Author Interview: Ash Parsons

Author Interview: Ash Parsons

Figure 1. Still Waters, by Ash Parsons, available April 21, 2015

Figure 1. Still Waters, by Ash Parsons, available April 21, 2015

All right. Tell us a little about yourself.

I am allergic to questions like that.  But I have taken Benadryl today so…here goes. I hate personality tests and I hate those introvert/extrovert posts.  When did we all become such special snowflakes? I’m feeling grumpy today. It’s the weather, I think. Also maybe I need more coffee. I need a lot more coffee. I love coffee. I also love TV. I wish I could just watch TV in bed all day, especially today. I have circled back around from grumpy-to-appreciative-to grumpy again. I am usually happy, I would say. But today I am grumpy. I need it to be warm already, no more cold snaps, FFS.

Okay, let’s pan out. When did you start writing? And WHAT did you start writing?

Hmm. I’m pretty sure I wrote ever since I picked up a pencil but the first “I’m going to write a book!” moment I for certain remember was in the fifth grade. I wanted to write a “Ben and Me” meets “The Black Stallion” middle-grade animals-as-main-characters-historical-fiction. I have it somewhere, probably. It was called THE HORSE LATITUDES and was about when Spanish boats  would throw off dead/dying horses when there was no winds/the voyage was prolonged enough to affect water supplies.  In hindsight, I really just wanted those horses to make it to an island and survive. My kid thinks this is an excellent book idea, btw.  I may be guilty of telling him a version of LOST complete with smoke monster except my horses are the MCs. Kinda like a wingfic AU except with Horses instead of people.  And no wings.  

I still need coffee.

Tell us a little about your debut novel, Still Waters. How did this novel come to be?

Like all authors, inspiration comes from many places but there are two things that directly inspired STILL WATERS – one, I was a teacher in a rural school (7-12). One day, I overheard my students talking about how another student had been shot over the weekend. The student turned out to be fine, but it was one of those things that rumors were swirling around (it was a hunting accident, but there were rumors of more before it all got sorted out). Hearing my students gossip and conjecture about the accident made me remember the second thing –a murder that a kid from my high school had committed (when I was in high school). I was thinking about that murder, and what the “official story” was about it, about why it had happened, and how. I knew the end of the story, but nothing else.  And I didn’t know (and I would dare say none of us know) how something like that starts. And that was the genesis of this book- I was thinking about how that situation started – or could have started. And then it took on a life of it’s own. 

You know that I’m contracted by law to point out that your main character, Jason, is a boy. And you are not a boy. What the hell is that? EXPLAIN YOURSELF, PARSONS.

Alas, I can not explain. Methinks that’s part of why I write fiction.I don’t completely trust biography. I don’t completely trust non-fiction. If you want to get at me with truth, you need to clothe it in story, then I’ll believe you. I like the freedom in fiction to tell hard truths without making it your truth, if that makes sense. Writing from any perspective other than “mine” is where I want to be. Not to sound like a hokey writer-with-the-hoo-doo-woo-woo thing happening, but honestly this voice was just there from the start and I recognized it immediately.  Dammit.  The hoo-doo-woo-woo happened anyway.

There’s a fuckload of violence and sex in your book. Which is just one reason I like it. So, let’s talk about that. What’s driving Jason? How do you feel about writing about sex and violence?

Lol – way to take it easy on me, Carrie. Okay, yes there’s a lot of violence in my book. Sex too. The dark fights in the boys bathrooms – that happened at the school where I taught. And fights were a fairly regular occurrence both there and at the high school I went to, back in the day. So I wanted to include that – where it wasn’t a sanitized thing and where it’s almost just background noise that feeds into the main story. What drives my main character Jason, is anger and desperation. I was very connected to the anger aspect, and so I really loved writing that. Not gonna lie. I liked writing the fights a lot. I actually had to cut some. Sex I wanted to write because it felt true – these characters were having sex and while it affected them it wasn’t the end-all-be-all of the plot…it was more about revealing hunger for connection but was also inherently “connectionless” – I wanted that to feel authentic but not necessarily satisfying.

