Author Interview with Stan Crader
1. Why did you choose to focus on the late 1960s in THE BRIDGE and PAPERBOY?
The 60s and is a time with which I’m familiar and a time dear to a huge number of people, we’re called the boomers. I was fortunate to be able to experience small town America when people sat on their front porches and new their neighbors.
2. How much of the story is autobiographical?
The story is thematically autobiographical. Almost all of the characters are a blend of people I knew while growing up. There’s a thread of truth in many of the scenarios that occur, but much of the story is entirely fiction.
3. Tell us about the non-profit group Resurrecting Lives. Why did you choose to donate profits from sales to this organization?
All of the net proceeds of my book sales have always been donated to a charity. In the past Debbie (my wife) and I have chosen charities based on our notion of their worth and also on their ability to promote books. It’s a win/win. Resurrecting Lives was introduced to me by a friend who is involved with Wounded Warriors. And since, there have been a number of providential occurrences that have confirmed the RLF was the right choice. Example Michael Durant – Black Hawk Down.
4. Why did you choose to set your novels in Colby, Missouri?
Colby is fictional town based loosely on Marble Hill, Missouri. My uber goal is for readers to want to see the small town that inspired the author. So far, I’ve had one request by a reader for a tour of the area to point out places featured in the novels. Hopefully there will be more. Colby, or Marble Hill, I now realize was as close to Mayberry RFD as one could hope for. Readers enjoy a good story that’s realistic, not too idyllic, with a bit of tension, but ultimately promises hope.
5. Your books are filled with many memorable characters. What is special about the people of Colby?
Interesting is a better way to describe the people of Colby. In many ways they’re much the same as anyone other ‘60s rural American people. What makes them interesting for the reader is that the characters will remind the reader of people that they knew, and consequently the reader will further define each character in a way that an author never could. And the characters are bound to Colby, they were born and raised in Colby, work there, and seldom have reason to go elsewhere.
6. Who were some of your favorite characters to write and why?
It’s likely that I’ll answer this question different each time it’s asked. Mr. Koch is stalwart due to the contribution he made to community and what he did for our country. His attributes are a blend of several men I knew. And then there’s Uncle Cletus, who always has the answers and is solid. This character is based on a combination of my dad, an uncle, and a couple of great teachers. And then there are the Codgers. These guys are actually pretty close to real people who occupied the courthouse bench when I was growing up.
7. Both of your novels are nostalgic for a certain time and way of life. Why was it important for you to remind your readers of this kind of life?
Until the 70s, many small towns featured a small factory or two, a movie theatre, grocery stores, appliance store, shoe shop, etc.. and were almost self-sufficient. People lived, worked, and played in the same place. Today people think very little of driving 30 miles or more to work and then do the same to go to dinner. They drive several miles to visit with friends and don’t even know the people two doors down. Too many buildings on main-street in rural American are boarded up. Appliances are now bought at a chain store miles away and Wal-Mart is now the world’s biggest grocery store. Parents now work the swing shift in a factory miles away instead of the shoe factory at the edge of town. In many ways, the past was a better way of life, and it’s fun to remember. I like to help people remember that lost gem, main-street America.
8. PAPERBOY picks up where THE BRIDGE left off. When and why did you decide to write the sequel?
The Bridge was written as a promise to my mom and simply to get writing a book off my bucket list. I was surprised and delighted when readers actually liked it. And during the process I learned two things. First how to write a book and that I have a story to tell. Writing is both cathartic and contagious.
Readers of The Bridge began to ask me two types of questions. The first was what I planned to do with their favorite character in my next book. People I’d grown up with asked why I hadn’t featured a certain person in the book and if I planned to put them in the next book. Both of these types of questions assumed a next book. Paperboy continues ‘the story’ but in a much different style. And a few new characters were introduced and I fixed the injustice many felt was done to one of the female characters.
9. How has your protagonist, Tommy, changed as a character from the first to the second book?
Definitely…Tommy was self-absorbed in the beginning of The Bridge and in Paperboy he learns to appreciate others, particularly, adults. Tommy is the narrator in The Bridge but his character is strong. Paperboy is written in third person so he shares a good deal of the stage with the rest of the band of boys.
10. Why did you choose to feature characters who are veterans in both THE BRIDGE and PAPERBOY?
Respect and repair. I failed to show veterans the respect they were due while young. I didn’t disrespect them in any way, it’s just that I didn’t appreciate their sacrifice. So, draw attention to their service in both books.
11. Does Tommy learn something special from these veteran characters? If so, what?
It’s not so much what he learns from them as what he learns about them. Men he thought were ordinary, are in fact ordinary, but they’ve had extraordinary lives. But these men don’t dwell on their past.
12. How does Tommy’s Christian family help him to cope with the tragedies he faces?
Christianity is woven into the fabric of the book. And religion per se is made fun of. But while the different religions are dealt with irreverently, Christianity is not. Moral values are exuded by respected characters.
13. Why do you think these books will appeal to Christian readers?
This book is appropriate for any church library. It’s a book that adults can share with their children; it’s suitable for all ages. It’s a story that portrays strong characters in a realistic setting with tension, suspense, and all of the things necessary to keep the reader hooked without resorting to cheap sexual innuendo or foul language.
14. In PAPERBOY, Tommy starts seeing some changes in Colby. Does America still have places like Colby in 2012?
Not many. Factories have closed and national brand stores located elsewhere have changed the landscape of most of rural America. Autonomous towns do exist but they’re rare. Western towns located in remote areas still feature many of the rural America main-street characteristics of Colby.
15. Will we be seeing more of Tommy and his gang in the future or will you be introducing us to a new set of characters?
I just finished a third in the series, the boys are turning sixteen and getting their license. So long as I feel like there’s a story to tell, that features the boys, I’ll keep writing about them. And new characters will come and go but their role will be minor. Readers have grown an affinity to the Tommy, the band of boys, and Melody. I don’t intend to disappoint.