It’s time now for an interview with Chris Parker. His latest book, ‘debris’ was published in January of this year.
You seem to have had a variety of books published by Urbane Publications so far. Can you tell me a bit about them please?
Happy to! I’d like to preface that, however, by explaining why I wanted to be an Urbane author in the first place and why I’m thrilled to still be an Urbane author. And that’s because of Matthew Smith, the founder and owner of Urbane! We first met when he was in his previous role and agreed to publish a book I was writing. I was struck from our first meeting by his unique, creative and much-needed collaborative approach to publishing and working with authors. And I still am. I value our relationship highly. I am a better writer now because of his trust and advice.
So…back to my Urbane books. The first was ‘Influence’. It’s part one in a three-part psychological thriller exploring what happens when Marcus Kline, a man regarded as the world’s leading expert in Communication and Influence, is targeted by a killer who is potentially even more skilled at getting inside people’s minds and making them do whatever he wants. Throughout the trilogy people die, minds are broken and relationships are ruined as the conflict of words and influence rages.
With ‘Influence’ complete, the plan was for me to write the rest of the trilogy – titled ‘Belief’ and ‘Faith’ – in short order. However, I work with and know some exceptional individuals and I’m skilled at modelling excellence. So I let myself be distracted from the world of Marcus Kline and wrote instead about the genius who is Diego Masciaga, the master of customer service and a global legend in the world of hospitality and catering. By the time ‘The Diego Masciaga Way’ was published I had also completed my first poetry collection titled ‘The City Fox and others in our community’. I was genuinely stunned – and scared – when Matthew said he would publish this.
I had been working on ‘Belief’ during this time and it was progressing nicely (I thought), but I then decided that the world needed to know about and learn from the work and teaching of leading American Clinical Sport Psychologist and Sport Scientist, Dr John Sullivan. So that led to me writing the book ‘The Brain Always Wins’. I have to say this will probably always be the most useful book I will ever write. I say that because the better we manage and treat our brain, the better the quality of our life and performance. It is as simple as that. And we know enough now for us all to be able to create and maintain our own personalised daily brain management Process! In the book we teach you how.
With ‘The Brain Always Wins’ complete, it was back to ‘Belief’. I realised then that the first draft was really not that good. So I threw most of it away and started again. The poetry writing hadn’t stopped either, so as I was coming to the end of ‘Belief’ I finished my second poetry collection titled ‘debris’. Wonderfully, Matthew published this in January! And I’m a bit less scared at seeing my name on a poetry book this time.
‘Belief’ is scheduled for publication in June of this year. I have already started work on ‘Faith’ and no other writing project – and Matthew, if you are listening, I really, really mean this – no other writing project will get in the way!
I love crime fiction and have got a copy of ‘Influence’ to read. If I was deciding whether to buy it or not, how would you sell it to me?
I would quote a review by Mr Baz who called it “A sizzling detective story that keeps you guessing right up to the end.” Then I would make reference to other reviewers who have called it “original”, “unnerving yet compulsive”, “a well crafted blend of gripping crime and fascinating science” and a “mind numbing book of mystery”.
I would also say that I have been asked many times if there are people who can really influence others using only words and gestures as powerfully as characters do in the book. The answer is a clear and definite “Yes!” Words can be as positive, exciting or frightening as a kiss or as destructive as a bomb. And the ways they are used in ‘Belief’, which are even more shocking and challenging than in ‘Influence’, really drives home this point.
Beyond my writing I have been studying and teaching others about this for four decades. The Marcus Kline trilogy is ultimately based on that old writing principle of ‘write about what you know’. Although, having said that, because of the power of words I always emphasise in my training and teaching the absolute need to influence others positively and respectfully. The killer in the trilogy represents the opposite of that.
Does that mean you got the idea for ‘Influence’ from your own study and work?
Essentially, yes. I wanted to highlight the very real power we have to affect others and ourselves through our communication. I wanted to write about words being used as kisses and as bombs, whilst also writing a powerful, engaging and provocative crime thriller.
Did you have to do any additional research for it?
Yes. Lots. For example, I knew nothing about police work, or the legal process, or photography, or a very specific act of violence, all of which are integral to the story. Fortunately I love doing the research needed to write both fiction and non-fiction. More fortunately still, I know individuals who are hugely experienced in all the professions and skills I needed to learn about. It’s been very important to me that the Marcus Kline trilogy is realistic throughout. I’m happy if parts of it seem hard to believe – that would be one of the reasons why the second book is called ‘Belief’ – but my experts have all worked with me to ensure that what happens is factual. And, as I said earlier, I know the communication and hypnosis aspects are all grounded in reality.
How long have you been writing poetry for?
Since childhood. When my parents died and I spent a day preparing what had been the family home for men in a van to clear, I found a notebook of my childhood poetry in a suitcase underneath the bed in the small bedroom. I’d written it between the ages of nine and eleven. I have absolutely no idea what drew me to write poetry back then. To be honest, I don’t have much more of an idea why I still write it now. I do think, though, that poetry takes people on an inward journey into their own life experiences, beliefs, hopes, questions etc. I love it when someone tells me what I meant by a certain poem and how they ‘got it’, when in fact their interpretation is purely their own! It’s a great example of how easy it is to assume shared perceptions or understandings that don’t exist. It’s also a great indicator of how poetry works on such a personal level for all of us. I think novels and short stories on the other hand draw readers out into an imaginary world. I think they offer more of a degree of escapism – which might be one reason why they are more popular than poems.
