Q&A with A.F. Brady, Once a Liar
What inspired you to write ONCE A LIAR?
In some ways, the current state of the world inspired me to write about the way power corrupts people, and the personal tolls that can take, on both the corrupted, and those around him/her. I love writing difficult characters, because I find it so fun to climb into skin that’s so unlike my own.
Has your real-life profession influenced your writing or your characters in any way?
Yes, in both ONCE A LIAR and my first book THE BLIND. I have almost two decades of experience working in the mental health field, and I’ve known some extremely interesting people, diagnosed with some very interesting illnesses. I wanted to use my writing career to shed light on some of these misunderstood illnesses, and my psychotherapy career helps to lend some authenticity to my writing. Many of the characters, settings and stories in both these books were drawn from real life, real people, real places. Details changes, of course.
Peter is an incredibly complex character. What was it like to step into the mind of sociopath while writing this book?
At times it was scary, and other times it was a lot of fun. Peter is not at all like me, but he is like so many people I have known in my life. I have received countless emails from readers saying they have had a Peter in their life. I cringed (and even cried) quite a bit while I was entrenched in Peter’s mind. It’s a dark place in there. And the lobster scene, that wrecked me.
At what point in your life did to become an author?
In a way, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t decide to go for it until I felt stable in my life; married, kids, house, etc. In this age of technology, you’re so exposed, and I wanted to make sure I had a good system to support me should it all go wrong, and I wanted to make sure I was mature enough and had a thick enough skin to manage the critics.
What attracts you to the thriller genre?
The excitement. I am by no means an adrenaline junkie in life, but I love excitement, and I love figuring things out. I am an accidental detective all the time, and I really dig trying to work out secrets and lies and what’s behind the mask. Thrillers check all those boxes for me.
Who or what shaped your love of writing?
Reading shaped my love of writing. I don’t have a favorite genre to read, I like to get my hands on everything as often as I can. I used to write poems a lot and I would often sit at my computer ranting about some issue I was having, and it was cathartic. I never wrote with the idea that I would have readers, so when I sold my first book, and I got a team behind me at Park Row, I learned how to be a professional writer, and how to take your audience into account.
If you could write your own death, how would you do it?
Something heroic, or self-sacrificing for sure. I used to have these daydreams all the time about being in some emergency situation where a guy with a gun busts into the bar I’m in, or the subway train car, and I take it upon myself to use my knowledge of psychology to diffuse the situation and save everyone. I would talk him down, convince him to let everyone go, or kill me instead of killing someone else. If I wrote my own death, I would definitely die saving other people. Noble, build me a statue, name a park after me kind of death.
What’s the easiest career decision you’ve ever made?
To become a therapist. It’s absolutely the most rewarding and challenging thing imaginable. It makes me who I am, and I adore it. The next easiest was saying yes to a two-book deal when it was offered to me.
Which fictional characters would you invite to a dinner party?
Atticus Finch, Eloise, Sinan Khan (from ONCE A LIAR) and Aslan because they all remind me of my grandfather and I miss him. As I write this, I’m shocked that I picked two lawyers. Well… and a Lion. I guess I’ll make steaks.
Success means something different for everyone. What does literary success look like to you?
Having something I wrote help someone to feel like they’re heard or understood. I would love to be a financially successful writer, or to have my books smash sales records, top bestseller lists, become movies, all of these kinds of things. But what has always felt the best for me are the personal stories of people reading my work and being emotionally and personally affected by it. That’s the dream for me.
What struggles did you face while writing this book?
I was pregnant for the entire editing process, so I couldn’t have a drink and get away from Peter, and that was rough. I killed someone that I liked a lot in ONCE A LIAR, and that was really hard for me. (Which seems strange to say because why did I kill her if I liked her, but she had to die for the story to work.) Since I wrote Peter in the first person, I sometimes got entrenched in the thoughtlessness and carelessness, and it hurt me. I am such an empath, it got really tough sometimes to write the despicable things he did and thought.
We all hate criticism, but sometimes the harshest advice is also the most useful. What is the hardest piece of advice someone has given you?
I spent most of my life being a fixer. I compulsively want to help and save and fix and make better. The hardest piece of advice was when I was told to stop. Stop fixing everything, stop saving everyone. It’s not your job. And that hit me so hard. But, years later when I finally stopped, it became the most freeing thing imaginable. (And then I learned that I never saved anyone anyway, and I couldn’t fix things. Breath of fresh air to take that self-imposed pressure off, but it sure did suck to hear.)
What is your favorite, most underappreciated novel?
Karoo by Steve Tesich. I absolutely adore this book.
What’s on your nightstand right now?
Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris) and old favorite that I go back to when I need a good chuckle.
Becoming (Michelle Obama)
Girl Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis)
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman)
What’s next for you?
I’m finishing the third book, plotting and starting the fourth, and working on some other writing projects. I’m still in private practice, so I’m loving that as well. Raising kids and living life! Trying to get to as many Yankee games as I can this season.