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Sunday, May 10, 2020

[AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT] Eliot Parker, author of SNAPSHOTS


by Cyrus Webb

It's been a lot of fun reading books by Eliot Parker over the years. He is able to bring you into his novels, getting to know the characters he has created. In 2020 he delivers something a little different for readers that might be just what we need considering the times we're living through right now. The new book, SNAPSHOTS, is a collection of short stories that really are "snapshots" of life for so many. 

In this Author Spotlight I talk with Eliot about his career, the new book and how he's adjust to life in the shadow of the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

Eliot, first of all congratulations on the new book SNAPSHOTS. Before we discuss it how does it feel in a broader sense to see the response to your literary work over the years?
The response to my work has been incredible. I have been writing since I was in eighth grade, and I never imagined that anyone anywhere would ever want to read something I’ve written. I hear from so many readers from all over the United States who have read and loved my work. It’s so humbling and wonderful. The comments from readers (even the criticisms) keep me motivated to keep writing.

Readers are something I try not to take for granted. Time and money are such precious commodities in our society today. The fact that anyone spends both of them to read my work is so gratifying and appreciated.

Have you always known that storytelling was something that you wanted to do?
I have loved both written and oral stories since I was a kid growing up in Charleston, West Virginia. Growing up in Appalachia, I am familiar with the strong storytelling component of our culture. In high school and college, I was interested in journalism, because that profession is mostly about telling a story about a particular issue to an audience. There is something so rapturous about being engaged with a story across any medium, but especially with books.

The thing I think is a signature of yours is the creation of strong characters in your novels. What has that been like to create characters that readers can relate to and root for?
The heart of any story is character. Without strong characters, a reader is not going to be engaged with the story, no matter how creative it might be. I think good characters must be relatable and they must be multi-faceted. Regular people are complicated and fascinating, and they all respond to stimuli in their lives and environments differently. I try to imbue all my characters with some of those elements, including the villains in my thriller novels. Nobody is completely bad or evil. In fact, many of those “evil” characters that readers love to hate in literature have motives for what they do to other people. If a reader can connect with my characters and see that they are just as imperfect as ordinary people, then I have done my job as a writer.

With the new book SNAPSHOTS you have given us just that, short stories that definitely draw us in. What was the inspiration for this type of book?
I believe I really learned how to write from reading and writing short stories. Skilled short story writing requires clear and concise descriptions and character development. As a writer, this can be challenging, because there is only so much room when writing in that genre to tell the story. Every word really matters in short stories. That is the fun and challenge of writing short stories. Snapshots is a collection I have been working on since 2011. Some of the stories in the collection have gone through extensive revisions and rewrites and some went through less revision.

My inspiration for this collection came from the idea of compiling a series of multi-genre stories that put the characters in situations where their past behaviors will be changed in a moment that is like a snapshot picture: freezing in time who they are in a moment but facing new challenges that will alter that snapshot and create a new reality.

Was part of the fun being able to try different writing styles in these stories?
Absolutely! I wanted to challenge myself as a writer and experiment with some different genres. For example, I am not a huge reader of science-fiction or speculative fiction. However, it was a lot of fun to write two stories that fit into those sub-genres. As a writer, its important for me to step outside of my comfort zone from time to time and try something new, and this collection is a representation of me experimenting with some new genres while including some stories that were comfortable for me.

I know you have probably been asked this a lot, but was there any of the stories that you felt like you wanted to explore more, maybe in a full-length novel?
The title story in the collection, Snapshots, is certainly one I would like to explore more. Blake and Olivia have great chemistry between them and the fact that their romance must be kept secret creates all types of complications. I would also like to spend more time with Rachel, my lead character in Old Lady. Rachel is such a passionate, but emotionally broken woman.  I would like to see if she’s ever able to recover from the death of her husband and find real love with Mason or someone else.

What advice have you been given aspiring writers about the importance of just going for it when it comes to writing?
As a writer, you have to write the story you want to tell. It does no good to write a story to fit a publishing trend or to satisfy a suggestion made by a friend or family member. The type of story idea that has been burning in your mind and subconscious for days or weeks is the one you should write. When you write it, tell the story to very best of your ability. Everything else involving publication, finding readers, etc. will take care of itself if you have written your story.

2020 has definitely been a different year than many expected. How have you been adjusting when it comes to how you are interacting with readers and spreading the word about SNAPSHOTS?
Like many people, the pandemic has left me at home and isolated. However, that has also allowed me to stay connected with readers in new ways. I have done two presentations on how to build an author platform using Zoom. I have also been featured on a few podcast programs as well where I’ve had a chance to talk about Snapshots and my career as writer. Of course, social media is also a great way to interact with readers. I do miss being out in public and meeting and talking with readers face-to-face. I hope we are able to get back to that soon.

Thanks for your time, Eliot. How can our audience stay connected with you and get your books?
Thanks for the opportunity, Cyrus! Readers can get copies of Snapshots or any of my other novels anywhere they like to buy books, which includes Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. I encourage everyone to support their local independent bookstore as often as possible. I am on Facebook, my Twitter handle is @E4419 and my Instagram handle is eliot.parker. My website is www.eliotparker.com

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