What do you want readers to get from ‘The City Fox’ and ‘debris’?
For reasons I’ve just intimated that is a really hard question to answer. There are several interconnected themes running throughout both – to do with the relationship between nature, communication, community and learning in all its forms. Having said that, poetry should move, shake or rattle readers. It should get inside them and open them up. It should take them inwards, as I just mentioned, and draw something out.
I wrote a poem that I chose not to put in ‘debris’ called ‘A poem wounds’ and it’s about that very thing. In one sense poetry should wound us; the question is what will we bleed – will it be laughter or recognition or pain or something else altogether? The answer to that question depends on the reader, on who and how and where they are in their life when they engage with the poem.
So, ultimately, readers will get from reading poetry whatever it is they are ready to get. The poet’s job is to make sure it’s never safe. Sometimes a poem will wound you in ways you are not consciously prepared for, in ways you least expect.
What are you working on now?
Just yesterday I started work on ‘Faith’, the final book in the Marcus Kline trilogy. Marcus and I have been together for quite a few years now and over that time we have got to know each other very well. He has, quite literally (if you’ll pardon the pun) taken on a life of his own. He has his own website at http://www.marcuskline.co.uk where he blogs and promotes his business. And he is scheduled to appear as a guest on the Unlimited Podcast later this year. That’s assuming, of course, he manages to stay alive and keep his life on track. Which, to be fair, is proving to be an awful lot easier said than done. For obvious reasons, I can’t reveal what condition he is in by the end of ‘Belief’ or, indeed, the condition of anyone he cares about. All I can say is that if things were really bad for Marcus and the other main characters in ‘Influence’, they get far, far worse in ‘Belief’. In fact, they’re so bad I actually struggled to share some of them…
Anyway, moving on from that, ‘Faith’ picks up the story a few months after ‘Belief’ ends. In one sense I’m really looking forward to writing it, and in one sense I’m not. I’m looking forward to it because everything that has gone before has been leading up to what happens in ‘Faith’. Paradoxically, that’s also why I’m not looking forward to it. You see I know what’s going to happen next. It’s not at all good and I’m genuinely fond of many of the characters. Still, there’s no turning back for any of us because Matthew Smith wants the book and I’ve promised he’ll get it. I guess that means Marcus, the other characters and I will just need to push on.
Can we look forward to even more books from you?
Absolutely! As I am sure you appreciate, writing is an itch that can never be scratched satisfactorily. In fact, Matthew and I first talked about the trilogy I’m planning to write after Marcus Kline quite a few years ago. It’s called ‘Dark Steps’ and it’s based on a character I included in a novel I had published in the 1990s. Matthew read the novel – it made him smile quite a lot, which was a shame because it wasn’t a comedy – but he did really like one particular character. When I told him I had a storyline planned for this character, he became interested. Thankfully he really liked the plot, which is very, very different from the Marcus Kline story, and I’ve been developing it slowly ever since. So after I’ve developed my ‘Faith’, I’m going to walk some ‘Dark Steps’.
Beyond your writing, your career sound fascinating. How did it all start?
Because I met a man who had the ability to understand and influence people in ways I thought were magical. I was a student, training to be a schoolteacher at the time and I realised this type of ability was crucial for educators. Yet it wasn’t a part of the undergraduate degree I was studying. I asked why we weren’t doing at least one module in how to use words to change emotional and physical states, or how to look and listen so we could see below the surface structure of what was being said or done. My lecturers didn’t really have any answers – at least they didn’t have any answers that satisfied me – and as I had already started learning from this particular gentleman I didn’t pursue it any further with them. That was in 1976. The man who became my inspiration and mentor continues to be so. And my fascination with communication and influence, particularly how interpersonal communication affects our brain and how meditative practises can help people prepare for and enhance the entire communication process, is as great now as it has ever been. Currently I divide my working time between lecturing, providing corporate training and, of course, writing.
Have you found social media to be useful?
I’m an absolute novice when it comes to using social media well. I need to get an awful lot better and, truthfully, I’d much rather look at and/or listen to another human being in real time. So I have much learning to do in this regard. To put it into context, I’ve only had my websites in place for a year or so! They are http://www.chrisparkerauthor.com and http://www.powerofwords.com. Fortunately I have some very caring and talented people around me who are committed to my social media education and to helping me use it well.
Will you be doing any book signings?
Yes. Book signings and talks are great fun! I’m actually talking to members of a local book club later this week. Looking ahead, Matthew has organised a book launch event for ‘Belief’ in June in the wonderful Five Leaves bookshop in Nottingham. The plan is to arrange some talks and signings around that event.
What would you do if there were no such thing as words?
Listen to the silence.
‘debris’ is available from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/debris/
‘The City Fox’ is available from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-city-fox/
‘Influence’ is available from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/influence/
‘The Brain Always Wins’ is available from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-brain-always-wins/
‘The Diego Masciaga Way’ is available from:-
Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/the-diego-masciaga-way/