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Interview with R.E. Bradshaw AKA Decky


Nancy: When did you know you wanted to write?

Decky: I've always been a writer, since a very young age. I wrote short stories all the time. Then adulthood catches up with you and you have to go to work. I just didn't have the time to write as much as I wanted too. A couple of years ago, I started again. I've always written stories and never finished them. Finally, Debbie, my wife, told me to finish one...just one. I did and that became Out on the Sound. After that it just got really easy to write and get them finished. It was a hobby, which I turned into a job.

Nancy: Well, I guess we have Debbie thank for all of your books.

Decky: Yes, I really do.

Nancy: Just out of curiosity, why did you never finish a story?

Decky: I would start writing one, get really excited about it, then work would catch up with me, or raising a kid would. I would lose the passion for the story and could never seem to finish. I was in the theater, and always busy. Have you seen the shirt; I'm sorry I can't. I have rehearsal. That was my life for years.

Nancy: When you say theater, what do you mean by that?

Decky: I started out as an actress, did some acting in the local stuff, then I went to grad school to get my masters in Performing Arts at Oklahoma City University. It’s a great performing arts school. I was in graduate school and worked with Kristin Chenowith. I switched over to technical theater. I had a kid, and I needed to make sure I was going to be able to make a living. So I got my graduate degree in that. I moved onto directing and producing. I taught technical theater at a college, I also, while I was teaching, worked professionally with a ballet company. The college that I worked at, we were producing quite a few shows every year... so I was just busy, 24/7-12 months out of the year. I started out on the low rung at a repertory theater, and ended up being the technical director at that theater for several years.

And as my son got older, I wanted to spend more time with him, so I started teaching at a high school. It wasn't your average high school, drama teaching job, it was more of a performing arts school basically. It was a public school, but more to extreme in the performing arts. I have a lot of students in Hollywood and New York that have gone on to make something out of themselves. Oklahoma is in the middle of United States, and nobody thinks of it has been a hotbed of entertainment, but we really do put out a lot of famous people. So that occupied a lot of my time and none left to write.

As a note Kristin Chenowith is best known for playing the role of Sally in 'You're a Good Man Charlie Brown and Glinda in 'Wicked' on Broadway. She also plays April Rhodes on 'Glee'.

Nancy: Since you spent so much time in the theater, why didn t you go with writing plays instead of novels, I'm thinking that would have been the next logical step.?

Decky: I did write a play, we preformed it and won the regional/state one act competition with it. It was called 'Trapped for Life', and it was about Floyd Collins, the guy that was trapped in a small cave outside Mammoth Cave in Kentucky in the 1920s. It was one of those stories that ended up being one of the top three stories of the 20th century. I read so many musicals and plays and writing was a hobby. It was something I could do that wasn't attached to the theater. Writing was something that would take me out of that world.

Nancy: Who or what inspired you to write the most?

Decky: My mother, because she read to us so much. She really encouraged us to read. I was reading before I went to school. (I read so much, and I really just enjoyed it.) I would read something, and then I would write a little story like it. So yeah, my mom, she was very inspirational.

Nancy: What happened to the stories you wrote, are they stored away someplace safe?

Decky: I come across them occasionally. I was helping my dad clean the garage and found a notebook. It was a story I had written about a freshman in high school that played basketball. I never really kept any of them. I'd write them, someone would read them and I just put them away somewhere. I never thought, at that time, about being a writer. Because that was something mystical that only the great people were ever going to be able to do. I didn't know that I could do it, I really didn't.

Nancy: Where do your ideas come from?

Decky: You know, I don’t know, they just pop into my head. I guess I picked the right business, theatre, because it's full imagination and fantasy. Being able to assume somebody else's character, that was always one of my strong points as an actress, being somebody else. And when you're doing that, you have to have the entire back story. You basically write a biography of the character you're playing, whether it's in the play or not. You have to know everything about your character. I think that really inspired me to think about other characters.

The first book I completed was basically the story of Debbie and I dressed up in fiction. I just wanted to tell it, because it was kinda fun. I think that is what started it all. And then these other characters just come to me. I usually think of the character first and I would want to tell their story and that's how I would get started.

Nancy: Did you ever publish the book about you and Debbie or was that something personal for just two of you.

Decky: Out on the Sound, was the first book, and yes it is published. It is based on us very loosely. I don't want anyone to get the impression that it is really us in the book. It is a story, I dressed up. What was really funny about that story is the main character is a Decky Bradshaw; she was a theater teacher who wrote a book, a historical fiction book. A major publisher picked it up and then they did a movie about it. She was able to quit her teaching job and become a writer full time. It seems a bit prophetic now, because that’s kind of what happened to me.

