Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our interview with Brian Parker!

Please start by telling us a little about yourself (education, jobs, significant other, children, pets, etc.) 

I'm an Active Duty soldier in the U.S. Army. I've been in for 18.5 years, I've got a BS in Geography and an MA in Management & Leadership.  I'm married to another soldier, we have two children, 5 and 6, and I've also got a 12-year old daughter.  We don't have any pets right now, but when one of us retires and can be home with one, we're absolutely getting a dog!

I've written six books, only three of which are available for sale right now; The Collective Protocol, my latest book which I'll discuss in a moment, Zombie in the Basement, a children's picture book that focuses on acceptance of others, and Self-Publishing the Hard Way, my how-to guide to help anyone looking to self-publish a book. The other three that I've written – GNASH, REND and Enduring Armageddon – are part of a four-book deal with Permuted Press that I signed in April … I need to write that fourth book! Those titles will begin releasing one per quarter starting next summer (2015).

Tell us about your latest New Adult book and what inspired you to write it.

My latest book, The Collective Protocol, is a paranormal thriller about mind control.  The premise is that a set of twins, Reagan and Paige, were put up for adoption as newborns.  Paige was deathly ill in the NICU, so when the adoptive parents came along, they decided to not incur the massive medical debts of a child that they were told wouldn't live more than a few weeks.  Reagan was adopted and grew up loved and normal, never knowing that she had a sister. The sickly twin survived and bounced around from one abusive home to another in the foster system until she ran away at 13 and began to develop telepathic abilities. She gets scooped up by the Canadian government, who uses her to wage untraceable warfare against their neighbors to the south who stick their noses in everyone else's business worldwide. Paige has a sickening past and she revisits those who wronged her during her childhood throughout the book. You want to feel sorry for her, but at the same time, the things that she does make you believe in psychotic evil...

What inspired me to write it, really the idea, is that the Canadians are too nice; they have to be hiding something! My current boss is a Canadian Exchange Officer and even when he’s chewing you out, it seems like your grandfather is talking to you. Nobody is nice like that unless they have a secret plan to take over the world!

The New Adult genre is fairly new. What's your definition of it? How does it differ from Young Adult or just regular Adult books?

I really think the "New Adult" has been around forever and in an effort to help further categorize things, we've created this sub-genre. Most of my favorite books have been about people in the 17-25ish age range and I've never really thought of it other than "fantasy" or "science fiction". I like that the sub-genre is here to help folks find exactly what they're looking for though.

Do you belong to any critique groups and/or do you have other people read your work as you're writing it? Who's brutally honest and who's a cheerleader? Which do you prefer?

I have one great beta reader and my editor. I've put out open calls for additional betas before and always get people who ask for a free copy of the first draft and then never hear from them again.  My recommendation is to get yourself one or two people who want to help and grab onto them, take them to lunch, buy 'em a drink, whatever it will take to keep a good beta on your side! But by saying that, please understand that my definition of a good beta is someone who will take your work, give you suggestions about the plot, what worked and what didn't, give you honest feedback and tell you if a part of the book stinks. If a person reads your stuff and says everything in your first draft is perfect, there's one of two or three things going on: a) she's your mom, nothing you can do will be bad in her eyes – except cursing; b) it's your significant other/good friend or family and they don't want to hurt your feelings; or c) you're Stephen King and a minor god in the Pantheon.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing I can say is to get an editor! We all think that we can edit our own stuff, but you simply miss a lot of things when you try to edit your own work. There’s been a resistance to self-publishing because of the lack of editing in self-published books. There are so many great stories out there that people won’t read because the preview turns them off with all the editing errors… Get an editor! My editor, Aurora Dewater, is awesome… check her out!

What are your all-time favorite authors/books?

Besides my books or myself?! Yeah, here they are:

Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks (fantasy – also probably considered NA today)

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler (post-apocalyptic) – pretty much everything by Gischler is really good. I just picked up his fantasy so I haven’t gotten to read that yet

Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose (non-fiction/history)

World War Z by Max Brooks (horror/post-apocalyptic) – this one was a really great read; if you only saw the movie, the only thing in common is the name and the word “zombie”

Cherie Priest (steampunk/alternate history) – super cool stuff

Do you outline before you write or just dive head-first into a manuscript? Do you maintain a schedule for writing, or is it more haphazard?

I’m not an outliner! I definitely fly by the seat of my pants. Obviously, I have a rough idea of what I want to happen generally in the end so that I can build to it, but the story often surprises me where it ends up going! 

As far as scheduling, I’ve learned to not beat myself up over keeping a strict schedule. There’s too much happening to get upset if I didn’t write X number of chapters this week. As I’ve evolved as writer, I’ve really started focusing on word count. I try to have a weekly word count when I’m working on a book, usually 5K a week, but if I don’t hit it because I had to work or one of the kids got sick or something, IT’S OKAY! Maybe I’ll try to put in a little more time the next week and make it up. Maybe not.

