Author Interview: Leigh Parker

This interview was previously posted on the “Resolution Corner” blog.

Hi everyone,

As with the last couple of weekends, there is no book haul.  However, I wanted to bring you all a really big treat by posting my first author interview. This interview is with my lovely friend, Leigh Parker, author of “10 Ways To Kill A Cupid” and “10 Ways To Piss Off A Reaper”.
10 Ways To Kill A Cupid 10 Ways To P*** Off A Reaper
So, starting with the standard opening for an author interview, how did you get into writing?
My parents bought me and my two sisters a PC in 1997 and we couldn’t afford the internet, so we made do with the free software that came with it and since I was a huge film fan at the time, I decided to have a go at writing scripts on notepad and it progressed from there. The first script I wrote was a Sci-Fi which I still have. I’m going to novelise it one day.
You released your first book, “10 Ways To Kill A Cupid”, in 2011.  Were you surprised by its success?
I was very surprised people liked it. I first wrote it in script form over 10 years ago and finally wrote it as a book in 2007 and then after some unsuccessful attempts at showing it to agents, it was just left on my hard drive until 2011. I was too embarrassed to show it to anyone after that, so to read all nice reviews from people saying that they liked it and enjoyed it is an amazing feeling that constantly spurs me on to write the next.
“Cupid” was billed as an “anti-romance” with romantic elements to it.  How did you go about writing an anti-heroine like Natalie McIntyre, a character who is introduced as being a person with few redeeming qualities yet be a person who has to be one who the readers root for by the end of the novel?
I wanted to write something that I’d want to read myself as I’m not too keen on gush and characters that make unbelievably stupid decisions and mistakes. I wanted to write a romantic comedy where there was no relationship conflict at all and I didn’t want my female protagonist to be stereotypically pretty and bubbly with perfect hair/job/life/wardrobe. I wanted her to have real flaws people could identify with.  I think she is shown as quite a vulnerable person,  unable to relate to, and socialise with most other people.
You present Heaven as a bit like a Job Centre with Cupids, Angels and Reapers being presented their assignments by Saints. Where did you get the inspiration for this concept of Heaven?
Although I’m not religious myself, I do like some aspects of it, especially the whole concept of Heaven and Hell and I just thought about now and how much the world has progressed in certain areas and what would an updated Bible be like and would The Ten Commandments alter any to fit in with today’s standards. Since the world’s population has grown dramatically since the Bible’s first publication, I pictured God being inundated with prayers day in and day out from the needy and the greedy and him creating jobs for those in Heaven to help him out a bit.
“Cupid”, along with “Reaper” , are self-published books.  Was that a conscious decision by yourself to be a self-published author and is that freedom to write your type of story something that you relish, as opposed to writing to a mainstream publisher?
I did send out my manuscript to several agents back in 2007 but they all came back rejected. It wasn’t until 2011 when I got a Kindle that I decided to upload it onto there. It does get disheartening but I shall try again soon.  I have no experience of the mainstream publishers and wonder if they would lay down stipulations and expect alterations to my books to suit their own ideas.
Moving on to “Reaper”, how easy, or difficult, was it to return to the “Cupid” world?  Were there other projects that you were looking to try before working on “Reaper”?
It was quite easy returning to the same characters, even though it wasn’t planned until about 2 weeks after “Cupid” had gone live on the Kindle. I was going to keep it as a stand alone but out of my own curiosity I wanted to see how Natalie would react to her own impending demise.
I do have a few other books half written or in script form that I need to finish. I’m two-thirds of the way through a YA Greek Mythology book which I started when I was 15 and I have  a book almost finished called Fruitcake and a horror…and another comedy etc.
After reading “Reaper”, I felt that you wanted your lead characters to evolve with Leigh “manning up” a bit and Natalie being less spiky, particularly with Leigh.  Was this something that you had in mind when you started writing “Reaper” or did the characters evolve as you wrote the book?
The characters really evolved as new ideas popped into my head, I am a bit of a spontaneous thinker and the characters develop into the story as such. The plan I had made for this book melted away gradually and I changed quite a lot of it as I went along. I almost always know how I want the book to end and work to that end, building up the story as I go.
