Bestselling ghost writer and author Laurence Bradbury spoke to me this week about his writing process.
Bradbury was born in Coventry, and studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering in the north east before embarking upon a career in product and automotive design. His career allowed him to travel to exotic countries such as Japan, Holland, Sweden and the US. When he isn’t writing, Bradbury spends his time playing his Gibson 57 Black Beauty guitar, watching films, honing his archery skills and driving in his TVR Cerbera around the South Wales country Lanes. He also has a supporting career as a travel photographer.
After spending ten years as a ghost writer, Bradbury finally released his first novel in 2011. Published through CreateSpace,Fatal Flaw is the first in the Alexander Webb series.
A Callous Murder. A Calculated Theft. A Drive for Vengeance. And time is running out… Alexander Webb is convinced her death is no accident, yet no one in authority believes him. A Japanese assignment, to realise the design of a revolutionary sports coupé, should have been fun. To begin with it was, then one phone call changed everything. Her diary and a crucial photograph are all that he has to track down the truth and exact his revenge. A blisteringly fast adventure thriller that delves the global art crime underworld, hurtles through the streets of Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong, to culminate on the treacherous slopes of Mount Fuji, where the hunters become the hunted. Searing with suspense, sex appeal and stunningly vivid action, FATAL FLAW is a masterful must-read for fans of Clive Cussler, Scott Mariani and Andy McDermott.
I wanted to know what inspired Bradbury to become a writer.
I imagine most authors begin their writing careers secretly harbouring a desire for literary fame or possibly as a means of escape from a dead-end job that saps remorselessly at their souls. For me, nothing could have been further from the truth. I had a fabulous job, designing cars, if you must know. It enabled me to travel the globe and the most I ever wrote, on a daily basis, was the odd business memo or a whinging letter of complaint to the local newspaper.
Then, in the 1990s, Bradbury had a chance encounter with a famous author in a pub.
I was more than a little star struck. I knew his work well, I’d read many of his novels, and in fact, I’d seen several of the films made from them. He told me that he was struggling with a new character series, so for a couple of evenings, over a few beers, we fleshed out the bones of his enigmatic plot as a team. I found the process thrilling, pure creation, and in spite of the fact that I was in awe of him, we evidently worked brilliantly together.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the author then asked Bradbury to ghost-write the novel’s first draft, which marked the beginning of a ten year literary friendship.
An exceptional mentor, he coached me in the craft, taught me the importance of character arcs, plot suspension and how to write believable dialogue. He was patient, firmly encouraging and on occasion fiercely critical of my efforts. It took me over three years to perfect the first in the series, and to my surprise, when the book was published in 2002, it became a resounding success. We worked on a further four bestselling books together until his passing. Ever since that day I’ve been writing under my own name.
Bradbury calls travel his muse.
I love visiting new and exciting places, rich in history and culture. Maybe my ancestors were sailors or perhaps even pirates? I see locations as important characters capable of imparting atmosphere and mystery, somewhere the reader can escape to. When I’m not travelling, wanderlust absorbs me; often I’ll create a scenario in an enigmatic city just to give me a reason to go there. I suppose some people would say that I have itchy feet, I’m sure it’s not athletes foot. Wherever I go I carry a notepad, camera and Dictaphone, so that when I return home I can relive the experience and weave the knowledge gained into a plot.
Bradbury’s advice for aspiring writers is to plan your book, chapter by chapter.
Like a complex project, because that’s exactly what it is. You wouldn’t build a house without blueprints, would you? A quality novel is likely to take somewhere between six months and a year to write, and without a plan, you are planning to fail.
George RR Martin said something about some authors being architects, and others being gardeners. Bradbury is obviously an architect! He believes that, without knowing a story’s structure before you begin, your novel can fall down at the end.
All too often I’ve read a novel with a promising beginning, only to be left wanting at the end, almost as though the author didn’t know how to end it. Knowing the story’s structure, before you begin, can seriously enhance the writing (and reading) experience. You never have to face the dreaded “writer’s block” and if, for any reason, you’re having trouble with a particular chapter, you can jump to another in the outline to regain your momentum. Also, I feel that knowing the beginning, middle and climax adds enormously to a writer’s enthusiasm. Novel writing is a longwinded process; it helps to know where you are going and how you are going to get there.
Prior to starting his writing career, Bradbury wishes he’d known how popular collaboration would be.
As a ghost-writer I was sworn to secrecy. As much as I wanted to shout of my success from the rooftops, I was forbidden from telling anyone, including family and friends, for fear of compromising my author’s reputation. Alas, that is still the case. The modern trend however is towards collaboration, for example; Clive Cussler’s next novel “Piranha” will be a literary alliance with Boyd Morrison. With both of them being terrific authors, it’s sure to be a smash hit. If I’d known this could have been an option back at the late 90’s, perhaps my search for an agent / publisher, after shedding my anonymity, would have been a much smoother and less time consuming process.
Bradbury has recently completed three adventure/thriller novels in the Alexander Webb series, and is currently working on the fourth, with the working title “The Holbein Legacy”.
Only “Fatal Flaw” is currently available on sale, however that may change in the near future as my agent is actively seeking a publisher for the series. If you would like to read introductory chapters of each novel please visit my website.
Bradbury’s interests outside of writing are many and varied. He confesses a love of dogs and Heathcliffe, his border collie, is his constant companion.
I wish he could talk. He has a good heart, a kind soul and often makes me laugh.
Music is another of his hobbies:
I have a collection of both electric and acoustic guitars, probably far too large a collection not to be considered an obsession.
To get fresh air into my lungs, every morning, weather permitting, I go into the garden to release a few arrows. I discovered archery years ago when I moved from Holland to South Wales and found an archery store a mile or so from my home. Some say it keeps me sane. One thing I have in common with some other authors I know is my love of cars, in particular, sports cars. Sad, I know, it’s probably an age or virility thing. I’ve owned many of them in the past and my current flavour is a TVR Cerbera – probably the quickest I’ve ever owned. Boys and toys eh?
Bradbury also always has a book on the go. A man after my own heart.
As you can probably guess, I’m a fan of Adventure Thriller fiction. If I were to steer you in the direction of any authors in particular for a thoroughly enjoyable read, I’d have to suggest: Boyd Morrison for his ‘Tyler Locke’ series, Tom Cane’s ‘Sam Carver’ series and Scott Mariani for his ‘Ben Hope’ books. Possibly the most enjoyable stand-alone novel I’ve read in many a year was ‘The Medusa Amulet by Robert Masello’.