Interview of David Edward Bradley with Debra Shiveley Welch
Hi, Edward. I’m happy to be able to visit with you today. I have some questions for you which my followers will be interested in. Edward, how long have you been writing?
Edward: First of all, I should point out that my real name is David Edward Bradley, but I write under the pen name of D. Edward Bradley.
To answer the question, I actually wrote a novel circa 1950 when I was about 20 and still living with my parents in the UK. It was about a giant asteroid….. I sent it to a publisher and it was read (and rejected, of course) by a well known author whose name I have since forgotten. It was pretty awful.
I have been writing seriously since retiring from a faculty position at Canada’s most easterly university, Memorial University of Newfoundland—about 15 years. Since my last novel, She Came from Away, was published in 2007 I have been attending to other aspects of the writers’craft and learning about e-publishing.
DSW: How do your ideas for stories typically come to you?
Edward: My first novel Leeward is entirely imaginative; the Caribbean island, where much of the action takes place, doesn’t exist. It was vacations in Jamaica and St. Kitts— each with its own dramatic topography, colourful history, and tropical headiness—that rekindled a creative spark that had lain dormant while I had been concentrating on my career as biology researcher. Places I had known as a boy in England, while on military service in Germany and on a scientific expedition to Iceland, were soon woven into the plotlines of my first four novels. You could say that, to some extent, places I had experienced prescribed plot direction. Harry’s War is the only novel where actual events in my life inspired the story. My latest novel, She Came from Away, borrows from our life in a small Newfoundland town, both for settings and for local colour.
DSW: Do you know the entire story when you embark on a new manuscript, or do you begin with a grain of an idea and allow the story to tell itself as you write?
Edward: It depends on the book. For Leeward I had a rough idea of plot when I started, but the plot transfigured itself through twists and turns as I wrote. For all the other books I knew where the story was going before I wrote the plot outlines, and the writing flowed.
DSW: When you decide to write a book, how do you set about the task?
Edward: I have a system:
First I start with a single-sentence descriptor of the book: who, what, where, and when. For Harry’s War it might read “Thirteen-year-old Harry Lockwood’s life at an English boarding school for boys near London during World War II.”
Next, I expand this to a paragraph outlining the plot direction and naming the principle characters. From there I write single-sentence chapter outlines for the whole book. I flesh out the chapter outlines to several paragraphs, three at a time, before I sit down to write. As each chapter is completed, I flesh out another chapter outline. Plot changes are accommodated as they arise by updating the chapter outlines.
Generally, I write several pages longhand and then type them, revising roughly as I do so. There are revisions at the chapter level for things like awkward phrasing, word overuse, and anything missed by the word processing software. With a lot of dialogue, punctuation spell checking can be a concern. Rereading of longer sections hopefully picks up any plot inconsistencies and a read by an “outsider” can help with this. I used to print and bind several copies of my final drafts, complete with laminated colour covers, to send to friends before publication.
DSW: Why did you start writing novels after a career in Biological Research?
Edward: An underlying desire to write fiction had been with me since young adulthood and I felt an unmet need to be creative after I retired. The career work I was involved in —first as an electron microscopist and later as a microbiologist—was both visually and intellectually stimulating. Research is a field where you have an end goal and must plot how to get there. As with writing a novel, you may end up somewhere totally unexpected!
DSW: Do you write to inform or to entertain, or for some other reason?
Rfestf: Primarily to entertain, though with Harry’s War I wanted the reader to sense the reality of war-time Britain: rationing, German aerial attacks, family separations and stolen childhoods. My other books might be informative in the sense that descriptions of foreign settings are based on my actual recollections, sometimes augmented by research.
DSW: Do you write to yourself or do you keep a reading audience in your mind's eye?
Edward: Definitely the latter. I try to develop characters in such a way that readers can feel strongly about them. I also try to paint a vivid picture of the scene where the action is taking place so that readers might feel as though they are there with the protagonists.
DSW: What is the most satisfying aspect of writing for you?
Edward: Getting very good reviews has to top the list. Producing pre-publication bound copies for family and friends, with covers that I had designed, was also very rewarding as I developed the technique myself through much experimentation in my garage workshop.