Which character do you like writing for most, and why?
Natalie, definitely Natalie, and then maybe her mother. A huge chunk of Natalie is me, from the physical description of her to her likes and dislikes. I’m not as smart, violent and vocally abusive as her though.
Without going too much into the dreaded writer’s block, “Reaper” had a long birthing process.  How difficult is it to get through writer’s block and what did you do to keep motivated?
It was never so much writer’s block that hindered me, it was more of “Should I write that?” and “How far can I go?” and like I mentioned before, I used to get embarrassed by what I’d written and I’d get chewed up with what people may think of me when they’ve read it, especially since the main character – one that isn’t well liked – is modelled slightly on myself.  I’ve learnt to overcome this now and not to care too much any more.
In “Reaper”, you’ve introduced a character in the “Unknown Reaper” who is a threat to Leigh and Natalie.  Is this the first time that you’ve thought about writing a “villain” character and where did the idea come from?
I decided with “Reaper” that I’d be a bit more organised and I spent ages writing out a detailed plan of what was going to happen and the finished product is nothing like it, so I don’t know why I bothered. The villain didn’t come to me until I was half way through writing it and I was stuck for a twist at the end. I’m happy with the way it turned out, I hope no one figures out who the mysterious Reaper is until the end.
Without giving away specific plot points, you end “Reaper” with a cliffhanger.  When did this idea come about and were there any inspirations behind this choice?
In the detailed plan there was no cliffhanger as I wasn’t sure I was going to write a third part so the cliffhanger was a last minute ending. I had my ending all planned out as well – I wanted Natalie to cry. It doesn’t seem like a major plot detail but it’s something she rarely does, so I wanted to end every book with her crying. I suppose the crying thing was my homage to Dante who ended each part of his Divine Comedy with the word “Stars”. Unfortunately, the cliffhanger stopped me from doing this.
Okay, on to Leigh Parker the person.  You put cultural references such as books, music, cult television and computer games in your novels.  Are you a bit of a “culture vulture” and what are your particular cultural passions?
I went through a Buffy phase when I was in college. Then I moved onto Alias and then The Golden Girls and Kath and Kim. I also used to like Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies which were both prematurely cancelled. I don’t watch much TV now although I will watch the odd French Film. I have about 70 of them on DVD.
I was a huge gamer when I was younger but I haven’t played on my PS2 for years. I have all of the Resident Evils and Silent Hill games on PS1 + 2, those were my favourite.
My music taste is weird. I love Scandinavian bands like Hello Saferide and Sahara Hotnights and I love Indie bands like Ash Koley. I got into classical music a year or two ago and I listened to it a lot while writing “Reaper”.
Seeing as “Cupid” and “Reaper” feature Heaven, what is your idea of heaven?
Probably going to see a band play live. Last band I saw was Tegan and Sara they were amazing. I love books and read anything and everything, although I rarely read magazines.
Who are your literary inspirations?
Kingsley Amis for writing books that don’t fit into any fashionable genre and Thomas Hardy for constantly having something going on in his books so the reader is never bored.
Now that “Reaper” has been published, what are your plans as writer?  Are you looking to move straight to Book 3, or do you have any other projects that you’d like to work on before starting the third book in the “Cupid” series?
I didn’t know whether or not to continue with the Third book yet or finish something that’s already half way done, if only for a character break, but I think I’m going to start on the next one’ “10 Ways To Freak Out An Angel”, now. I’ll throw caution into the wind and say there may be a fourth one, “10 Ways To Slap A Saint”, or something but, I don’t know, maybe late on.
And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there?
Two things held me back – 1, The inability to write the story I wanted to, so I read everything…EVERYTHING – even the stuff I wasn’t interested in and it helped a lot and 2, I spent too much time worrying what people would think of me, and what I’d written.  So I would say don’t waste time, just get it out there and do your stuff, the results may surprise you.
I’d like to thank Leigh for sparing the time to do this interview.   If you would like to find out more about Leigh and her books, please check out her blog.
Both of the “10 Ways” books are available at Amazon in the Kindle format.
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