Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Frank Parker - Interview with an Author of Great Historical Fiction





You were an engineer before you retired, but when did you actually start writing, and why?  

I wrote on and off throughout my adult life. I started doing it seriously – as my main occupation – after retirement at an online magazine called Suite101 (I think that's where we first encountered each other!) This was 2010 and about the same time I heard of a local writers' group and joined them. It was all good experience and encouragement.

Was it something you always wanted to do from childhood?

Absolutely. When I left school I thought I might join the local weekly newpaper as a junior reporter. I was told that only a handful of those who became reporters actually made it as professional writers. “Get a trade: you can always try writing later, then if you don't succeed you'll have the trade to fall back on”. So I took up an apprenticeship as a Mechanical Engineer.

Your blog says you "retired" to Ireland. Are you actually Irish?  

No. Back in the early nineties my son, who is a psychiatric nurse, was working in Frimley. He met a nurse there who happened to be Irish. They settled in London after marriage but when their child was approaching school age they couldn't afford housing near a good school so decided to come to Ireland where the 'Celtic Tiger' had just taken off. When I retired it was a natural choice to go and live near them.

Do you read any particular Irish writers to help inspire your own writing?

I do read a lot of Irish writers. Colm Toibin, Colum MacCann, Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright, John Boyne – to name just a few! But I also read many English, American and “New World” writers also.

What was your first real success? 

I'm stll waiting for that! Although I have self-published four novels and two collections of short stories, none of them sell in significant numbers. It's a good month if I get a couple of sales via Amazon. I've recently started selling print copies of Strongbow's Wife via visitor centres in Irish heritage sites. I'm waiting to see how that turns out.

Do all your novels have a historical background? 

Yes. The exception would be Transgression which is set in the present day but has a back story covering the whole of the period since WWII. So not really an exception at all!

Do you have a "muse"? 

I'm not even sure what that is. The nearest thing would be the Writers' Group, especially its leader. She and they are very supportive.

How much do you edit before you are satisfied/ Can a writer "over-edit" do you think?

I probably don't do enough editing. Strongbow's Wife went through 7 drafts before I was satisfied. Transgression had about the same number of drafts plus a professional edit. As for “over-editiing”, I think you know when your WIP is the best it can be. It's striking a balance between having the patience to keep polishing and believing it's good enough to release to the world.

Does your mood make a difference to your writing?  Some writers are most productive when they are under stress.. Others try to achieve a real distance from their characters before they can write about them. What works best for you? 

I'm a great one for indulging in diisplacement activity. I'm not sure if that is something to do with mood. More to do with having the self discipline to grapple with difficult scenes. I find that I have to work scenes out in my head before I start writing – not that the scene always ends the way I originally expected!


Any tips you can share to help other writers? 

I'm wary of giving tips as I still regard myself as a beginner. The only thing I would say, and it's a cliche, is never give up.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about myself and my “practice”.

(Interviewer's footnote: Frank Parker is far too modest!) 






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