Unthinkable lives up to its title when stay-at-home dad Nate Lovejoy is asked to commit murder to save the lives of millions, including his two young daughters. Like any sane person, he immediately disregards the request. After all, no one can see the future, not even the wealthy eccentric Vanslow DeGange and the elite organization he spearheads. It’s only when DeGange’s associate starts to feed Nate incontrovertible evidence that Nate starts to think about taking the bait.
The latest novel from internationally acclaimed thriller writer Brad Parks is based on a fascinating premise – what is the value of one life? Park’s thoughtfully constructed characters are definitely up to the task of taking this one head on, even as you both commiserate and worry for them. Count this one as another feather in the proverbial (thinking) cap of this great storyteller. It’s our delight to share our interview with Brad. Enjoy!
Amy Wilhelm: As a stay-at-home dad, Nate Lovejoy isn’t the typical protagonist of a thriller. What made you choose this anti-trope?
Brad Parks: I did time as a stay-at-home dad myself, and I always felt like the character was ripe for exploration. One of the hallmarks of a good thriller is that the author makes life as difficult as believably possible for their characters. What could be harder than having to save the world while toting around two toddlers?
AW: On the flip side, Nate’s wife Jenny is a successful lawyer who is only home for a couple hours each night before it’s bedtime. How did Jenny’s character start to coalesce for you?
BP: Because my wife stayed home with our first child and I stayed home with the second, we each had the experience of being the parent who walked out the door every morning and didn’t return until evening. When I was the working parent, I had many times when I simply walked out on stuff at the office—then broke land-speed records during my commute home—so I could take part in the bathtime/reading/bedtime routine. I certainly remembered how much that time meant to me, so I put those feelings in Jenny.
AW: Unthinkable delves into the classic debate of how much a life is worth. The questions have always been asked –Do you sacrifice one life to save many? Where do math and ethics collide? What got you interested in using the theme in your novel?
BP: I am always fascinated by what happens when you give characters an impossible choice and say: pick one. The natural question the reader starts asking themselves is, What would I do in that situation? The moment they begin thinking that, I feel like they’re going to be hooked on the novel and invested in its outcome. That’s really the secret to how you keep people turning pages.
AW: Vanslow DeGange is able to get people to buy into his unique brand of vigilantism. Kill one here and there while saving more than you hurt. If DeGange was real, how many people do you think he could sway to his cause? Would the numbers surprise us?
BP: Sadly, we have seen many instances in history of humans having absolutely no compunction about killingother human beings for causes far less noble than this. My guess is a real-life Vanslow DeGange wouldn’t have any recruitment problems whatsoever. When people feel like they’re the “good guy,” they’ll do just about anything. Sorry, is that too dark? (AW: nope, loved it!)
AW: As mentioned before, you made some different choices when setting up Unthinkable. Do you challenge yourself to make every thriller you write completely different from others you’ve written?
BP: I’m not sure I’m that conscious about it. Really, I get an idea that intrigues me, start writing, and from then on I’m just serving the needs of the story. It’s not like I’m there, halfway through writing page 197, worrying about how it fits in with my career arc or the rest of my bibliography. I’m mostly just hanging on for dear life, trying to get to The End in a thrilling, surprising, gratifying way.
AW: Thanks so much, Brad!
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