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Interview with Bradley West

I have a multitalented author on the blog today. 🙂

Bradley West is the author of Dark Cure. Having ‘survived’ the pandemic, I definitely think we could relate to some aspects mentioned in the Dark Cure. A Covid thriller written during the lockdown, how cool is that? I have read the book and I absolutely recommend it.

Without further ado, let’s get to know a little bit about Bradley West. 🙂

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Hello Bradley and welcome to my blog, The Book Decoder. Please tell me and my readers about yourself.

I’m an American who did half of university in the U.S. and half in the U.K. After graduating in 1983, I worked in London only briefly before being posted to Singapore. That four-month assignment is now in its thirty-seventh year. In short order, I married a local lady and became a Singapore permanent resident. I had a conventional business career for over thirty years, migrating from consulting to finance. My jobs involved plenty of travel which helps give Asia-based Countless Lies a local feel. Many of my books’ characters are re-worked versions of the rogues and wild people I hung out with over the years. I’ve lived off-and-on in Singapore, with spells in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong during the go-go 1990s, and then stretches in Colombo and Bangalore starting in the early 2000s.

In early 2014, I began the True Lies blog on www.bradleywest.net with MH370 one of the first focal points. It took two years to research, write, re-write and edit my first novel, Sea of Lies, which takes MH370 as its largest point of interest. It’s a kitchen-sinker with seven parallel plot threads at the peak and thirty characters to track. For a short while in August 2016, Sea of Lies was an Amazon #1 in several categories . . . each of them free (!). Following on from the MH370 saga came Pack of Lies (2017) and End of Lies (2018).

In 2019 I took a break from espionage conspiracy fiction and joined a pair of Singapore expats who had dedicated themselves to understanding climate change in scientific terms. We added three more to our group and the result was a detailed presentation published on www.greenmeanscool.com. I feel our work strips away much of the misunderstanding surrounding what’s become a highly politicized topic. Deciding what to do next to help avert a climate crisis is a project I’m still involved with. Besides writing and the environment, I exercise, read and tip the odd glass of wine with friends a few nights a week.

The first in a new thriller series, Dark Cure, released recently. Can you tell us more about it?

Dark Cure mixes several thriller genres. At the core, it’s a double kidnapping of a baby and then his mother, with family members in pursuit (instead of the police). The next layer is a family drama as the hero and his wife have a strained marriage, and their two adult daughters (and their partners) also feature complex relationships. Meanwhile, Covid-19 has mutated into murderous Covid-20. This in turn means that law and order collapse as people lacking food, fuel and medicine either hoard these items, steal them or perish. A kidnapping story is stressful at the best of times, but against the backdrop of society disintegrating, everything happens in a hurry. The entire book takes place in seven days in July of this year, and most readers comment on the blistering pace.

What was the inspiration behind writing a Covid thriller?

The True Lies blog explores mysteries, coverups and conspiracies in Asia. When Covid-19 broke in January, this topic begged for closer investigation. However, there was so little reliable information that it was impossible to write even credible fiction about the disease’s origins. I tracked the story through the summer and fall, and eventually felt there was enough factual information for a blockbuster novel. However, those revelations ended up in my True Lies blog, as Dark Cure was long-since completed.

When Covid-19 struck hard in early 2020, the government told Singapore residents to stay home. That sent me back to my writing desk. With a Covid outbreak story too speculative to attempt, I decided to create something fanciful, an Ebola-meets-the-Black Plague variant, and turn it loose on the U.S. One way to make the stakes count is to kidnap a baby. 

What was the most challenging part of writing Dark Cure?

The hardest part was the personal challenge in shifting target themes and audiences. The Countless Lies trilogy appeals mostly to action junkies, or readers who like fictional takes on current conspiracies or mysteries: MH370, MH17, Osama bin Laden’s lost years, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, the 2016 U.S. election, etc. 

Dark Cure and the Dark Plague trilogy differ from Countless Lies in many ways. The focus is on the interplay among the leading members of an extended family as they find themselves under enormous pressure: a collapsing society, a kidnapped newborn and his mother, plus formidable enemies. There aren’t many conspiracies or nefarious government officials in view, and I simplified the storyline. My wife Lai Fan is a big fan of domestic thrillers, and she coached me through the early stages until the characters took root and began to dictate the action. 

As an author, one of the most fun things about storytelling is that characters refuse to do what the plot outline decrees because it doesn’t ring true. From nowhere, the story now zigs instead of zags and, compounding matters, the other characters improvise and a ripple effect spreads. That’s why I no longer outline plot points—just character interactions—before I begin writing. This makes me less of a “plotter” and more of a “pantster” (Stephen King). As an author, sometimes you feel another spirit taking over the keyboard and typing through your fingers. The Grateful Dead described something similar when they said, “The music plays the band.”

I wrote Dark Cure between May and July when Covid dominated all aspects of life. I figured that the pandemic would be over by late summer, and the book would be read as a “We were lucky that it didn’t turn out to be anything as bad as all this” when it was published at year-end. Well, it’s December and the disease is worse than ever. Meanwhile, here comes Dark Cure at a time when stressed-out people are looking to escape reality rather than consider a more extreme version of today’s pandemic. I’m gratified to date that the majority of readers focus on the “What ifs?” family drama and action scenes rather than say, “Why would I sit down with a book that’s about a disease that’s all over the papers every day?” 

One element that helped was that Dark Cure isn’t a scientists-in-the-laboratory-racing-against-the-clock-to-find-the-cure medical thriller. There’s a little of that, but it’s well in the background. Dark Cure is much more a good-guys-versus-bad-guys tale, closer to a traditional western than a full-fledged pandemic medical thriller, with a looming dystopian overlay. One of the interesting things for me is the degree to which some readers tune out the societal collapse. In contrast, for others, it’s the most interesting thing about Dark Cure.

What are you currently working on?

Today is the first day in weeks that I’m not working on Dark Cure launch issues. I’m splitting my time between writing a short story giveaway for Countless Lies fans called Bob Nolan’s Bastille Day Party and outlining the next book, Dark Cure. I aim to finish Dark Cure by end-March, but travel restrictions and other imponderables will determine how much work I’ll get done between now and then.

What does a day in Bradley West’s life look like?

Like most writers, I need the discipline of a routine to ensure I put in the hours. I begin at seven o’clock in my home office and take care of the emails, news portals and anything else that happened overnight. Most days, I ride a bike and then write for ninety minutes before a break, often editing the prior afternoon’s output. After lunch, I write for an hour or two, and then take a nap (!). My third daily session runs three-plus hours from post-naptime until dinner. When working on a novel, I try to be creative for a total of five hours each day. After that, my work isn’t as sharp as my concentration wanders. I fill the rest of the day with tasks that allow the writing problems to bubble beneath the surface. Exercise, reading and sleep are perfect in that way. I keep pen-and-paper close to hand as many ideas come when I’m doing something else. 

Writing a novel is a marathon, particularly with no days off or distractions in these Covid times, so exercising and getting enough sleep are important. It’s a routine that’s worked well for me.

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