Okay, let’s talk about television. Specifically, Daryl Dixon. But I’ll be down for some Hannibal discussion. Or Nashville. Or Beauty and the Beast. It’s TV that brought us together, so we must pay some tribute.

Let us discuss!  TWD: Do you think they’re going to kill Daryl Dixon on Sunday?  I so miss S. 2 Daryl I could spit. I need some badassery pronto, Daryl. And some misplaced hostility, please. And a haircut. Kthxbye. 

Hannibal!!!  Hannibal!!!  That s2 FINALE. How the hell. How. The. Hell. The writers of that show have my love & admiration. Can’t wait for s3. Can’t wait for the great red dragon (Richard Armitage).  I want more murder tableaux. Also after last season I’m ready for tasty-looking-people, take that how you will.  (How you WILL. See what I did there?)

And Y U NO WATCH Vikings when I have TOLD YOU and TOLD YOU.(sorry for shouting).

Figure 2. Bloody knuckled  Georgia boys are an A. Parsons favorite

Figure 2. Bloody knuckled Georgia boys are an A. Parsons favorite

I DIDN’T HAVE CABLE UNTIL RECENTLY, HAVE MERCY! I totally will watch the HELL outta Vikings. But I’m struggling with the juggling, yanno? Gotta finish Supernatural, of course. Back to television/fiction topics: tell us your favorite kinds of stories and/or books.

I still don’t have cable. *cue the world’s smallest violin*

My favorite stories are character rich but aren’t just a character study. I like to have an arc, as we spoke of  regarding Mr. Dixon. I love when there is a giant hook plot-wise but which is then made powerful through the characters dangling on said hook (see:  The Walking Dead,Rectify, Hannibal).

In books I love the same things – giant plot hooks that are then handled/examined with absolute deft characterization. I love The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean- talk about a hook! and Days of Little Texas by R.A. Nelson is one of my all-time favorite YA’s. There’s a special place in my heart for books that I loved as a teen and also loved to teach, so I must mention S.E. Hinton’sThe Outsiders (what a joy to teach) and I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier. Finally I love historical fiction and gravitate towards dark stories there – Sarah Waters, Rose Tremaine, and Maria McCann are my go-to-authors in that sub-genre. Someone please point me towards another dark historical, prithee. Seriously have you read As Meat Loves Salt? Amazing.

Dude, I’ve only read The Outsiders. I need to get with the program, obviously. All right. Now we have to discuss the YA factor. Still Waters is a Young Adult novel; its main character is an adolescent boy. So, out with it! Is Young Adult a genre (a point of view? a marketing construct? a reading level? does anyone fucking care?) Here’s where you explain yourself about how you ended up writing a YA novel, because we have to know who to blame.

My answer to this question is: Yes. It’s a genre, a possible reading level, a marketing “where do you put it in the bookstore” construct, and yeah, people care. I care insofar as I don’t want my work dismissed as “just” for teens. That pisses me right off for several reasons. First and foremost let’s stop insulting young people as if a genre focusing on characters their age isn’t worth any adult attention. How very 1950s. Run along, Junior.  Also, honestly, I would be pissed right off if I wrote in another genre that was dismissed for whatever people-putting-up-fences reason — examples: literary (too esoteric), scifi (too far-fetched), romance (too girly), etc. Let’s not be reductive assholes, huh?

How I ended up writing a YA novel – I already talked about some of the inspiration for this particular story. Beyond that there is the undeniable universality of the conflict between “being vs becoming” – the coming of age story. It’s why we still read Romeo and Juliet, etc. If you want to go a little further you have to start to examine why readers read – and that can get interesting. Honestly I think that’s at the root of dismissing books/genres. Ugly human nature likes to dismiss things/people to elevate itself or reinforce the status quo. Huh. Maybe I should write a dystopian next.

