I'm pleased to present Richard Jay Parker, who kindly agreed to be interviewed. Richard wrote the thriller Stop Me, which explores all the emotions involved with a missing person, who could possibly be dead.
Given the ease of communicating through emails, the concept of the killer in Stop Me using this medium is more than a little creepy. How did that concept of the book come into being?
I get SPAM on a daily basis and it struck me how bizarre the idea of not being happy or wealthy if you don't forward an email to ten friends is. Usually the contents are quite innocuous which makes the threat seem a little sinister. It got me thinking about what people's reaction would be to the email if someone's life depended on it being forwarded. Would they still ignore it or would they be more inclined to send it on just in case? It's certainly been a talking point with readers.
The uncertainty of Leo's wife's safety permeates the whole book. Leo's attachment to Laura makes him do things that he wouldn't normally do. Was it your intention to place such a great emphasis on Leo's emotions? Did they take Leo's character in any unexpected direction, or did you have a pretty good idea from the start how you wanted Leo to be?
It was my intention to make Leo increasingly isolated throughout the story. Everyone believes that his wife is dead which is why he embarks on a relationship with Bookwalter. You're right - he's doing things that he normally wouldn't do and engaging with a Bookwalter is the ultimate example of this. It's what the title refers to more than the emails.
The ending was definitely more than satisfactory for me. How did you choose the ending? Was it the one you originally intended, or did you want to try something that the reader wouldn't expect?
My brief throughout was to try and confound the reader at every turn. Readers love to second guess where a plot is going and there's great satisfaction from having your suspicions confirmed. However, it's even more exciting to be taken in the exactly the direction you don't expect. I always knew how the story was going to end but the whole Leo/Bookwalter liaison was something I had great fun with. I think readers will have expectations about where this will lead and I wanted to keep them guessing right up to the wire.
Could you tell us a little about your road to publication? What made you think 'I can write'? Did you go the route of querying an agent first?
I spent a good while writing TV scripts as well as script editing and producing. I started by submitting material on spec to TV companies and was told fairly consistently that my ideas weren't very good. I eventually got a few pieces picked up, however, and that led to commissions and a more active role in production. As a writer, you have to be slightly arrogant about your talent in the face of criticism. It's the same with book writing. I made the decision to leave my TV agent and started from scratch. I got an agent with my first book but I think this lulled me into a false sense of security. My work didn't get picked up and I was still working out what sort of material I was comfortable with. Then I started writing thrillers but it was a couple of other agents, eight manuscripts and a lot of near misses later before I got an offer.
Could you tell us what has surprised you in being a published writer, and why?
I think the biggest revelation has been the amount of promo it's necessary to do. My publisher has a dynamic publicity specialist in Chiara Priorelli so I'm lucky to have her support. The idea of being a reclusive writer who delivers a manuscript once a year to his publisher before vanishing to their retreat is now defunct. Writers have to push themselves as much as possible in an increasingly competitive market. I enjoy the process though and the advent of Twitter, Shelfari and blogging means that writers can get the sort of immediate feedback from readers they would never have had before. Trouble is, it's time consuming and it's a real balancing act between promo and writing.
Along with other thriller writers, you're a member of The Curzon Group . Could you tell us a little about this, how the group's blog features in your writing life, and the benefits that have arisen from it?
The Curzon Group is a very informal organisation and we've done some fun events - like the airport signings and library debates. It's a great opportunity to hook up with other writers from the genre and compare notes. The blog is a good discipline. I blog every Friday at http://www.thecurzongroup.blogspot.com/ and usually use something that's happened to me in my writing week as fodder. I also Tweet @Bookwalter and a lot of my followers there read the blog. It's sometimes difficult to know just how much exposure you get this way but I've met some good people and blogging is great therapy.
Are you able to tell us about the next project you are currently working on?
Am currently rewriting book 2 for my publisher. Its title is still to be agreed but I can tell you that it explores some of the elements that I touched upon in STOP ME (Internet, online relationships) but also focuses on how people have lost touch with each other and the anonymous and reclusive way we live with our immediate neighbours in the 21st Century. I hope to be able to tell you more about it very soon.
I for one am looking forward to Richard's next project. I hope you are too!