Gavin E Parker: Interview 2018
We caught up with Gavin E Parker on 27 August, 2018, almost eighteen months after we last got together. Here’s how it went down.
INTERVIEWER: It’s been about eighteen months since we last spoke. What have you been up to since then?
INTERVIEWER: How did that all go?
GAVIN E PARKER: Pretty good. No amazing sales figures – I have to be honest here, I sell about three to five books a month. But it could be worse. And I’ve had some more good reviews, which are always welcome. I’ve been building a mailing list, too, which is something I realise now I should have done from the very beginning. I’m still learning a lot, feeling my way into this.
INTERVIEWER: What are you working on at the moment?
GAVIN E PARKER: I’m hammering away at the last book of the trilogy.
INTERVIEWER: And how are you finding it?
GAVIN E PARKER: I have to be honest again, it’s been a slog. This one has taken me the longest to write and has been, I think, the most difficult.
INTERVIEWER: Difficult how?
GAVIN E PARKER: There are various reasons it’s been harder than the others. For one, I know it’s something I can do now so I’m not so driven to push on with it. On the first book I had a morbid fear that if I stopped writing for even just a day I would never start again, so I forced myself to write at least some stuff every single day, even if I wasn’t feeling it, even if it was total garbage, which it often was. On the second book I took a few break periods, which really helped. With this one I’ve been quite ill-disciplined in the way I’ve devoted time to it.
INTERVIEWER: How so?
GAVIN E PARKER: Partly through necessity. I wrote the first quarter of the first draft in a very focused fashion, and I felt on top of it and very much up to speed, but I had to take a break to finish the final polishing and proofing on Phobos Rising. And when all that was out of the way I’d totally lost my rhythm with it. I’d work on it for couple of a weeks and then stop, then do the odd day and just come at it piecemeal. That’s how it’s been for the last twelve months, really. A kind of stop-start netherworld of writing but also not writing.
INTERVIEWER: Is there any particular element you’ve had trouble with?
GAVIN E PARKER: No, not really. I plan meticulously before embarking on a first draft, so I know what the story is, how it plays out, where everything needs to go and all of that. Once I have a first draft down I’ll review it and decide what does and doesn’t work, what needs to be fixed, what needs to be cut, what needs to be added, and that usually means quite a bit more writing in order to pull the whole thing into a cohesive shape. But my work circumstances are changing, and that’s affecting how much time I get to write each day.
INTERVIEWER: So it’s your circumstances that have made the difference?
GAVIN E PARKER: Well, yes and no. They have impacted on the writing a bit, and will more so in future, but they’ve also been a handy excuse for my hesitation in putting this project to bed. And to be frank about it, I’ve found this book a bit intimidating. I mentioned that I plan carefully, but to bring the plan to life, to put meat on the bones, can be a lot more of a challenge than you might think. Some days I’ve looked at the précis of a scene or a chapter and found myself thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to do that?’ This book is a continuation of the story, but it’s not a direct continuation. I think (though of course I might be wrong) that it’s more ambitious, more complex, and more nuanced than the others, and it’s taking a while to nail it all down.
INTERVIEWER: So how far along are you?
GAVIN E PARKER: I would say that completing the first draft of a novel is to be about half-way through writing it, and certainly for me getting that first draft completed is the toughest part. Right now, I’m on the forty-fourth chapter out of fifty-one.
INTERVIEWER: The first draft is nearly done, then.
GAVIN E PARKER: Close to the line, but not over it yet. The nearer I get to the end the further away it seems. I will get there, and I’m confident that things will speed up after that. There’ll still be a lot of work to do, but I’ll be able to plough into it.
INTERVIEWER: You said that this final book isn’t a direct continuation of the story from the first two books. What do you mean by that?
GAVIN E PARKER: The three books together are a trilogy. They link together, even though each book is its own enclosed story. Books one and two are closer together in time and narrative than the third book. The final book is a hundred percent part of that universe, but it’s a different, albeit linked, story.
INTERVIEWER: So it’s an all-new storyline?
GAVIN E PARKER: Yes and no. It’s more like an unexpected turn. It has many of the characters from the first two books, but it’s set thirty years after the first book. So although they’re the same people they’re different to who they used to be. They’ve grown older and changed, or their circumstances have changed. And of course there’s a raft of new, younger characters.
INTERVIEWER: So it’s familiar but unfamiliar?
GAVIN E PARKER: Exactly. I don’t see the point in thrashing out the same book over and over again, and I don’t see any value in stretching one story over three volumes that don’t satisfy as individual tomes. So this last volume isn’t a remix or a punchline. It’s the third part of a trilogy of standalone novels; a new flavour, or maybe like an album by one of those bands who never repeat themselves. It’s unmistakably that band, but it’s not like any of the previous albums.
INTERVIEWER: And it’s a book that you were intimidated by.
GAVIN E PARKER: A little. I wanted to go somewhere else with this one. All the best books, TV, films, and whatever are about more than what they’re about. The Sopranos isn’t about gangsters, Friday Night Lights isn’t about high school football. Thematically this third book is about ageing, death, and absence, and it’s also about dealing with insurmountable odds – fate, if you will. We’re all familiar with stories about plucky heroes who beat the numbers and come out on top, but I’m interested here in the idea of how people approach a situation where they know they can’t win.
INTERVIEWER: Is that a spoiler?
GAVIN E PARKER: It might be, but it’s a fairly oblique one. And of course, it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple.
INTERVIEWER: So when will this book be released?
GAVIN E PARKER: I’m hoping for late 2019, but that could well slip. If things hadn’t changed regarding how much time I get to devote to writing I’d be confident about late 2019, but as things stand I can’t be sure. There’s also a sixth Ephialtes Short that sits between books two and three, but I might not get enough time to do that.
INTERVIEWER: Another short?
GAVIN E PARKER: Yes, but a long one – another novella, like Be All You Can Be. It’s all prepped and ready to go (mostly) but I think I probably won’t get it written. It’s set seven years after Phobos Rising and it’s about Kristen Stahl and Ephialtes going to investigate a missing mining ship in the asteroid belt. It foreshadows some significant events in book three and it once again gives centre stage to Kristen Stahl. If I get the chance to write it I will, but if I don’t the outline might end up as a special feature in some future release. Ultimately I’d like to release a compilation of the entire trilogy and shorts, so maybe it will find its way in there in some form or other.
INTERVIEWER: Great. So, maybe another short and probably a Complete Ephialtes at some point in the future. What else can we expect once you’re done with the Ephialtes universe?
GAVIN E PARKER: I really don’t know. I’m not sure if I’ll continue writing. Christopher Hitchens said something along the lines of, ‘Everyone has a book in them, and in most cases that’s where it should stay.’ Maybe I had one multi-volume space opera in me, and for good or ill I’ve brought it forth into the world and that’s it for me. We’ll see.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, thanks for talking to us today.
GAVIN E PARKER:
INTERVIEWER: Crack on and finish that book.
GAVIN E PARKER: I’ll see what I can do.