Q and A with Author Chrissie Parker
Posted by BWitzenhausen
Tell us a little about yourself. When did your interest in writing begin?
I live with my husband, who is an actor and musician, and two cats (named after Roman goddesses), in London (UK). I love to listen to music and read books. I am very passionate about history, and archaeology, and am also a big fan of motor racing.
I have had a varied life in regards to work. When I was at school I wanted to be either an actress or an archaeologist, two very different career paths. Things weren’t easy and after much investigation and thought, I eventually settled upon actress. Partway through training, I decided I didn’t really want to be an actress after all, as I much preferred the technical side of theatre, so I re-trained, whilst working at the Bristol hippodrome Theatre. I then became a Freelance Production Assistant and later a Production Coordinator, I worked at my local TV station as studio crew, toured with cover bands and worked as a freelancer on feature films, documentaries and a variety of TV programmes.
Over the years I enjoyed re-discovering my love of ancient History and Archaeology. Recently I completed a six-month course in Archeological Techniques, and a six-month course in Ancient Egyptian History with Exeter University. I hope to undertake another course with them next year, but not sure which one yet!
Writing is something that has always been with me. I was always writing short stories at school, and in my teens I also wrote a lot of poetry. Over the years I tried unsuccessfully to write numerous novels, but could never find my niche. Despite that, I never gave up, and kept trying. It is something I love doing and am glad that I have finally succeeded in releasing my first novella. Last year I was very lucky to have one of my poems ‘Maisie’ read at the Bath Literary Festival as part of the ‘100 poems by 100 Women’ event.
Tell us about your book “Integrate”. What was the inspiration behind it?
“Integrate” actually began life as a screenplay. I had always wanted to write one and in the 1990’s I began work on something that was slightly dark, that centered on a murder, with a few twists and turns. It was laced with paranormal elements, namely tarot and premonitions/visions. I enjoyed working on it, but it never got made into a film, and was resigned to a box in the attic, which is where I re-discovered it a few years ago along with a lot of other half finished manuscripts. I re-read it and enjoyed the story so much that I decided to turn it into a novella. I kept most of the original elements of the script but decided to expand the story in a few areas to give the characters, etc. a bit more depth. I love the connections between the characters and the simplicity of the storyline, even though it does twist and turn a lot!
What do you feel is the most important thing for you when writing?
The most important thing for me is to be able to have large chunks of time to work, time where I don’t get interrupted; I hate sitting down and starting work only to have to stop again an hour later. I am lucky as I only work part-time, so I am able to have a few full days a week to work solely on my writing. As most of my future work is set against historic backgrounds and in archaeological fields, research is also very important to me, so I do have to set aside time for that as well. I am quite an organised person, all of my manuscripts are filed neatly on my computer and backed-up regularly. I also have a notebook for each book that I write, where I note details on my characters, the place where the book is set, a plot synopsis, and research information. I also like to try and set deadlines, I like to have something to aim for!
Do you outline/plot or are you a “pantser”? Has your process changed from when you first started?
I would describe myself as an ‘in-betweener’.
I do like to fly by the seat of my pants whilst writing, I like letting the characters decide where we are heading and what is happening in their lives. In some respects I like to lose myself in the manuscript and let what is in my head flow onto the page as much as possible. But I do also like to plan a little too, with my forthcoming books, there are a lot of archaeological and historical elements involved, which require a lot of planning and research.
I also like to have a brief plot outline before I start, as well as description of my characters etc. I hate having to stop mid-flow to have to go back to sort out specific or important details later when a little planning could have helped.
Do you ever have times when your writing just isn’t flowing for you? If you do, how do you work through it?
So far I have been lucky and haven’t had too many periods of this, but if I do find that I am having a day where I get stuck or just can’t get past a particular point, then I stop writing and do some more research, or sit and read a history book, or watch a historical documentary. It may sound a little boring, but for me it is fun and usually helps to get my brain working again.
If I do need to get out and away from the desk completely, then I will either go for a walk and window shop, or go and visit either The British Museum (which I adore and spend a lot of time in), the Petrie Museum, or the Museum of London. I am very lucky to have such great institutions so close.
What authors and/or books have most influenced your life?
