Interview with writer Alex Parsons

pic of me wowAlex Parsons is a close personal friend of mine, as well as the author of Binding. Her first novel came in the top 10 of the World’s Best Story competition (2014 edition). Binding is a young adult paranormal fantasy about a rich teenage boy who’s life is turned upside down when he meets the real Jake Rider, protagonist of his favorite fiction novel. Alex’s work is quirky, funny, and brings her characters to life. She is currently working on the second draft of her next novel Lonely Souls. You can read a excerpt from Lonely Souls at the end of the interview.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Ah yes… A great way to start, as this is my #1 quality, talking about myself. Not really, that was sarcasm. I’m really bad at it.
My name is Alex, I’m 20 years old, I’m in my 4th year of University, majoring in English and minoring in cultural studies. I’m phenomenal at grammar.
Life goals include: Watching more movies, eating more cereal, and petting more dogs.

2. What are your favorite kinds of books to read/write?

I like reading a lot of stuff, mostly things based in the paranormal, or supernatural, but also just like a good old classic teen book. So, very into YA stuff.
In terms of writing, I like to mix those two things. I like writing stories about (generally) young adults, who are dealing with their young adult problems, high school, pressures at home, relationships, self doubt, career choices, but in a very supernatural setting. So like, urban fantasy kind of stuff.

3. How do you come up with your ideas? What inspires you?

Honestly, I don’t know if it’s like this for a lot of people… but I’m really inspired by other media. Generally movies or television get my gears turning. Now that’s not saying I like to take plot points from other things, but it gives me a starting point. I watched a lot of Supernatural a couple of years ago (more like 5 years ago… wow WOW), and then I thought, okay, “I want to do something about monster hunters” and then Binding happened. Personally, I don’t see any similarities in Binding and Supernatural apart from the fact that they’re both about monster hunters.
Same thing with my literary son, Zeph. I saw Jennifer’s Body in 2009, 10/10 would recommend. Great horror comedy film. So incredible. In that film there’s a character played by Kyle Gallner who is like an emo kid. So I was like, “I want to make an emo kid” and then Zeph happened. Over 5 years he’s really developed and grown as a character.
But yeah, I tend to use other forms of media as a starting point.

4. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a lot. I’m editing my second draft of Binding, which still needs some work. I mean it’s never going to be perfect but it’s coming along. Thankfully I have the help of a great friend, Grace, on that one. She’s reading it over for me and giving me pointers. It’s great.
I’m also working on my rewriting of Lonely souls; which is basically a second draft. It is, believe it or not, easier for me to rewrite the entire second draft, rather than edit the first one (it needed a lot of work).
And on the back burner I have an untitled story about a young bisexual girl in high school who enters into a relationship with a boy named Ollie and a girl named Matty (simultaneously). Not in the cheating kind of way, but in the mutual dating kind of way. That’s sort of like a romantic coming of age novel. I’ll get a lot of work done on that in November.
I’ve also got a couple of pieces I’ve trying to churn out for a while but those are on the backest of back burners right now.
Oh wow, and there was this book that I completely finished and was editing a while ago… I never finished editing that… I should do that, it was good. (Kat: It was, I read that one!)

5. What makes a realistic, engaging character in your eyes?

As long as more than one facet is shown of the character than at least someone is going to like them and engage with them. It can even be the faintest thing, because then it gets people’s minds going about how this plays out on a larger scale. It doesn’t even have to be something like, you have a villain, but you decide to show a positive side of them to make them more likeable. So long as you’re writing multidimensional characters with motives and things that drive them, you should be on a good path.
I also like little ticks. I think that makes characters more realistic. Maybe they have strings hanging off of their sweater and they tug at them, or think about it, or the way their nose crinkles up when they laugh, or they’re always scratching at their left ear. Little things that people really do, if you can add those in every now and then it makes the character feel more real.

