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Author Spotlight: Elliot Parker

Who is Elliot Parker?

Elliot Parker is a 39-year-old aspiring writer transplanted from the North into the Deep Deep South. Originally from a scientific research background, she incorporates her love for research and science into every story. She is always looking for the perfect blend of creative and analytical. When not writing she consumes inhuman amounts of chai tea and searches for another animal to add to her menagerie.

What motivated you to write your first novel?

I was about six weeks post-partum, feeling like I was losing my mind and needing some sort of outlet for my hormone soaked, sleep deprived brain. I had been reading like a fiend and one day I thought, “maybe I’ll write something”. It felt like a way to help myself feel human again and exercise more than just the mommy part of my brain. I was hooked as soon as I started and haven’t quite since. That was nine years ago.

What strange things do you do when you write? Do you listen to music? Watch television? Eat Cheetos?

Music is hard because the lyrics can be distracting but sometimes I will use music to inspire a mood. Eating is definitely a strange thing that I do when I write because I absolutely must have gummy bears. Haribo gummy bears. The sugar keeps me going, and the chewy texture allows me to relieve some stress while I write. If I am mad I can bite their little heads off.

What was your greatest challenge writing this story and how did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge was getting serious about publishing it. Writing the story down was easy when the audience was one (me). Deciding that it was something I wanted other people to see meant editing, revisions, grammar, punctuation, continuity… Going back over your own story two dozen, three dozen times almost makes you hate it by the end. Trying to find a way to keep going back and re-reading, keep giving it to editors and making myself comb through comments and consider how to fine-tune the manuscript was the only part that felt like actual “work”. The drive to succeed and see my book on the shelf at my local bookstore is what helped me to overcome that obstacle.

If you could spend the day with one of the characters in this book, who would you choose and what would you do?

If I had to pick a character to spend the day with it would probably be Remmy. Remmy is a very enigmatic secondary character. He acts as the butler and general care-taker to cranky reclusive Adrien. Remmy is enigmatic even to me, the author. He shares his secrets at the strangest times, while I’m driving the car, in a meeting at work, talking on the phone to my sister. I’d love a day just to sit down and talk to him, figure out what makes him tick and where exactly he came from. He is very secretive about his origins. Plus he is an excellent cook!

What’s next for you and your writing career?

Next up is book two in the series. I feel like the second book is slower going than the first, then I remind myself I took seven years to write the first one. My professional career has taken off since book one and I have much less time to devote to writing. Having said that, I still need that creative release just as much as I did nine years ago. I sneak in bits of writing in the morning, during my lunch hour, and before bed at night. I still carry a digital recorder around in my car to dictate ideas to myself for later.

What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?

When I’m actively writing I try not to read books in my genre, Urban Fantasy. So most of my inspiration comes from television, music, art, and good conversations with friends and family. I am definitely one of those people who while just walking down the street will narrow in on the smallest detail and a story will blossom. Why is that cat staring off into space? He is clearly downloading information to the mothership about human beings, because the takeover of our planet is imminent since these cat sentinels have been living among us for so long, learning our ways. These kinds of thoughts are constantly percolating while I walk around every day.

What is something you are not good at doing?

This is a question that I should not answer for myself. I tend to think that I’m not good at anything. While that seems like a completely negative thing to say, I have learned to embrace this aspect of my personality and understand that it drives me towards success in many things, because I look for outside validation of my skills. Let me limit this to writing. In writing I would say that I am not good at descriptions. This is for two reasons; as a reader I don’t like lengthy descriptions when I am immersed in a book and also because I am a plot driven writer. The very first thing I get down on the page is the action and the journey. It takes me several passes to convey the setting, emotions, and characteristics of the people and places.

What message do you want readers to get from reading the book?

In my many craft books on writing, the one thing that always spoke to me is theme. Having a theme that resonates throughout your story and characters is very important to me. The theme of my novel Demon, Interrupted is self-acceptance. We meet the main character Evangeline when she has completely denied who she is and what her powers are. We watch as necessity forces her to accept her ancestry and powers and step forward into a supernatural world. Just when you think she has it, she becomes half demon and the journey starts all over again. Each one of the characters has some sort of journey through self-acceptance whether they find success or failure shapes their personalities.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing I can be found with animals. I have ridden horses since I was a young girl and continue to teach lessons and support my daughter with her riding career. I have two dogs that I love to take hiking and kayaking. And six chickens who constantly remind me that they are more closely related to lizards than mammals.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

“Just because you can dribble a basketball doesn’t mean you can be in the NBA.” A writing friend told me that early in my journey. We can all write but that doesn’t mean you can become an author. I never stop trying to learn the craft of writing. I consume books, take courses, ask for advice. I am a scientist by education and training, not a writer. I have a lot to learn and a lot to practice, I want to put in my 10,000 hours to become great at writing.

What are your favorite characters that you have created?

My favorite characters that I have created are definitely Elan and Suvan. I mostly love them for the way that they were created. I am a plotter to the core. My stories get rough outlines, detailed outlines, chapter outlines, scene outlines…all before I ever write a word. Elan and Suvan didn’t appear in any outline. I was in the middle of writing a scene where Evangeline had just taken refuge with Adrien and Remmy and as if my fingers had a mind of their own they typed the classic line “there was a knock at the door” and Elan and Suvan burst into the room. They had fully formed personalities from the start and have been running their own show ever since. Even when I do include them in my outlines very rarely does it end up that way on the page.

What is one piece of advice you would give to your teenage self?

I have said more than once in my life that If my teenage self could meet me today she’d kick my ass. I was very much a rebellious, down-with-the-man, teenager full of anger and angst. I wish I could go back to that time and convince myself to channel all that energy into something else. Energy is such a precious commodity in my life now that I can’t believe I wasted so much of it on railing against imaginary oppressors. Spend less time being angry with what other people say you cannot achieve and more time working on achieving it. That is what I would tell my teenage self.

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