More recently I had to read versions of several of my books which I had formatted as ebooks (Kindle in particular). I was surprised (though I say it myself!) that the writing still seemed strong and clear. I don’t think I could write as well now.
DSW: What is the most difficult aspect of it?
Edward: Putting pen to paper and composing—converting my chapter outlines to scenes and actions, especially where the outlines lacked detail.
DSW: Do you write on a fairly regular basis, or do you wait for your muse to whisper in your ear?
Edward: I try to have a writing session every day, however short—even just a paragraph or short conversation. This means a day doesn’t pass without thinking about the book. I feel that if I wait for inspiration, there is a risk the work will never be finished, as is the case with a novella I started a couple of years ago.
DSW: What do you do when you face the dreaded nemesis – Writer’s Block?
Edward: I have been lucky in that my system for writing the text seems to have almost eliminated writer’s block. There is always a detailed chapter outline to draw me onward. The fact that three of my novels form a trilogy has meant that my characters have a shared past that can be drawn upon when needed. Quirks of character or past foibles can be revisited.
DSW: Is there a better time of day for you to write?
Edward: Probably afternoon or late morning. Not after dinner.
DSW: Where do you like to practice your craft? Is there any particular room?
Edward: In summer, with good weather, my favourite place is in my shaded garden. Indoors, I enjoy the seclusion of my bedroom where a comfortable chair awaits.
DSW: Do you need quiet, or do you like noise when you are writing?
Edward: I definitely need quiet; even music upsets my concentration. Unfortunately even a suburban garden can be fraught with distraction.
Do you have to struggle for ideas for stories, or do they come to you easily?
Edward: I do now. Ideas used to come easily since I wrote most of my novels using my own experiences and observations. When I travelled more there were always intriguing places and new people that I could reconfigure into the dramatic scenarios of fiction.
DSW: What do you consider the most important quality in writing: character development, plot, etc?
Edward: Definitely character development. Some of my reviewers have said how much they like the portrayal of my Newfoundland characters in She Came from Away.
DSW: One of your reviewers described Harry’s War as “semi-autobiographic.” To what extent was he right?
Edward: I was just a little younger than the fictitious Harry when I experienced the war years in England. I too spent four years at an English boarding school, complete with prefects and bullies. My school, Malvern, was taken over for the development of radar near the outbreak of WWII and re-housed at Harrow-on-the-Hill, which, like the fictitious Markham College, is about 15 miles from central London. I experienced several of the war-related incidents in the book but embellished them so they were more exciting.
DSW: Did writing Harry’s War change how you remembered WWII?
Edward: Yes, it certainly did. For the first time I wrote down my own recollections in as much detail as possible. I did a bit of research to ensure historical time lines for events in the book were plausible if not 100% accurate, and I located a sound clip of a V1 flying bomb which made me relive the night when they were first launched to hit London.
Oddly, writing the novel made my personal experiences at boarding school feel more like a movie and less real, but how I remember WWII remains a complex compilation of experienced events, newsreel footage, and my relative’s harrowing tales. My parents were in South Africa for part of the war then were finally allowed to return to England in a convoy. The ship behind theirs was sunk in the north Atlantic.
DSW: Can we look forward to other books by you in the future?
Edward: Probably not. As a retiree of many years I’m not sure I have the discipline to take on a novel at this point.
DSW: What made you write a trilogy—the Harry’s War Trilogy?
Edward: That’s simple! A reviewer wrote: ". . . . Growing through the adversities of WWII and of Markham College, Harry develops from a 13-year-old . . . to a confident, mature young man of 17 in 1945, ready to tackle a still uncertain future. His girlfriend, Jenny, is as sure as he is they can succeed. Perhaps there's a sequel in the offing to determine whether or not they did. And if it's as good as this book it will be well worth reading." M. Wayne Cunningham, Books in Canada—The Canadian Review of Books, September 2004.
So I took his suggestion seriously and wrote Another Kind of War, then The Iceland Connection.
DSW: David, that you very much for taking the time for this very interesting and informative interview.
D. Edward Bradley’s books are available on most online book stores, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble and can be ordered through your local book store.