York last year, spent a weekend in his company. We discussed books and the craft of writing, attended talks and seminars together, ate a number of meals, drank substantial quantities of wine, and in the process, got to know each other pretty darn well, as those American chappies would say.
I wouldn’t say this to him in person, but if there’s a more genuine bloke anywhere out there I’d be very surprised. Excellent company, beautiful manners, highly intelligent and a great sense of humour, it scarcely seems fair that he’s such a talented man as well. But he is.
I read his first ‘Gold Star’ book, A Calculated Embellishment, with a sense of awe. Such imagination, such command of language, vibrant characterization, it’s one of the books I shall always remember. Then, a new book, BULB. Equally adept, but in a vastly different genre. That’s not easy.
Then, there are those book covers. How many times have I read, ‘Cover by the wonderful Bradley Wind’ in a writer’s summary of his/her book? It’s a vital area for any writer, yet most of us have no idea how to present our books for maximum impact. Enter Bradley Wind. So many covers, mostly without charge. Generosity and talent make a great combination.
Bradley went back to the States, doubtless enriched by the weekend, if not my company, and we may never meet again. I hope that isn’t the case. Here’s my interview with a man who ticks all the boxes. As a writer. As an image-meister. As a human being.
There are links provided. They should work as I had very little input into their creation! An audio-visual piece, no less. I may be getting out of my depth here.
Q. What are you working on now? Books, artwork, etc.
Writing: I'm busy trying to rework BULB before I get it to my agent...hoping to be done by late April-early May.
Art: I'm always working on images but nothing as large as I'd love to have time for. Mostly just shikishi board portraits;
Q. Can you remember when you first knew you wanted to be a writer?
Not really. I knew when I returned from Europe in 1998 that I wanted to complete a novel before the age of 30 and a year later I'd finished writing the first draft.
Q. Tell me about school / education / life before the emergence of yourself as a writer.
Typical American suburban childhood (except for that long stint in 'juvy" (juvenile hall) and those months in Mongolia when I was a teen.) I went to Tyler School of Art and got my BFA in painting. After various jobs in design, then volunteering with VISTA (now Americorps) I knew I wanted to make a living contributing in some fashion so got my tech degree knowing I'd be applying to non-profits. Pearl S. Buck International gave me my first IT management position...on her beautiful estate in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Q. The book covers. Any idea how many Bradley Wind covers are out there? Any particular favourites?
Haven't counted in a while but the last time someone asked I'd given away over 600, not counting the variations/alternatives I'd done for some books. Probably more like 700 now.
Favorites? Hm, that's really difficult. But I'll just randomly pick a few I've liked: (*interestingly, I think none of those were chosen by the author)
and here's a link to the full set on Flickr:
Q. A nitty-gritty writer’s question now. Computer, laptop, or longhand? Which is it?
All of the above. Most of my writing is done at a computer but I've done some early drafts in long hand.
Q. I know you’re a designer and all-round creative genius, and I have some knowledge of your specific interests and areas of expertise. Give us some details.
Genius is far from the truth. I've never had a desire to make my living with my art. The business of art kills the passion. I never had the interest to pursue gallery shows. Hmm, that's not entirely true. I've shown my video art in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Institute of Contemporary Art and other smaller galleries, and had the low-budget movies I've co-directed shown in festivals around the world, but my paintings have only been available for viewing on Flickr. I worked in design after I graduated from University...by chance really. Corporate artist for Wholefoods (Fresh Fields when I worked for them) and then a toy designer for K'nex.
Q. Do you find writing the easiest and best form of expression? I’ve had the privilege of meeting you in person, know you as someone who can keep a conversation going all night. Is this your preference or do you find greater freedom in the written word?
Loquaciousness is something I'm not proud of but easily fall into during social settings and especially in one-on-one situations. Writing is a solitary act and I'm definitely more of a person that appreciates being on my own. Not that I get much private time these days.
Q. Who is your favourite author and is your writing style in any way similar to theirs?
I could never point out one favorite. I have favorites that come and go (Both Murakami's, Dostoyevski, Kerouac, Tolstoy, Salinger, Lynda Barry, Tom Robbins, Charles Bukowski, Ken Kesey, Oliver Sacks, Jung, A.R.Luria, John Kennedy Toole, etc) but nobody I'd say I write like or have tried to write like.
Q. Aha, a mention for the great John Kennedy Toole. Regarding your readership. You’ve written two books I know both well, they’re very different. Did you seek out a specific genre? If so, why did you gravitate towards that genre?
I've never written with genre in mind. I would be fine with BULB being categorized as SciFi for sales purposes but I've never thought of it as such. Really its more Speculative Fiction if its not just general fiction.
Q. Be honest, what do you consider to be the best thing you’ve ever written and what makes it special?
I'd place both of my novels on the same level. I think A Calculated Embellishment is probably better constructed but I think the ideas in BULB of greater strength.
