Today I chat with writer, poet, and musician Lawrence Parlier. Parlier’s debut novel, Sierra Court Blues, was published in 2013 by Hawkins Publishing Group.
What fuels your writing? And what, if anything, slows it down?
I think curiosity is what drives me. I am infinitely curious about the world around me, how things work and why. I’m curious about what makes people tick. Writing has always been the way I process all of the random information I pick up.
What slows me down is finding enough time to park myself in a chair and write. I’m always thinking about writing, but, I’m married with three boys still living at home, a full time job. The distractions are plentiful. I have to work very hard to maintain a set schedule.
Do you support yourself through writing, or is writing the dream sustained by the reality of something else?
I have a full time job. I’m a welder/metal fabricator. It’s a tough gig, but, it pays the bills. Eventually, I’d like to be a full time writer. I know it’s a long shot. It’s hard to get noticed. I’m no stranger to hard work though, so, hopefully, I can get there before my day job wears me out.
Tell us about where you grew up, or the place that feels/felt most like home.
I’m from Bethel, Ohio. It’s a small town about 30 miles east of Cincinnati. It’s a typical Midwest town; churches, restaurants and a single screen theater.
As teenagers we had to create our own fun because there wasn’t a lot to do. There were only so many John Hughes movies you could sit through. So we would do crazy things to relieve the boredom. Back then, I wanted nothing more than to escape it.
Does this place feature in your fiction?
Yes. My first novel is set in and around Bethel and Cincinnati. A few of my short stories are about my exploits in Bethel as a teenager. It’s an easy backdrop to set a story in.
What themes do you most often present in your work, your obsessions, if you will?
A lot of my work revolves dysfunctional relationships, both romantic and familial. It’s been pointed out to me that substance abuse is an ongoing theme as well.
Most of my work, so far, has been about the wilder side of life, musicians, artists, dancers, and the people that hang around them and inspire them. In my experience, it’s a gritty world. The relationships are tenuous at best.
On the surface it appears to be a shallow existence. What I try to convey, though, (and help myself understand in the process) is that these relationships go much deeper and are a lot more intense, so much so that they tend to burn out quickly. I try to expose the intelligence, the gentleness and fragile self-consciousness that, either known or unknown, drives the artistic urge.
What other creative outlets do you engage in?
Music is my passion. I sing and play guitar, bass, and keyboards. I started writing lyrics as a teenager which grew to include poetry as well. Prose came much later.
What’s the most annoying experience you’ve endured as a writer – something a reader said, for instance, or a particularly snarky rejection letter.
There’s not really one that stands out. Most of my rejection letters have never been so detailed as to have been snarky. The only thing that really aggravates me, and this is as true in the music world as it is in the literary world, and really, the world at large, is people that don’t follow through.
If as many people that have promised to review to my book actually did….Amazon would need to kick in another server just for my page. I can deal with a no when I ask for someone for a review. It’s disheartening when someone just tries to shine you along.
And what’s the best moment you’ve had?
The best moment, so far, was when I had the first copy of the book in my hands. It was a great feeling after all of the work I had put in to get there.
Tell us about your novel, Sierra Court Blues. How long did it take to write? What inspired you to write it?
Sierra Court Blues is about two friends that have grown up together making music. They’ve been working on putting a band together before they actually knew how to play their instrument. The story begins about a year after they graduate from high school. Their little garage band has started in the club circuit and is starting to make waves.
The main character, Bo, has a family right out of high school. He does the responsible thing and gets married and works full time to support his young family. The other main character, Jon, lives the rock-n-roll lifestyle full on. He has a girlfriend, but, that doesn’t slow him down from chasing what he wants. As the band gets their first big break, everything else going on around them starts to go wrong.
So the question is; Can they pull it all together and make their dream come true?
I started working on the first draft about 6 years ago. It began as a means of therapy after the death of my best friend. The relationship in the book has a lot of parallels with the relationship I had with him. We had a complicated friendship and I needed to work my way through it.
I worked on it in my spare time and wasn’t in any big hurry to finish it or even try to get it published. I meandered through the first draft for about three years and ended up with about a thousand pages. It was huge.
Around the time I started the second draft, I joined a writers group, mostly for my poetry. My plan at the time was to put out my first poetry book. I showed a few of the members the first chapter of the second draft and they were floored. They loved it. So, with their encouragement, I started working seriously on the second draft and pairing it down into something more marketable.
The first publishing company I submitted it to accepted it.
You also write poetry. How do poetry and prose co-exist in your writing life?
That’s a great question and one I never really stopped to think about.
I’ve been writing poetry and song lyrics since I was a teen-ager. That was my first love. I was in my late twenties before I started writing short stories. I’d thought about writing longer things but I had to actually be able to sit still long enough to get them down. That took a while.
Poetry comes much easier to me. I had to work at prose. I did a lot of studying on my own, then, as my confidence built, I took some classes. I’m still not as confident with my prose as I am poetry, but, to my surprise, the publishing world has responded better to my prose than my poetry. I still have a devil of a time placing poems in the journals.
What are you working on now, and what will see next from you next?
I’m working on my second novel right now. It’s a bit of a departure from the first one. It’s still gritty and hard boiled, but it’s more of an urban fantasy.
I’m looking to publish my poetry book next, but, I haven’t placed it anywhere, yet.
Any advice for an aspiring writing?
Sure. Write every chance you get. Let go of all of your self-consciousness and inhibitions and let it flow. Let all your mad thoughts just spill out. You can always rein it back in on revision.
Connect with Lawrence Parlier
Online excerpt of Sierra Court Blues