6. Do you set deadlines for yourself? Do you think deadlines are important?

Deadlines are definitely important…. but that doesn’t mean that I set them for myself. Which is probably bad. I’ve been writing Binding since 2010. And Lonely Souls is like…. a reworking, of a reworking, of a reworking, of something I started a really long time ago. It was actually going to be like a neo-noir thing at one point but that spell was short lived.

I very successfully do things like NaNoWriMo though, so I am good at working in deadlines. You tell me to write 2000 words a day and it does get my creative juices flowing.

7. What writers/books inspire you?

Honestly my biggest inspiration ever was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I read that book in my 9th grade English class and right after that I was like “I want to be a writer.” so I definitely have to say that one is my biggest inspiration.

8. What was the first book or long fiction you ever wrote?

Why this question? Out of all the questions in the world, why this? I guess my answer to this is a testament to the fact that you will always improve if you keep working at it.
The first book I successfully finished was this horrible thing called Flying Downtown. I think I wrote it in 2010, which was right before I started working on my child Binding. It’s around 60 thousand words (which is impressive because I can barely manage to keep things under 90K now), and I still have a copy of it. It’s about one of my favorite characters, this young girl named Melany Mason. But I completely mis-characterized her, and yes, it is possible to mis-characterize your own characters. There were some Greek gods and demigods and stuff like that, and it was just really bad. But I was trying really hard. And it was definitely a good stepping stone. And I’m definitely a lot better now.

9. Why do you write? What does writing mean to you?

I think, my whole life I’ve been a really creative person so… I write because I have no idea what else I would be doing. Since I was as young as I can remember I have been coming up with stories and playing them out in my head. Like, the wheels are always turning. If I’m just standing around there’s a big chance something is going on up there. Hell, I’ll stop what I’m doing because I get to a particularly dramatic part of whatever plot is playing out in my mind. So like, obviously writing is a way to bring those characters and those plots to life. Make them something more physical than just thoughts. And then hopefully it’s something other people can relate to too.
I mean, I’ve always wanted to do something involving storytelling. When I was younger I wanted to be a comic book artist, but my art is a little stunted so, writing is obviously the next best choice. Basically I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller; this is just a different medium of story telling, and one that I feel very comfortable in.
It’s really rewarding too, I mean take what I’m working on right now, my second draft of Lonely Souls, at this moment, it’s 47,790 words long, which is about 107 pages. That’s nearly 50 thousand words that I wrote all by myself. Characters, plots, dialogue, that I came up with and put down on paper. And you write, and you see that number get bigger, and bigger, and it’s just such a good feeling.
Plus I find it a lot easier to express myself via written word than I do actual speech. (Kat: Preach!)

10. What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Super cliche, but just keep going. Keep trying. Try different plots, different stories, different characters, and if you like your characters but don’t like where the story is going, don’t be afraid to start over, or to step back and give it some space. I mean, I’ve been trying to write a book about Zeph for about 4 years and I’m only now finally really comfortable with it. It takes time. People watch, read books, watch movies, hang out with your friends and talk to them about their lives, their friends lives. You know? Just take everything in. Oh and find music that inspires you! I have a huge playlist of music that reminds me of Zeph, or is music he would listen to, and it makes it so much easier to write when I’m listening to that stuff.
And know that you will improve if you keep at it.
See… suuuuper cliche.

11. Anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t think so, but thank you for the interview opportunity! This was super fun!

Also be sure to check out the below excerpt of Alex’s book Lonely Souls:

His foot caught on a root as he lifted it. He didn’t have time to turn and see the ground rushing up towards him, but he felt it. He swore as he hit the ground, his flashlight once again leaving his hand. He expected to stop there, to get up, grab his light, and brush himself off. But he didn’t stop falling after he hit the ground. He let out a yell as he tumbled down a bank off of the path, only stopping when a tree appeared in his path. He groaned and swore, hugging the tree with his whole body. The flash light hadn’t come with him.