I am a huge reader. I collect books and I think at last count had about a thousand! As a child I loved reading series like ‘The Famous Five’ by Enid Blyton, as well as the C.S Lewis collection, and The Wizard of Oz. As an adult I absolutely love Agatha Christie, I am only a few books away from having the whole collection. I also like reading books by Nora Roberts, Belinda Jones and Elizabeth Peters (The Amelia Peabody series). I also love reading Christmas themed books in November and December, it’s a great build up to the season.
In some way I think every book I read influences my life in some way, I just can’t live without reading. I have no idea what I would do if they ever banned books…
Is there one character in your book who holds a special place in your heart and who you would want to spend time with if they were real?
That is a really tough question. In one way I would love to step into both Corinne and Jack’s lives to help them and tell them that life doesn’t have to be so hard, and to tell that even when things go bad, there is always a way out and that things do get better.
However for this purpose, I would probably have to chose Helena. I think her character is wise – she is very like me, slightly quirky, a go getter and someone who likes to have a bit of fun. She would be a great person to invite to an evening out with friends. I could see it being a lot of fun!
What is the most memorable feedback you have received about your work?
I think the most memorable feedback I had was during the reading process of ‘Integrate’. Someone highlighted a twist/red herring in the story, saying it was very clever and worked really well. I hadn’t even realized that I had written that part of the story that way. Other people have also mentioned it to me since, and I feel quite proud of myself for writing something so clever, without even realising it!
Can you tell us what is coming up for you ?
In regards to what’s coming up next, I am working on two full-length novels that I hope to release next year.
The first is called ‘Wind across the Nile’. It is set in Egypt and spans 5 generations of a family, who have all suffered with tragic loss. I don’t want to give too much away at this point, as it will spoil the story, but I can tell you it is a thriller/suspense and it throws you right into the heart of Egypt, its heritage and history.
The second book is called ‘Among the Olive Groves’. It is set on the Greek Island of Zakynthos, during World War Two. I love the Island and I wanted to highlight some of what happened to the Islanders during the war. Some of my research has been a little harrowing, but I am really enjoying writing the book.
I am also working on plots for books set in the following locations:
Italy, (around Pompeii and Herculaneum), with elements of Roman history.
The UK, (around Devon and Somerset) with elements of medieval history.
I am hoping to re-publish a story set in Petra, Jordan, which will be re-named ‘Secrets Beneath the Sands’.
A sequel to ‘Wind Across the Nile’ is also planned.
I would like to take the time to thank you for interviewing me for your excellent blog Belinda.
“A battered and broken body lies in the road. A discovery that leaves the local community gripped with fear. Suspicion as to who killed the woman is rife. Corinne’s peaceful life is shattered by the tragic death, forcing her to struggle daily with overwhelming grief and loss. A chance meeting with a stranger helps Corinne through the hurt and pain, but can she really trust Jack?”
Twin sisters Corinne and Helena have always been close, growing up in the same small town. Corinne lives alone in the house that used to belong to their parents and Helena lives with her husband and love of her life, Jimmy, and their two children.
Helena loves life, she enjoys spending time with her friends and relishes being a wife and mother. Corinne lives in isolation, unable to get over the death of their parents. She relies on the spiritual world, reading tarot cards, surrounding herself with crystals and candles. She also has to deal with unwanted premonitions that strike when she least expects them.
During a tarot reading Corinne predicts Helena’s death, and is distraught when she learns that Helena has been murdered. The grief and sudden loss of her twin sister overwhelms Corinne and she struggles to live day to day. At Helena’s funeral Corinne falls out with her brother in law and is left feeling alone and unloved.
At her lowest ebb Corinne becomes friends with Jack, a stranger in town, but the grief remains and whenever she is around Jack, she gets a vision; one that takes her back to the horrifying scene of Helena’s death. Unable to stop them, Corinne realises the visions may be her only chance of finally understanding what happened to her sister and why. But will it be the answer she is looking for?
To find out more about Chrissie visit her website www.chrissieparker.com
Twitter – @Chrissie_author
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chrissie for taking time out of her busy schedule to share with us. Please stop by her links to find out more about her amazing work.