In order to obtain this interview with Brad Whittington, author of Welcome to Fred, we agreed, against our better judgement, to his quaintly worded condition that we come alone, "without a heater or the heat." However, he did agree to our request that the meeting take place in a well-lighted, public place of our choosing. We found the phone booth to be cozy and servicable.
Daniel Whitfield: Is there really a place called Fred in Texas?
Brad Whittington: Yes. Located just where the book says it is.
Daniel: What were your sources of inspiration for writing this book?
Brad: I wrote this book mainly because I couldn't stop myself from doing it. One thing I have discovered about myself in the past year is that I'm a compulsive communicator. But I think it was my dad who actually insisted I write about Fred.
Daniel: Is this book about you?
Brad: No! It's about Mark Cloud. OK, OK, I admit that it is true that I grew up as a preacher's kid, and I went from Ft. Worth, Texas to Middletown, Ohio to Fred, Texas and to California during roughly the same years that Mark did. But it's not really about me or the people I met, because I didn't meet any of the people in this book. There is no Creature, no M, no Jolene Culpepper. It's more about the imaginary doppelganger that traveled along with me and did all these things I only imagined could have happened. At the same time, it's a book about everyone. Because I think most people experience some sense of alienation while they are growing up and strive to fit in. Everybody yearns for romantic love. Everybody struggles with the questions of God and religion. So, it's really a book about you!
Daniel: Me? That might be stretching it a bit. So you are saying the characters in your book are not real people in Fred?
Brad: Not as characters. I didn't pick real people in Fred and change their names. But I did create characters who could have lived in Fred without attracting attention.
Daniel: Is life in Fred, TX, accurately portrayed in your book?
Brad: Hmm. In many ways, yes. Of course, real life isn't ever as ordered or exciting as a book. At least, mine isn't. Things don't all fit together in real life. They don't turn out with a nice little bow on top, like books tend to do.
Daniel: Have you written any other published material?
Brad: Oh, I've had a few things published in magazines and newspapers. Nothing much to speak of.
Daniel: Tell me about your family.
Brad: You go first.
Daniel: Was the book a realistic view of the life of a PK?
Brad: I don't think there is any reference PK experience. There are many PKs who have a "wild child" reputation. There are many who become preachers themselves. And there are many who turn out normal. Like me, of course.
Daniel: Who are some of your writing influences?
Brad: Gee whiz! How much time do we have left? OK, I'll try to give a succinct answer. In terms of writing style, it's hard to say whom I borrow from most heavily. I spent most of my youth reading either sci-fi or the writings of dead white guys. So I tend to get wordy when I write, like they did in the 19th century. It's a pain to have to edit it all down to 21st century writing, I can tell you. In tone I would say Robert Benchley and Garrison Keillor are two big influences. With a touch of Woody Allen. Is that good enough or should I drone on for another 10 minutes?
Daniel: That should do for now. Have you ever ever ever in your long-legged life, seen a long-legged sailor and his long-legged wife?
Brad: I didn't realize this was in interview for The Door. When do I get to meet Ole?
Daniel: Tell me about your education and career.
Brad: I got a B.S. in secondary education with teaching fields of Math and English. Originally it was English and Math, but I realized I could get a job faster teaching math so I switched. I've done a lot of things since I got that degree, including doing some teaching. Nothing very remarkable.
Daniel: Are you planning on writing a sequel to Welcome to Fred?
Brad: Absolutely. I've got 2 more books planned.
Daniel: Who do you see as your audience?
Brad: Anybody who has ever felt like an outsider. So, basically everyone except cheerleaders and business majors.
Daniel: Are you a born again Christian?
Brad: Yep. Are you?
Daniel: Do you have any other pastimes besides writing?
Brad: Reading. Reading. Did I mention reading? Oh, and I play a mean acoustic guitar. One of the reasons I wanted to get published is so I could get a shot at playing with the Rock Bottom Remainders. (The band made up of authors, including Dave Barry, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver and a bunch of others.)
Daniel: What denomination are you affiliated with?
Daniel: Do you see this book as a ministry?
Brad: No. I see it as a good story.