An Interview with Stephen Parrish
I knew he had written some fiction, and I figured it was only a matter of time before he landed a publishing deal. When he did, I knew it was a book I would have to own.
May 1 is the official release date of The Tavernier Stones, but it is available now at many bookstores and through online retailers.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Stephen a few questions regarding his past, present, and future. I think you'll find his answers interesting.
I know you live in Germany, but I never heard the story of what brought you there.
The U.S. Army. Signing up was the second best thing I ever did, after becoming a dad.
Is there any chance you’ll ever move back to the States?
I'm homesick. But having so many exotic cultures within a short drive is a fantasy come true. Once when I had business near the Dutch border I decided to drive home by cutting through Holland, then Belgium, then Luxembourg, before crossing back into Germany. Four countries in one afternoon, just for the hell of it. Try doing that from Indianapolis. My favorite city, London, is one hour away by air, and I can get a round trip ticket for a hundred bucks. Come to think of it, maybe I'm not so homesick after all . . .
What are some of the difficulties living in Europe and trying to promote a book published in America? Will there be any sort of American book tour?
The Atlantic Ocean is an obvious impediment to book signings, but I think the practice is dated and on its way out. The internet is exponentially more efficient at reaching people. I'm also convinced that ebooks will soon be the norm, sooner than most people predict, and print rights will be treated as subsidiary, like audio rights are today. You can't autograph an ebook.
When it comes to book marketing in general, I'm highly suspicious of conventional wisdom, and especially of what appears to be a prevailing notion that writers need to promote balls-to-the-wall in every arena they can. Some arenas are efficient, some are inefficient, some horribly so.
Where did the title The Tavernier Stones come from?
My editor chose it. It's the fourth title the book has worn. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (tavern-YAY) was a seventeenth century Marco Polo who traveled frequently to the Orient and brought back many gemstones to the court of Louis XIV, including a large blue diamond that would later be recut into The Hope. My novel capitalizes on the legend of his final voyage, during which he mysteriously disappeared.
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
Two of my passions are maps and gemstones. When it occured to me to marry the two, to conjure up a treasure map and make the treasure a cache of priceless jewels, I couldn't resist. Mind you, I tried to resist; my ambitions have always leaned toward literary fiction. I refused to touch the project for several years after conceiving it. But it kept nagging me.
I know you have a background in mathematics. When did you first become interested in writing fiction?
Literature is my first love. I've read omnivorously, particularly fiction, as far back as I can remember. When I say I would rather read a good novel than do anything else, and I mean anything, people think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. Math is another story, a parallel life I'm living.
What authors influenced you? Was there ever an author you considered a mentor?
Hemingway is probably tops. When he was good, no one was better. It can also be said that when he was bad, no one was worse. That suck-in-a-deep-breath moment near the end of "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" is, to my way of thinking, what we're all trying to achieve.
When I was very young I got swept away by Leon Uris. I still think Mila 18 is one of the best novels ever written. It was Leon, more than any other writer, and probably more than all of them combined, who inspired me to be a novelist.
You signed up for NaNoWriMo last year. What became of that? Would you recommend it?
I signed up two years in a row. I won't again. It's not for me.
Do you have any advice for newbies trying to break in? What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
I'm still a newbie myself. There's a lot of good advice out there, particularly about seeking and paying attention to criticism, and aspiring writers should listen to it. The one thing I would stress is: Don't Give Up. Lucky people aren't getting book deals, stubborn people are.
As for self publishing, well, you can do it if you want, but I won't buy it or read it.
I know you landed your publishing contract without an agent. Have you tried to get an agent since signing with Midnight Ink?
No, I'm exercising patience. Tavernier was represented unsuccessfully, and I ended up having to sell it myself. I learned that the expression "getting an agent" woefully lacks a critical adjective or two.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now?
A juvenile delinquent is given a choice: remain in detention for the final six months of his sentence, or go to work on a vineyard.
Why should someone browsing in a bookstore buy The Tavernier Stones over the hundreds of other choices on the shelves? What makes your book stand out in the crowd?
It's got a shit-hot cover! All I ask is that people read chapter one. It's available in its entirety on the Amazon page by clicking the "search inside this book" option. If it doesn't make you want to read further, you have my gratitude for giving it a shot, and I hope we cross paths again.
You can learn more about Stephen and his debut novel on his website.
Also, he is sponsoring a contest, based on the novel, where you can win a one-carat diamond here.
Thank you, Stephen, and best of luck with the book!