“Why me?” Zeph groaned as he pulled himself away from the tree and examined his surroundings, although there wasn’t much to see in the dark. He could definitely tell he’d fallen down a slope. He looked up at it and winced as he started to stand. That was really smooth. I mean, I’m so impressed. Do you want to stay down here? It would probably be better than explaining this situation to your friends. Zeph tried to shake it off as he headed back for the main path. He needed to keep his head in the game. That’s when he heard the whining. “You’ve got to be shitting me.” He said as he turned around. The sound was definitely a dog, and it was definitely coming from the darkness before him. At least his clumsiness wasn’t totally useless.

He looked back up the hill one last time before pulling his phone out of his pocket and using it to slightly illuminate his path. In, grab the dog, out. It should be simple. “Snickers!” he yelled, and made a couple of whistling sounds as he walked further into the darkness. One thing about this forest was that you could never be totally sure what to expect. For example, Zeph did not expect to see three floating lights moving towards him laughing. He froze in place.

“I have a knife.” He said, although it wasn’t in his hand, it was somewhere at the bottom of his bag.

“That’s so scary.” A high pitched voice said sarcastically in his right ear. Zeph gasped audibly and turned his whole body to look at the thing. At first it was hard to make out because of the light it was emitting, but quickly Zeph’s eyes adjusted and he realized he was staring at a very tiny human looking creature, with wings, and no clothes. It was smirking. A goddamn fairy. “I really liked the way you fell down that hill.” It pointed towards the slope that Zeph had come down.

He huffed a bit and glanced at the other three fairies who were now in front of him.

“Did you take that dog?” He asked, motioning in the direction of the whining.

“What dog?” One of them asked.

“Yeah, I don’t see a dog.” Another chuckled.

There was a very loud bark.

“That dog!” Zeph jabbed a finger in that direction. “Give it back… or else.”

The fairies burst out into a fit of hysterical laughter. “What are you going to do about it, loser?” The first fairy asked, catching its breath. Zeph narrowed his eyes and in one swift motion swatted at the thing. It squeaked as it hit the ground. The other fairies flew at Zeph but he quickly raised his foot over the one on the ground. He had no real intention of hurting it, but he steeled his face and glared at them.

“Give me the dog.” He tried to sound as demanding as Kecks. He lowered his foot ever so slightly, and the tiny creature beneath it started to scream, even though he wasn’t actually touching it. The three other fairies backed off a bit. “Give it to me, or he gets it!”

“Oh, you’re a murderer now?” One of them inched closer down to its friend.

“I’d rather kill your friend than let you jerks eat that dog.”

“Who said we were going to eat it!?” one of them pipped up.

“What were you going to do with it?” Zeph raised an eyebrow.

“… Eat it.” One of them responded, sounding almost embarrassed.

“Go get it.” Zeph said.

“Go get it!” The fairy underfoot yelled. The three that were still floating seemed to converse for a moment and then flew off towards the sound. “You know!” The fairy called up again. “I know you wouldn’t do it. You don’t have the balls!”

“Shut up,” Zeph mumbled, as he pulled his foot back. He nudged the fairy on the ground with the toe on his boot, being careful not to actually touch the wings. He was worried for a moment that the three wouldn’t return with the dog, but with some sort of vile fairy magic. Who knows what these little things could actually do to him. The one on the ground started to fly back up as its friends returned. The dog was walking behind them, still on a leash. Zeph grabbed for the leash before they could pull back. “Don’t take dogs anymore.” He shook his head.

“What are we supposed to eat?” One of them asked.

“I don’t care! Not dogs.” Zeph shook his head.

“Whatever loser.” One of them grumbled.

Zeph turned quickly, thinking the space behind him was completely clear. He swore both out of pain, and confusion, and stumbled back. He had no idea what had hit him, until he looked up, holding his hand over his cheek and squinting slightly. The fairy that he had smacked out of the air was floating in front of him, holding a huge stick and laughing so hard it looked like it might fall out of the air again.

“Asshole,” it laughed, and Zeph watched as the four fairies flew back into the forest.

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