Maybe you should marry me? 

I DO.

Excellent. Now, once we dispatch with our spouses and children, we’re golden! Tell me about what you were like when you were in high school.

*Hurk* I just threw up in my mouth. Yuck. I don’t know what I was like, I just know what I’d like to remember myself as/what I wanted to be like….or what bugged the fuck out of me and stuff. I look back on past me with charity – cluelessness was my natural state. At first I loved high school because I was finally back in public school after 2 years in parochial school (*emphasis puke*) and 2 years before that in DOD school. Then I got depressed as hell and hated pretty much everything for most of the rest of it. I failed math almost every year and was lucky to get a diploma, really. That’s another story. I had a small group of very good friends and that helped. I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t a pariah, I was just keeping my head down. When I look back, sure I had good times, but I just remember struggling a lot – with mental health, with school, etc. Until my senior year when I started the painful process of giving less fucks. That only worked because it was almost over. Also my senior year I truly realized what I excelled at, and more specifically, how much it meant to me: studying books and poems and creative writing. My senior AP English teacher was the first adult who made me feel like a writer. I’m trying to find her address as I want to send her a thank you card with a copy of the book when it comes out. 

Have you asked these questions of yourself?  Cos now I’m curious about what you were like in high school.  Since we’re getting married and stuff.

Figure 3. Tanlines: the bane of any girl's formal dance experience, as Young Ash can attest

Figure 3. Ash Parsons, high school version. And can I just say this? Tanlines = the bane of any girl’s formal dance experience

I hung out with some very excellent, funny girls and we did so many sneaky things we totally got away with! But I was not popular, nor an outcast. I was sort of basic. I had pretty good grades, but not a 4.0. I played some sports, which I was fair to middling at in terms of skill. I had a couple of boyfriends who were by turns gross and amusing. Mainly, I had friends, which is why I have some good high school memories. If you’ve got people to sit by at lunch, that’s about as much success as a person can hope for in high school. The rest is just gravy. 

Also, I had giant Jon Bon Jovi hair that defied any attempts at curling up into the coveted hairspray horn so popular in that era. I had terrific Brooke Shields eyebrows you could surf on. I started junior high as a label whore and evolved into a flannel-wearing, old-man-sweater fan. 

Okay, I’ve said too much. Interviewer over-share. Now, tell us what comes next after Still Waters? What are you planning to do for its release? And what are you working on now?

I LOVE your definition of being successful in high school. We need that tacked on to the mandatory pledge, IMO. That’s perfect.

I’m working on book 2 – I’m not certain what I can share except that it’s about celebrity- taking giant plot-hooks and sinking them into some poor characters. I’m loving the writing and revising – I’m fascinated with pressure magnifying wounds or unmet needs from childhood. So yeah. That’s my book 2. It will come out summer of 2016.

For Still Water’s release I’m going to TLA!  [That’s the Texas Library Association’s annual conference, for the civilians – Carrie] I’m so excited! Librarians are my tribe.  And when I get back the book comes out. I’m going to visit my friend Chantel’s university class, and then that night we’re having a party in a brewery.  It’s perfect, there will be beer. I wish you could be there, Carrie. We could elope.

We’re not gonna elope unless you can figure out somehow to get Norman Reedus to marry us. That’s the only way my husband will approve.

Figure 4. Ash Parsons, current version

Figure 4. Ash Parsons, current version, heading with her hobo stick to TLA…

To preorder Still Waters: 

IndieBound
BAM!
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

To learn more about Ash Parsons:
Ash on Twitter
Ash Parsons’ author website 

2 Comments

  • Eden on Mar 30, 2015 Reply

    Welp, you ladies are fantastic. And of course I now have to order this for my public library, and then make my teens read it. The girls. Because the boys are afraid of the books with too much sex and violence. Yep. Silly kids.
    Anyway, this was a delightful interview and Carrie, of course, asked some very refreshing and interesting questions. Thanks!

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