Where do you do your best writing? (Ex: desk in your office, public library, under a tree in the park, in front of a Real Housewives TV marathon, etc.) Do you like music or some other background noise, or do you need quiet?

I’m extremely lucky because I don’t need a lot of sleep and I write at night after my kids go to bed. I’ve got a little office area set up where I go in and work, since it’s after everyone is asleep I usually write to the sound of my fingers hitting the keys. 

What are the best and worst parts of writing a book? 

The best part of writing a book is the elation you feel when you finish your first draft. Man, that’s such a good feeling that you were able to take your idea and carry it out for 250, 300 pages and it actually made sense! Followed quickly by the worst part, which is when you begin self-editing before you send it out to your betas and then editor. I loathe self-editing, but it is a necessary evil so you can catch initial errors and help to clear up things before your betas become confused and start asking a ton of questions.

When you're driving and you have a sudden, brilliant idea for the new manuscript you're working on, what do you do? (Ex: pull over and fire up the laptop, keep driving while scribbling on a McDonald's bag, tell Siri, etc.)

I usually will do a Dragon Diction note to myself and send as a text then later I’ll decipher what the heck it turned my words into and type that up into a simple Word document. I’ve got a whole folder of ideas and I’m steadily churning through them.

Imagine you have a whole day free for shopping. Where do you go? (Mall, unique boutiques, flea market, antique shops, bookstore, home improvement store, etc.)

If I had an entire day free for shopping, I’d sit at home and write.

What are the top 5 titles in your Netflix queue? (Be honest.) Or if you don't have a Netflix queue, which books are on your bedside table? (Again, be honest.)

This is actually an interesting question. My first book GNASH took 2.5 years to write. I didn’t really change my lifestyle or anything, I just wrote when I felt like it, watched TV and movies at night, stuff like that. After the book came out, I really got the bug for writing so I pretty much stopped watching movies and my next book, Enduring Armageddon, took about eight months to write, then I cut out the television – except for The Walking Dead – and REND took only 3.5 months. I honestly don’t miss watching random people do stupid things that some producer has set up for them. It’s all about perspective.

Right now, I only have one book on my nightstand: Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest. We were both exhibitors at a Houston convention and I played the fanboy and got her autograph. What can I say?

Do you prefer to read ebooks or print?

I’m an eBook convert. While I love paperbacks, the versatility of an eReader is just too great. I can have fifty books to choose from at any given time on one little device instead of carrying around two clunky books for when I finish the first. This is especially important to me as a soldier since I go fun places for 9-12 months at a time. I can load up my iPad mini (Nook and Kindle apps on there of course!) with a bunch of books and not have to worry about a rucksack full of books.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Sitting on a beach with a beer in the sun. Any beach, any body of water, just about any beer.

Do you have any advice for people who want to write a book?

It’s so much harder than most people think it is, but the end is also more rewarding than you could imagine. The biggest advice is to be consistent, keep nugging away at the keyboard and don’t get upset if you miss an arbitrary timeline that you set up for yourself – unless you’re under contract and there’s some type of penalty for not turning in a work on time! Oh, and read my how-to guide on self-publishing.

Please give us your website and any other links you'd like included.

Most of the interaction with fans is done on my Facebook page and I try to Tweet once a day.  I’ve also got a website, but it’s not updated as often as I’d like to, I just don’t have the time to maintain it like I should.

Twitter: @BParker_Author
The Collective Protocol:
Zombie in the Basement:
Self-Publishing the Hard Way:

Permuted Press:


Brian Parker is currently an Active Duty Army soldier who enjoys spending time with his family in Texas, hiking, obstacle course racing, writing and watching Texas Longhorns football.  His wife is also an Active Duty soldier and the pairing brings a unique set of circumstances that keep both of them on their toes. He's an unashamed Star Wars fan, but prefers to disregard the entire Episode I and II debacle.

Born and raised as an Army brat, he moved all over the country as a child before his father retired from the service and the family settled down in a small Missouri town. After his father's retirement, they purchased a farm where Brian learned the rewards of a hard day's work and relished the escapism that books provided someone with bigger dreams.

Brian is the author of the Washington, Dead City series which will be offered by Permuted Press in 2015. The series includes both GNASH and REND and will culminate with the upcoming book SEVER. He is also the author of The Collective Protocol, a paranormal thriller; Zombie in the Basement, a children’s picture book that addresses acceptance of others’ differences; Self-Publishing the Hard Way, a help guide for aspiring authors who want to self-publish their manuscript; and Enduring Armageddon, another Permuted Press offering of one family’s struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic nightmare. 

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