Nancy: Talk about life imitating art right?

Decky: Yeah, really!

Nancy: Do you have any big or little quirks when you write?

Decky: My laptop. It is like my second child. I take it everywhere with me. I write at home best. I don’t write away from home very well at all. And I guess if I had to have anything, it would be Debbie. If she is in the room, I can just write and write and write. She doesn’t have to talk to me or anything like that. She just sits in the living room and does her stuff, like watch sports on T.V. But when she is home, I am very satisfied, and therefore, I am able to relax and write.

It used to be cigarettes, but I am trying to stop, so I need to find another crutch. I’m working on that. I don’t write well under pressure, so I need to find something else to calm me down.

Nancy: Do you like music or some kind of background noise when you write, or do you need total silence?

Decky: I used to have what my Mom called 'sit down and shut up' syndrome, she used to tell me that all the time. So did my teachers! Now I know it’s because I suffer from Adult Attention Deficit. I need music or the TV going to occupy part of my brain. That really helps me concentrate. When I am writing a romance, I have music playing, and it's country music. Country singers are good story tellers. I will put the country music station on the TV and let it play. There is usually a song involved in my thinking about how the book is going to be. Sometimes the song I pick will have nothing to do with the book by the end of it. I make a play list for every book that I write, I turn on iTunes, and play that play list over and over while I am writing. It keeps me in the right frame of mind and keeps the right emotions going.

Waking up Gray came about from listening to Carrie Underwood singing I Told You So. That was what actually started the story, but the book ended up not being anything like the song. Still, every time I hear that song, Waking up Gray is what I think about.

Nancy: Other than your first book, are you often a character?

Decky: I think that as a writer, our experiences end up in our books, not necessarily that we are one of the characters. Maybe some experiences that we've had in our lives, shapes the way a character thinks. Or something that the character needs or wants comes from life experiences that you may have, or experiences that you've shared, or other people have had. They become a part of you and a part of the book. So, no, I'm not really one of the characters, the closest one would be Decky. BUT, she is taller than me-I am 5'3" and have always hated that. I have always wanted to be taller, so all of my characters are tall; all are very thin and really pretty.

My Mom is only 5'1" so I get to tower over her!

Nancy: Do you base any of your characters on people you know?

Decky: The essence of people that I've met end up in my books, but I would say none of my characters are one single person. I may take a combination of people I know and create a character based on that combination. It’s like you borrow from what you know. And as I've always heard, you write what you know. That is what I think makes the characters real, because they are based on the essence of real people, but they are NOT them.

Everybody on the softball team in Sweet Carolina Girls is based on people I've played softball with. And each one of those characters had the essence of someone I know. But it is fiction. Part of it is true, and part of it is made up, so it's not really them. Some of my friends recognized pieces of themselves in the characters I wrote. There was one particular character in SCG that several people, heck, that almost every one recognized. She actually called me and said, 'I know that is me!' I told her, ok, the character looks like you, and some of the things she does are some of the things that you do, but it is really not you.

Nancy: Naming your characters, is that easy for you to do?

Decky: I do a lot of research on the names. I make sure that the characters name is something that was popular at the time she is in, the year and date and all. Someone commented to me once that my girls all have girl names, I don't make boy names into girl names in my stories.

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be called Bobbi. I thought it was a really cool name. I was always trying to change my name to look more like a boy's name, so I don’t see anything wrong with that. Now days, lots of girls names are unisex, but back when I was born, and in the time I write, girls were named girl names.

Nancy: (I asked her what her real name was, to try and figure out why she wanted to be called Bobbi. Silly me, I was thinking that is was something like Roberta, or something closely related to Bobbi. Not even close!)

Ok, how do you explain wanting to be called Bobbi, when your name isn't even close? We are talking night and day here Decky!

Decky: Probably had something to do with Bobbi Gentry, I really liked her. And I was infatuated with the name Bobbi.

Nancy: What do you do when a story stops flowing?

Decky: I go back to the beginning and start editing. Get back into the story, get back to the beginning, where the story came from. By the time I get back to the middle of the story, I have refreshed myself. And it always seems to happen in the middle of the story I am working on. I’ll make some changes, do some things, and it will lead me further into the story.

