May 14, 2016
CTC – Good afternoon! I’m happy to have had the chance to interview Brian Parker, author of Zombies in the Basement, the Washington Dead City series, Self-Publishing the Hard Way, the Path to Ashes series, and others.
Welcome, Brian. Let’s get started, shall we?
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
BP – I’ve always been a writer, from early childhood, but when I graduated from college, I fell into the mental trap that so many adults seem to do. I had a career and didn’t have time for frivolous pursuits–or so I thought.
In reality, I watched a lot of TV to unwind at the end of the day, just vegging out instead of doing something productive. Then, about five years ago, I read a book by active duty Navy officer J.L. Bourne and I decided if he could find time to do it, so could I. The TV goes off when my kids go to bed and I use that time that I used to watch television for writing.
And I haven’t looked back since.
CTC – How long does it take you to write a book?
BP – That’s a difficult question. My first book GNASH took me 2.5 years to write. But I edited as I went and then would set it aside for a long time. After I finally published that one, Enduring Armageddon took about 8 months to write; now I have a process, I just go balls to the wall writing and then go in to edit once the rough draft is done. So, for the past 9 or so books. It takes about 4 months from concept to finished first draft, including my initial edits. Of course, I sprinkle in short stories and other projects during that time, so it may actually be a little faster, but I’ve always got a few irons in the fire.
CTC – What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
BP – I write at night after my kids go to bed and on the weekends before my family wakes up, so that gives me about 2 hours a night during the week and 3-4 in the morning on weekends.
CTC – What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
BP – Hmm, that I write in silence seems to be odd to a lot of folks. Most writers I talk to have music playing or the television on in the background, but I usually write in solitude since the family is asleep.
CTC – Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
BP – Remember that mental trap? I’ve got almost 20 years worth of ideas floating around my head! For the military parts of my books, I use my experiences, for everything else, there’s Google. The CIA World Factbook is also a godsend.
CTC – When did you write your first book and how old were you?
BP – I finished writing GNASH in 2013, so that made me 36.
CTC – What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
BP – I’m lucky in that my job “forces” me to work out, so I get my gym and pavement time out of the way for my job, but I do love to lift weights and hike. Actually, pretty much anything that I can challenge myself physically is exciting to me. I run, go to the park, play outside with the kids. I like adventure races like Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. I’ve ran 5 full marathons and want to get back to that (my last was the Marine Corps Marathon in 2012).
One of my long-term life goals is to through-hike the Appalachian Trail. I think the sense of accomplishment from that would be amazing.
CTC – What does your family think of your writing?
BP – My kids think it’s cool that I’ve been on TV and have spoken at schools for my kids’ book Zombie in the Basement, but they’re still too young to appreciate how much effort it takes to write a book.
CTC – What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
BP – The cost! People, myself included before this all began, seem to think that writers are all making money hand over fist. It’s not the case for the vast majority of us. For self-published authors, there’s the cost of the editing (anywhere from a few hundred bucks to several thousand), cover art (again, a wide range of prices), formatting if you can’t do it yourself, then promoting the book once it comes out…everything costs money and you’re only earning, at most, a couple of dollars per book sold, so it takes a while to move into the black on each book.
CTC – How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
BP – As of today, I’ve written 10 novels, 1 kids’ book, 1 how-to guide for self-publishing, and two published short stories (I’m waiting on word back for a few others that have been submitted). I’m about 3/4 of the way through the rough draft of my 11th novel, a sci-fi noir detective story that will become a series.
The second part of your question is hard. All of them are my babies and all of them are different, with unique storylines an “personalities.” But, if I HAD to choose, it would be either Enduring Armageddon or REND.
CTC – What is it about your writing that sets you apart from other authors?
BP – I feel what sets me apart from a lot of other authors out there is the amount of realism that I apply to my stories. I hate when there are parts of books or movies that make me roll my eyes, so I use my real-world experiences to bring as much realism as possible into each story.
CTC – Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
BP – Ignore all the experts! Seriously. That whole “show don’t tell” mantra that all the out of work MFA degree holders try to tell you is BS. Write for you, in your style and how you feel comfortable writing; it’ll feel forced otherwise and your readers can tell.
I’m not saying don’t try to improve your craft every day, far from it, but just don’t get wrapped around the axle of the three-part story or the idea that you have to follow established patterns. Play around with timing. One of my favorite movies of all time is Memento, a film that tells each scene from the ending to the beginning, while the scenes progress chronologically.
CTC – Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
BP – I typically hear from a core group of about 50 readers who interact with me via facebook. For the most part, everyone is positive about my work and I’ve even got a couple of champions who go out and talk me up, which is super cool (thanks guys!).
CTC – Do you like to create books for adults?
BP – All but one of my books and short stories are for adults. I like that I can let myself be who I really am in my books with language and situations. I keep my facebook page strictly PG-13 because that’s my brand. I don’t curse when I interact with folks or post, but in real life, I do curse and I think there’s an advantage to being able to express myself however I want in my books.
CTC – What do you think makes a good story?
BP – This is a cop-out, but I think it’s different for every person. To me, a good story holds my attention with peaks and valleys. It can’t be all high adventure 100% of the time, that would just be exhausting, and books that are all details with no action are boring! I like action that builds, then ebbs and builds up again, following that pattern for most of the book.
CTC – As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
BP – I wanted to be a soldier or a lawyer. I became a soldier and married a lawyer, so I guess I hit them both in some ways!
CTC – Is there anything else that you would like for the audience to know?
BP – Where to find me, of course!
I’m on facebook, that’s where I interact with readers the most. My page is http://www.facebook.com/BrianParkerAuthor
Also, the one-stop link to find my books on Amazon. Only my four books published by Permuted Press are available on Nook, Kobo or iTunes; my self-published works are Amazon-exclusive. Here’s where you can find everything: http://www.amazon.com/Brian-Parker/e/B00DFD98YI
CTC – Thank you so much, Brian, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for my readers. And, congratulations on the new baby!
Evil doesn’t become extinct. It evolves. Our world is a violent place. Murder, terrorism, racism and social inequality, these are some of the forces that attempt to destroy our society while the State is forced to increase its response to these actions.