Q. I’m a publisher's nightmare; set in my ways, determined to keep my own style, won’t allow anyone else to change my book so that it becomes ‘their book’ not ‘my book’. Given the nature of publishing at this time, and your unique qualities as a writer, what amendments are you prepared to make in your own writing style? If any.
I think because of the way I've become a writer and possibly because of my doubts about my talents, I'm open to input from others who I deem worthy or who deliver me ideas that ring true.
Certainly I wouldn't make changes to my novels I didn't believe in, that might somehow put me into a position to not be proud of the final work, but I know from much experience that others can help expand my view and show paths to improve.
Q. Any wise advice for an aspiring writer?
If you've got a pickle, eat it, but don't breathe on me, please. Relish your own.
Q. Wonderful imagery. How much of ‘you’ makes it into your books? Where do the ideas come from?
My lips are full of holes so all my books are moist with me.
Advances in technology, in my time, have allowed me to tap into the signal, to tune into the collective and the ether is where I draw.
I mean, obviously.
Q. What are the last three books you read? Any comments?
Drop City - TC Boyle - I liked the cover and it made me think differently about how I might approach the book I've got...in the works.
Phillip K. Dick - Dr Bloodmoney Or How We Got Along after the Bomb – audiobook
The Mind's Eye - Oliver Sacks - as with all his work, it creates great interest in what we might be.
Q. Have you ever ‘run out of creativity?’ Stared at a blank page for hours?
No. never. I wish I had more time to act on my ideas.
Q. What's a typical working day? When and where do you work? Do you set yourself a daily goal? What’s the balance between writing / artwork?
Wake 530. Get the girls ready. Commute to work (45min-1hr). ~work~, on breaks do some book covers or squeek some editing in, pick up daughters, commute home, make dinner/clean house/play with girls, put girls to bed, hang out with my darling bride/work on art/write/watch a movie/tv, 1030-11 to bed to draw/read.
I work for a non-profit devoted to children.
I am unbalanced.
Q. Unbalanced, yes In so many ways! I know you like your music. What else fuels your life away from the keyboard? Interests, hobbies, family life?
I take great inspiration from the works of Blu (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuGaqLT-gO4), Crispin Glover, David Lynch/Cronenberg...gah, not going to start that list now.... This week I've been enjoying music from: The Monks, Chet Baker, James Blake, Yo Gabba Gabba, Nat King Cole and Yuck.
I've got a redo on my front walkway planned - received a quote from a local stone center this morning, just got a delivery of 10 cubic yards of soil to expand the front bed, I'm nearly done the frame for the portrait I just completed of Rosie (my second daughter), nearly complete catching up with the series Weeds (we're at mid-season 6 http://www.sho.com/site/weeds/home.do)and tonight since my wife has a show opening and must work - I'll be flying solo which means pizza, dancing to whatever is on the 70s/80s cable music station, books read aloud, and lots of trips to the potty=potty training and bedtime!
My cooler has mixed case offerings from Flying Dog
and Troegs (http://www.troegs.com/our_brews/troegs_anthology.aspx).
Q. What song would you choose to be playing when you finally type ‘The End’ on a novel?
As I type this and am coming to the end I'm listening to Agalloch's album "Marrow of the Spirit" and the song is "Into the painted gray"
Q. Is there a particular question you’d have liked to be asked? If so, how would you answer that question?
Yes I've written for the Year Zero Collective, a piece called "Non-Fiction" and it is.
I meant to ask you about that. I’m a massive fan of Dan Holloway and the diverse and wonderful writers who make up the Year Zero Collective. As with all they produce, that anthology gets my seal of approval. Back to you, two questions I asked Jane Alexander coming up next.
Q. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Quickly I'll give the joke from grade school and say it'd be called:
Q. From personal experience, isn’t it remarkable how appropriate the nicknames of childhood appear in later life? What are three things most people don’t know about you? Extra marks will be awarded for indiscreet revelations.
1. I've delivered 4 eulogies, 2 for my father.
2. I asked 3 women to marry me. One cheated on me and broke it off. One after a week of traveling with her across the US - she gave a tentative no. One, the best one, after a blind date (I called my friend that night and said I'd met the woman I would marry - I did, a little over a year later - cliffside-Big Sur California on NYE 03/04)
3. I'm a Type 1 diabetic.
Q. What would you like to be if you could choose any profession?
Q. Finally, what’s next for Bradley? Next project? Any news about publishing or further developments?
Finishing up Bulb then returning to my third book...that I started but put down to begin editing Bulb again.
My agent seems excited to get Bulb and is busy trying to sell A Calculated Embellishment.
Thank you Jake.
No, thank you. Best of luck with the next stage of your book's journey to publication.