Saturday, November 01, 2014
1. Tell us a little about yourself. Just who the hell are you, anyway?
My name is Brian Parker, I’m an Active Duty Army soldier and author. I’ve been in for 19 years and some change, but for right now I don’t have any plans of hangin’ it up any time soon. I’m currently stationed in God’s country (Texas!) – although right now I’m sitting in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Yes, we’re still here and yes, we’re still stopping very bad people from doing very bad things on a daily basis, read between the lines.
I was a self-published author before getting picked up by Permuted Press for a four book deal. My stand-along post-apocalyptic novel Enduring Armageddon will be released in May 2015 while my Washington, Dead City series will be released with GNASH in Feb 2016, REND in Mar ’16 and SEVER in Apr ’16.
I currently have five books available. My newest book Battle Damage Assessment will be released Thanksgiving week (in the US), while the rest of my books are available now. My book Origins of the Outbreak is a zombie apocalypse novel told from multiple perspectives as one small Texas town deals with the first 72 hours of the initial infection; “The Collective Protocol” is a paranormal thriller about government-sponsored mind control; I have a children’s picture book called Zombie in the Basement; finally, I wrote a self-publishing how-to guide called Self-Publishing the Hard Way which examines the mistakes that I made along the way and how to overcome them.
2. Do you have any strange writing habits?
Not really? I know that’s a cop-out, but I can – and have – write anywhere. I’ve pulled out my cell phone and typed a chapter in the notes section during my kids’ gymnastics practice, written a couple chapters on both C17s and C130s while traveling around for the Army, I’ve sat in the field and written notes on a notepad… So maybe that’s a little outside the normal way folks write, but I’m most productive sitting behind my laptop with a drink (coffee or alcohol, depending on the time of day).
3. What book do you wish you could have written?
The Holy Bible. That mofo is still selling like crazy!
4. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Ok, I always call him out and it’s totally free publicity for the dude, but it’s the truth. As a career Army officer, I fell into the mental trap that I didn’t have time to write, so I stopped after college. But in 2008 or 2009 I read J.L. Bourne’s “Day By Day Armageddon” and found out that he was an Active Duty Naval officer, so I decided that if he could do it, so could I and I haven’t looked back since then!
5. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Out of the books that I’ve written so far, the one that I absolutely believe could be made into a movie would be GNASH (it will be re-released by Permuted Press in February 2016). Readers of that book and the three readers that I’ve allowed to see the sequel REND have said it seems just like a movie by the way it focuses on multiple characters and doesn’t bog down on following only one storyline. The book could be a stand-alone political thriller without the zombie aspect, but the two together make a great combination.
Let’s see, lead characters… Hmm, I see Grayson Donnelly as a Mark Walburg type of guy, quiet, unassuming and compassionate but his former military training lets him kick butt when needed. Emory Perry, is pretty, strong and smart. I see here as a more of a Jessica Biel character. Jessica Spellman was a pretty high school cheerleader, but years of the wrong type of men have turned her into the shell of her former self but she shines after Grayson saves her life. Definitely Elisha Cuthburt. Hank Dawson is an Army Delta operator who doesn’t take any lip from anyone, Cam Gigandet. Finally, the CIA operative Kestrel, Asher Hawke, is only in “GNASH” for about twenty pages, but he’s the main character in “REND”. I see Karl Urban playing him.
6. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Nah, I’m not wedded to any specific names. Although I usually will give a bit character a name that I don’t really care for. Unfortunately it backfires, like in REND I gave Kestrel’s neighbor the name Misty, but in SEVER, she’s ended up becoming one of the main characters and I changed her name to Rachel… So when I start the editing phase with Permuted for REND, I’ll have to change that!
7. What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
I think finishing my first book was a huge accomplishment. When you’re just starting out, you don’t realize the rewards and satisfaction associated with publishing a book. Sure, it’s a goal, but you don’t truly understand it until you have total strangers telling you that your book made them feel a certain way. GNASH took me 2.5 years to write, Enduring Armageddon took eight months and now I publish one about every four months, that’s because of a process that I have and because I understand that there’s a small (but growing!) group of people anxiously awaiting the next thing I produce.
8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Professionally, I’ll probably be back at the Pentagon (already worked there for five years); but for my writing, I hope that the Permuted releases can really springboard my writing career and help newer readers discover my work. I’d like to have a #1 bestseller, but we’ll have to see…
9. Were you already a writer, and have you always liked to write?
Oh yeah, I’ve always written. In fact, I have probably ten “books” that I started over the years that are in various stages on my computer that I’ve just transferred each time I got a new one. Like I mentioned, I took a break after I joined the Army full-time, but now I just don’t watch very much television – BTW, in case you didn’t know this, TV is a HUGE time suck!
10. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Keep at it and don’t obsess about turning the perfect phrase. I’m a member of a lot of writing pages and try to get to them as much as I can, but so often I see people talking about editing and re-editing and going crazy over their first chapter and never advancing beyond that. They get frustrated because they put so much effort into making it perfect without actually doing any writing. Here’s what I do: I write the entire book, only making minor changes as things develop that need adjusting and then go back and edit once I’m done. It’s that simple.
Oh yeah, another piece of advice (and probably the biggest one): Don’t be a dick. Yes, you’re a writer and you’ve accomplished a huge feat by finishing a book, now be nice, be courteous and help advance our craft. That shit has a way of following you around.
11. If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?
I’d probably join the Army… Oh wait.
12. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read every one of them and NO! I don’t respond to them. That’s a dead giveaway that you’re not a professional. For the bad reviews, besides poking fun of them on my Facebook page, I think that people are so diverse that there’s absolutely no way that you can please everyone, so write for yourself and the people who like your stuff will find you (with the help of tons of promoting!). Unfortunately, with the internet, some people say the nastiest stuff that they’d never dare to say to another person in real life, so for that, I’ll go with the advice that fellow Permuted author S.P. Durnin, author of The Crowbar Chronicles, gave me a couple of years ago (has it been that long?!), “Water off a ducks back. Don’t let it get to you.”
13. What is your best marketing tip?
Dammit, Tom, you’re supposed to tell me this! Seriously though, I’ve been talking a lot to Phalanx Press author W.J. Lundy, author of the best-selling Whiskey Tango Foxtrot series, about marketing. Bottom line is that the old axiom that it takes money to make money is true. Free promotion, book blog tours and interviews are great, but getting your product in front of readers via advertising still can’t be beat. Treat your books like any other product; you have to let the consumer know about your work.
14. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
The mandatory self-editing phase that starts immediately after the first draft is complete. Seriously, I hate that! I can write four or five thousand words a day, but only edit two or three pages a day. Unfortunately, you have to self-edit before you send it off to your editor so that you capture all of your thoughts and don’t leave them guessing about what you meant.
15. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
My least favorite thing to read and hence I won’t write about it is the death or maiming of children. Too many times in the horror genre, writers try to gross out their readers in the belief that is what makes a good horror story. In my mind, it doesn’t; but then again I’ve been in the Army for all thirteen years of our current wars and I’ve seen that stuff in real life. It is absolutely horrible. Yes, in a hypothetical zombie or apocalyptic scenario, children would be injured or worse at a higher percentage than adults, but I’m not going to describe that to my readers.
16. Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?
I’ve been exposed to a lot of “stuff” in my career, so when I talk about military intel and technology I walk a fine line between reality what’s available for public consumption. Any time I prepare to write about something that may be sensitive, I Google the heck out of it to ensure that it’s been released, if not, I avoid it altogether. I’ve written about some pretty badass weaponry and I’ve had people tell me that it wasn’t real, but it is and I’ll go one better for you, the stuff I’m writing about is what’s been RELEASED, we have some pretty cool shit that the average person may or may not know about in the next ten years.
To give you an example of how far behind the SpecOps community the regular services are (and hence real public knowledge), read Dick Marchinko’s Rogue Warrior – the memoir, not the fiction series that developed from this book. He was the founding team leader for SEAL Team Six in ’81 or ’82 after the disastrous Iranian hostage rescue attempt that birthed Goldwater-Nichols. Anyways, the gear he wrote about having in the early ‘80s made its way to regular combat troops in the first few years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, TWENTY YEARS LATER. ‘Nuff said.
17. Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)
Nope! I’m eight books in right now and I’m about ¼ of the way through my final contracted book with Permuted. Although, depending on how well these are received, I may try to see if Permuted would be interested in any of my other stuff!
18. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
I’m writing SEVER now. After that, I am going to write a paranormal investigative book that I’d like to make into a series.
19. Do you write naked?
20. What is your biggest failure?
I’ve had a lot of setbacks over the years, but I’ve never failed at anything. All of our past experiences coalesce to make us the person we are today.
21. What is the biggest lie you've ever told?
22. Have you ever gotten into a bar fight?
Yes, several, although I’m typically the guy who just wants everyone to get along and have a good time.
23. Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
I have to tell a lot of senior ranking people, “No” in my job. That never goes over well, but I stand my ground and maintain my position because where I work, I have the ability to see the entire picture where they are focused on their fight and may not realize that our finite resources are committed elsewhere. If you prepare and have a backup plan, then usually you can be alright.
24. Do you drink? Smoke? And if so, what’s your favorite libation?
I drink. My go-to is an IPA (right now I prefer Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA), but I also love a good margarita. Before I left, I also started drinking Scotch on the rocks, my favorite so far is The Black Grouse, which is a VERY smoky Scotch, the first sip is always rough, but then your palate figures it out and it’s perfect. I imagine it would go well with a cigar, but I don’t smoke, so…
25. What is your biggest fear?
Damn Sharks! There’s almost nothing you can do, they are in their element and if they choose to go after you, you’re done, son.
26. What do you want your tombstone to say?
That I was a loving and caring father and my children knew it, not some BS that they had to make up for an epithet.
27. If you had a superpower, what would it be?
There are so many! But I think telepathy would be freakin’ awesome. **BUY MY BOOKS!**
28. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
Given my body type and my current level of fitness after being deployed for the last six months with zero alcohol, I’d be totally comfortable in a spandex suit or even Hulk-style with torn jeans and no shirt. No idea about a name, what about “Fred”?
29. What literary character is most like you?
Minus the whole magic part, Harry Dresden from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series. He/I usually don’t say the right thing, we find ways to dig ourselves deep into a hole, but in the end, we figure it out through brute freakin’ strength of will (read: stubbornness).
30. What secret talents do you have?
I have old man strength. Seriously! I’m like crazy strong (I think it’s because I grew up on a farm and developed a baseline early in life). Here at the gym in Afghanistan, we have a lot of Eastern European partners who are huge and are clearly steroid junkies, they’ve came up and tried to lift what I work out with and can’t do it. Steroids are bad, m’kay?
31. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?
Europe. I want to go so bad, but it just hasn’t worked out yet.
32. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
Financial independence would be nice.
33. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
Scottish, because people automatically think you’re crazy with a Scottish accent.
34. Do you have any scars? What are they from?
Tons. I grew up on a farm and have all sorts of little ones. I’ve got a chunk missing from my thigh where I was running and twisted my ankle, a guardrail kept me from tumbling down a hill, but a piece of me was gone. I have a burn on the back of my hand from an M240C when the red-hot barrel fell onto my hand when my gunner was changing the barrel. My favorite, stupid scar though, is I have an inch long scar on my abdomen. I’d just purchased a new tomahawk with a spike on the back side and we were making a bonfire – alcohol may or may not have been involved. Anyways, I pulled the tomahawk out of its sheath and the damn spike stuck into my stomach. I staunched the flow of blood with paper towels and tape because I didn’t want my wife to know that I was an idiot. Probably should have went to the hospital for that one, but it all buffed out in the end!
35. What were you like as a child?
I read a lot and worked on our farm. Actually, I was pretty shy as a kid, but outgrew that, now people can’t shut me up!
36. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
Not really, at least not that I can remember.
37. You’re being attacked by a horde of brain eating zombies at this very moment, and all you have is a butter knife, a week-old lemon and a cheese grater. How would you extract yourself from the situation?
I’m a runner as well as having said old man strength, so I’d just run. What the hell? Or, maybe I’ll squeeze the lemon into the dude’s face who sits beside me to blind him and create a distraction for the mob, then use the cheese grater to…Okay, I’ve got nothing here. I’d get eaten!
38. Do you have any regrets? (Besides volunteering for this interview)
Nope. There are things that I wish could have went differently obviously, but the times that didn’t work out like I thought they would are the ones that I’ve learned the most from.
39. And last, but certainly not least, do you have any books you’d like to recommend/ shout-outs?
Besides One Man’s Island? I think I’ve dropped a few throughout this interview…
Thanks for arranging this, Tom! I really appreciate the opportunity and will have to reciprocate at some point once I get my head out of my butt!
Here are the books that are available on Amazon now:
“The Collective Protocol” – www.tinyurl.com/TCP-Parker
“Zombie in the Basement” – www.tinyurl.com/zombie4kids
“Zombie in the Basement: The Coloring Book!” – www.tinyurl.com/ZombieColoring
“Self-Publishing the Hard Way” – www.tinyurl.com/Self-Parker