WRITERS' ROOM Q&A: BRADLEY TREVOR GREIVE
Former paratrooper Bradley Trevor Greive is the author of 25 books, including The Blue Day Book and Penguin Bloom, which have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. He’s also made multiple wildlife documentaries for Animal Planet and his animation show, Adventure Beast, is currently on Netflix.
In 2014, Bradley was awarded the Order of Australia for his significant service to literature and wildlife conservation
Photographer Credit: Stacy Lorraine Photography
Who are your heroes in writing?
So many mercenary scribes I admire are capable of great power and beauty, and any incomplete list I submit here would merely amount to self-aggrandizing name-dropping. What I can say is that I much prefer writers who have actually done something of note other than writing; especially difficult, dangerous things. I’ve always believed that to create interesting work you need to live an interesting life. To young and emerging writers, I would say that your greatest duty to your talent is to live a life worth writing about.
Favourite piece of screen or literary or non-fiction dialogue?
Two brutally accurate quotes from Graham Greene that I’ve always loved.
The first, is about writing;
“For a writer to spend too much of his time in the company of fellow authors is, you know, a form of masturbation.”
The second, is about life;
“This comic nightmare must end before long either in blood or a laugh.”
Best excuse you’ve used (or heard used) for missing a deadline?
The best ever belongs to Douglas Adams, who said “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” Of course, Adams, a singular comic genius, often viewed writing as performance, which meant it was somehow easier for him to write if he had an audience and was under enormous pressure. Stories of editors locking him in a hotel suite and guarding the doors and windows to ensure he finished his novel are the stuff of publishing legend.
Interesting sidenote; I inherited all of Douglas Adams’ Saville Row suits, but none of his writing habits. As a solitary forest creature my approach to our shared profession is the polar opposite. I never miss deadlines, but my reasons for this have changed over the years. In the early days I was terrified I’d disappoint everyone, then it became a point of professional pride, and now I’m experienced enough to know how long things take and generally avoid making ridiculous promises. One of the unspoken pleasures of success born of consistency is earning the right to set your own schedule – You’ll never miss your flight if you own the plane.
Worst note you’ve ever received?
Hollywood is in perpetual state of uncivil war between inspired geniuses, penny-pinching realists, voluble pretenders, mediocre tradesman and fickle idiots, so it’s not even worth mentioning asinine script notes. Two shockers stand out for me in the publishing world, however.
1. Days before going to print, I was asked to add a "brief wildlife encyclopedia section" to the back matter of Priceless: The Vanishing Beautify of a Fragile Planet – my not-for-profit book on biodiversity, featuring the stunning images of National Geographic’s Mitsuaki Iwago – providing detailed information on the animal species presented therein. This last-second addition took me a little over 18 months to complete.
2. On my first attempt to deliver the final manuscript and images for my humorous giftbook, Looking For Mr. Right, it was actually called Looking For Ms. Right. However, my publishers feared that a book alluding to romance and self-realisation would never resonate with a semi-literate sex that proudly rejects emotional introspection at a cellular level. So, they asked me for a Gender Affirmation rewrite, with straight female readers as the target audience.
In both cases these notes, though wounding and time consuming, resulted in considerable improvement. Priceless became a far richer learning experience, and Mr. Right much funnier, so I bear almost no grudge.
What song best represents your career?
Too Fast For Me, by The Cruel Sea. Look, I’m held together by titanium pins and scar tissue, and all my online stalkers are morticians. I’m acutely aware that my bloody demise is long overdue, hence I’m incredibly grateful to anyone who has taken an interest in my life and death so far, and I’m doing my best to make the most of the time I have left. If I’m torn apart and shat out by bears, so be it.
Favourite screen or literary or non-fiction hero and villain?
I’ve always admired the courage and humility of thelatently heroic, lace-making Beaver from Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark. And, for the record, I hate any character, real or imagined, who is also a writer and feels it is important that the reader know what make of vintage typewriter they prefer.
If not a writer, what would you be?
Either by design or necessity, I’ve already done most of the other things that interest me; paratrooper, cosmonaut, strongman, wildlife researcher, cartoonist, gallery guide, security guard, waiter, filmmaker, TV producer, voice actor and, on one memorable occasion, I was an oversized Red M&M. To be fair, almost everything I do ends in tears. I was face-raped by a giant bat, a Polynesian stingray munched on my testicles, and an enraged reindeer tore off my left nipple. So far I’ve endured 21 surgeries, numerous broken bones, countless sutures, and 7 treatments for rabies. All that’s left to do, I suppose, is write country songs.
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