Like with Rainey Nights, I wrote that five times. The first time I wrote it, every bit of that story went into a folder and it was not used at all. I started over because I didn’t like where the story was going and I couldn’t make it right. I was struggling with it so much, I thought, just start over. And that is what I did. The last four times I wrote it, it was a draft, then a better draft, and even a better draft, until the last one that came out right.

Nancy: I have heard that sometimes the characters take over the story. Do you find that true, or do you have total control over all the characters and events.?

Decky: That's very true. The characters run the story for me. I will outline where I want the story to go, but I never make it past the middle of the outline. It never goes where I think it is going to. I will be in the middle of writing something, and a character will say something. I will write it down and go, ok, ok. Then the direction changes and I follow. My stories are character driven.

Nancy: How much research goes into your book?

Decky: Quite a bit, I do a lot of research, especially with the Rainey books. I read everything that has been published by the behavioral analysts that do publish, like John Douglas. I try to keep it as real as possible. I made a mistake in Rainey Days, with the Glock. I didn't know how to use one, didn't know they didn’t have a safety. I shouldn't have written her with the Glock because I didn't own one, and made the mistake about the safety. I didn't know a lot of stuff about it. Now I own that gun, and that is when I realized it didn’t have the safety. So I went back into Rainey Days and changed it.

If you have read any of my books, a lot of local history goes into them. But I double check all those stories; I just don’t use what I have been told by the locals.

Nancy: Do you read all of your reviews?

Decky: No. I did at first, when I first started writing and I got some really great reviews. Then I got hit with some really bad ones. This one woman went after me, it was more of a personal attack. It wasn't about the writing or the story, it was personal. I almost stopped writing at that point. I was frozen, it paralyzed me. Debbie, (she's so wise), said, that it's just one person's opinion, and if you're going to listen to everyone, you'll never please anybody. So now she reads all of my reviews, and she lets me know if there is something I need to address or look at.

Nancy: If there was no outlet for your books, would you still write?

Decky: Yes, I would

Nancy: Is there any kind of book you would never write?

Decky: Erotica

Nancy: (laughing) You didn’t even hesitate or have to think about that answer!

Decky: My opinion is there is a place for it and there are people who write it very well. It's just not in me to do.

Nancy: We kinda went over this already, but do you plan your books out in detail or just write?

Decky: I start out with a rough outline of where I think the book is going to go. Buy like I said, it never goes there. I am a panster really. I want to have a direction. I usually know the beginning and the end, but the middle is up for grabs. I go where they say. It's kinda psychotic; I have all these characters in my head talking to me.

Nancy: You know, they do have doctors for that. But don't go to one just yet, we are enjoying your voices!

Nancy: Do you edit as you write or just let it flow?

Decky: I let it flow. Sometimes I will get to the end of a chapter and I'm not sure where it is going to go, so I'll go back and start editing. That usually starts me into the next chapter.

Nancy: So as long as the words are flowing, you're not going to stop and try to edit.

Decky: Right, I am not going to stop and try to fix it. When I do go back and read it, I laugh at some of the things I wrote. Like the misuse of the word 'waist'. If you put your hands around her 'waste', it’s a totally different thing.

Nancy: What do you find most challenging about writing?

Decky: Making myself do it every day, sitting down and write something every day. I think that naturally, I am a very lazy person, so if I didn’t make myself write, I would quickly find something else to do and not write at all.

Also staying in the story that I am writing, and not letting the other stories in my head pick at me until I can't concentrate on the story that I am trying to write. That area is a real challenge for me. I was writing Rainey Nights and the story for Waking up Gray came into my head and it would not leave me alone. That story just had to be written. I think it took me like fourteen days to write.

Nancy: Holy crap!

Decky: The original one took that long. With the edits and stuff that came after that, it took me a couple of months, but the original story draft, took me fourteen days.

Nancy: Writing love scenes or sex scenes, are they easy for you or not?

Decky: Love scenes are very easy to write. Sex scenes, nooo. I'm just not good at it. Some people write it very well, I don’t. I'm not a prude by any means. I just get tickled and I start laughing. I think it's funny, all little names they give everything. 'She unfolded her flower' and stuff like that. (Yes, she was really laughing here!) It just cracks me up. I can write a really good love scene, but most of mine will fade to black when it's time to get busy.

Nancy: Have you taken any formal writing classes?

Decky: I had one creative writing class in undergraduate school.

Nancy: Now that you are published, does it change the way you write?

Decky: It has made me more conscious of making sure that I maybe don't hit the comma key so often. I pay a little more attention to the rules than I did before I was published. But I also don't want to lose my voice. I don't want to sound like everybody else. So I am trying not to let that happen. I have learned not to put so much description in so that it pulls the reader out of the story. If I can keep the description flowing and keep you in the story, then I have done my job. But when I go off on a tangent about the pretty green trees, and it has nothing to do with the story, I'm not. So I've learned not to put that stuff in.?

Nancy: You mentioned your 'over use of commas', and I've got to tell you, the first book of yours that I read, I wanted to drive to your house and remove the comma key from your laptop! I was talking to a friend and it was mentioned that you are from the South, so your way of speaking is totally different from mine. More laid back, unlike mine which is 90 MPH constantly and I don't breath. Do you think that because you talk that way, that is the way you write, that is why your commas are there?

Decky: Yes, we Southerners pause a lot for emphasis, we take a breath, and we drag out our stories. We don't talk all that fast. But, also, it's from coming from a drama background. When we look at our script, we put in a comma where there should be a breath, and where there should be emphasis. So I was basically telling the reader how to read instead of trusting that the reader would understand how to read it. My editor works with me on that, a lot.

Nancy: Ok. With your theatrical background, that makes sense to me now. In essence, you had to retrain yourself how to write differently. Your comma key is safe; I will let you keep it.

Decky: Thanks.

Nancy: How did it feel to hold your first book?

Decky: It was great! I just grinned and grinned and grinned. I did a little happy dance and Debbie was just looking at me. It was like, 'Look at this! It's so cool! I have the same reaction with every new book that comes out, every time! It's really neat, you can see it, you can feel it, and you can smell it. And to see your name on the front cover well, it's just neat.

Nancy: Why did you decide to go the indie route?

Decky: Impatience. I did not want to go through that whole submission process. What really did it for me was I was reading an article about a guy that had been turned down by publishers over and over. Then he published himself on Amazon, and now he's like a number one best seller. And I thought 'I've got to give that a shot'. I did the first four books pretty much all at the same time. The first three came out within a two days of each other, in August, and the last one, The Girl Back Home, came out at the end of September.

I sent Waking up Gray to a publisher and it was turned down. I was told it was not publishable. So I published it and it did really well.

Another reason I didn't go with a publisher, is I didn't think I'd fit into the genre, or style of the publishers. They would first of all, go in and rip out all the descriptions I put in. They just want you to get to the nuts and bolts of the story. I just wanted to tell my story.

Nancy: Any regrets going indie?

Decky: No, none. Even if I went with a publisher today, and they promised me they wouldn’t change the way I write, they still can't make me the deal I get at Amazon. I'm not going to get 70% of my book royalties from a publisher, and that really is a deal breaker. Why would I give up that profit to somebody else?

Nancy: For your personal preference, eBook or paperback?

Decky: I used to be a paperback person, or more specifically, a hardback person. I love hardback books. But now that I have started reading eBooks, I love the convenience of it. I see a book I want to buy, and ten seconds later, I'm reading it, no waiting for it to get here.

Nancy: I was going to ask if you were single or in a relationship, but since you have mentioned your wife, Debbie, several times, I guess it is safe to assume that you are married.

Decky: I am very married, for 24 years. She is the only woman I have ever been with. I was married to a man, had a child, got divorced and met Debbie right after that. I fell head over heels, madly in love with her. I've been with her ever since, she is really, really cool. I like her!

Nancy: You like her huh? Just a little bit maybe? Listening to you talk, she's very supportive of you isn't she?

Decky: Oh, yeah. She's my biggest cheerleader. She's just a really good person. Everybody likes Debbie, they like her better than me! She's a college professor, her students love her, everybody loves Debbie.

Nancy: Do you get a lot of support from your family also?

Decky: Yes, my son is my second biggest cheerleader. He's always saying 'Mom, I need another book'. I give him a paperback when I get them, and he is always giving them away, or he will come in with a book and ask me to autograph it for so and so. He's very supportive and very proud. Mom and dad are supportive too, but Mom says she wishes I would write something other than lesbian books. But, that's just my mom.

Nancy: Do you have any pets?

Decky: Yes, three dogs and two cats. Dixie, the golden retriever, is in Out on the Sound, Freddie Krueger, my black cat, is Rainey's cat. And in another book coming up, Buddy, one of my other dogs is going to be in there. Buddy looks like a wolf, he is part husky, part wolf and part pit bull. He also thinks he is my boyfriend! Wiley is my special ed dog, he's a black lab. I don’t think he is going to make it into one of my books. I really don't think I could describe how absolutely nuts she is and get people to understand it. We also have a Siamese cat, Crybaby, she is also special ed. If she wakes up in a room and we are not there, she starts crying like she doesn't know where she is. We have to tell her where we are, she comes bopping in, talking the entire time.

Nancy: Morning person or night owl?

Decky: Night owl.

Nancy: Do you use a Mac or PC?

Decky: Now I use a Mac. The first four were written on a PC, but friends convinced me I need a Mac. And I really like it.

Nancy: Do you use your real name or a pen name?

Decky: Pen name.

Nancy: How did you come up with the name?

Decky: R.E. Bradshaw is Rebecca Elizabeth Bradshaw, and she is an ancestor of mine. I found her while doing genealogy research and listening to stories that my Grandma and some of her aunts would tell. When I was young, they used to say that I reminded them of Decky. So I wanted to know who she was. I looked her up and found out she was a horsewoman. During the civil war when Sherman came to Goldsboro, NC, he and his men went around to all the farms, gathered up all the horses, cows and mules and drove them to the nearest river. The soldiers would stand on the bank and kill them, just leaving them where they dropped. She came riding into town, and went to the river, when she heard about this. They stopped shooting because she was a woman. She gathered up the animals that were still alive and they followed her into the swamp. She lived in the swamp until Sherman’s army left town, then she returned the animals to their owners. It was just such a fascinating story. I also liked that she was called Decky. It was Becky, but her little sister couldn’t say Becky and called her Decky, and the name stuck.

Nancy: I was wondering how you got Decky out of Rebecca.

Nancy: What do you do for relaxation?

Decky: Go to the beach. That is my favorite place to be. If I'm not writing, I'm usually working in the yard, or playing with the animals. Or just doing stuff with Deb.

Nancy: Do you have any hobbies?

Decky: Writing was my hobby, and genealogy. But I have turned my hobby into my job now, and I think that is really neat. I really like to write, it's fun!

Nancy: What is your favorite food?

Decky: Shrimp, steamed shrimp.

Nancy: Are you a cook, or a fast food freak?

Decky: Cook, southern cooking.

Nancy: For a getaway, would you go to the water or to the woods?

Decky: Water.

Nancy: If you could have anything, what would it be?

Decky: A house on the beach and enough money so that my wife could stop working and be able to stay with me 24 hours a day.

Nancy: I know that one of your books is in the works for a movie, so for this next question, pretend that it is not. Which one of your books would you like to see make into a movie?

Decky: I think the Rainey series would make good movies. I don't think there is a lesbian movie out there like that. And because it is about the people, not necessarily that she is a lesbian. That is not the important part of the story.

Nancy: Who are your three favorite authors?

Decky: Tennessee Williams, Patricia Cornwell and Rita Mae Brown.

Nancy: You have been writing for a year now, and have six books published. Are you going to be putting out six books every year? That's a tall order if that is your plan.

Decky: Actually it took me two years to put out the six books. The first three were done already. I wrote the first book on my Christmas holiday in 2009, and published it in August of 2010. So I wrote three more books in that 8 month period and published them in August. So I actually only wrote four books that first year.

Nancy: So is that going to be your goal? To publish three or four book a year? That is a lofty goal and a heck of a lot of work.

Decky: Yes, but it's my job, and I am blessed to have the time to do it.

First off, I want to thank Decky to take time away from helping her Dad, on Hatteras Island at her folk's home, where the last hurricane did quite a lot of damage. Not only once but twice. Somehow, the first interview I did with her was lost.

While it might be easy to write up the question and answers for the interview, what is not easy to convey to the readers, is the emotions that were there. Decky laughing at my comment about stealing her comma key, her asking me to repeat my questions, because I really do talk that fast. And hearing her choke up when she was talking about Debbie being the love of her life. It is easy to say those words, but when you can hear the emotions in the voice, you know those words are from the heart.

It was a genuine pleasure to talk to Decky. And what was even more of a pleasure was seeing the growth where her writing is concerned. To be perfectly honest, after reading the first book by her, I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to read another. But with encouragement, (ok, nagging) from some of my friends, I did give her another try. I am very glad I did. You can still tell that the books are Decky's, but a more mature Decky. And I am talking about more than just her fetish with the comma key! When I read Rainey Days, I was surprised that this was the same author that I almost wrote off. The book held my attention from the get-go. I knew pretty early on who the bad guy was, then I wasn’t sure, then I knew for a fact, then it was, well maybe it could be this other guy, and on it went until the end of the book. I liked the background stories on the characters, and the descriptions about the area. Not too much to take me out of the book, but just enough to let me enjoy the read a little more.


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