5 for 35: Author Q & A with Miriam Parker
Miriam Parker, 39, author of The Shortest Way Home, answers 5 from 35 this week. (Actually, she graciously answered more questions for us and they were so good we had to include them all!)
How long did it take you to write your first (published) book, start to finish?
It’s been in the works for so long that I can’t even remember, but it probably took about two years to write, another year and a half or so to edit. I finished the major editorial work on it in early 2017, but then it was another year and a half until it was published for a variety of reasons. It can be an epicly long process. And at this point, I barely remember what is in my book! It’s like a relic from the past. Which is also kind of nice because it means that I don’t really take too much personally about it.
What kind of work did you do to earn money while writing your first book?
I’ve always worked in book publishing. I’m currently the Associate Publisher of Ecco, but I was the Marketing Director at Little, Brown for most of the time that I was doing the serious writing on the book.
How many books did you write before you published your first one? What happened to them?
I wrote three previous novels and they are in a box never to see the light of day again.
Did you ever want to quit? If yes, what kept you going? If no, what kept you going?
Many times. The second novel that I wrote that was also my graduate school thesis was shopped to a dozen editors and was rejected by every single one. That was in 2008. Then my agent left book publishing. So I didn’t have a book deal or an agent. That was EXTREMELY discouraging. I felt like I’d never have the support again like I had in grad school to write another book. I spent many years feeling sorry for myself and calling my writing space “the room of shame.” But weirdly even though I was so sad about it, I was also still kind of chipping away at writing books. I wouldn’t say I’m the kind of writer that NEEDS to write, but I have always written.
What compelled you to write this story?
The book is a total escape for me. It’s a kind of “what if” scenario. What if I didn’t have a day job and I ran away from it all? What would I do? The answer is, apparently, work in a winery and pet dogs all day long. Not a bad life, really.
What’s your biggest source of encouragement?
The most encouragement I’ve gotten is from reading. I love reading books more than anything in the whole world (more than writing them for sure and possibly even more than I like wine and dogs). I don’t need to tell you, but reading a good book is the best brain medicine that there ever has been. I think wanting to have a book that just sits among the other books that I love was the biggest source of fortitude for me. I also have very kind parents and friends who would be nice to me when I would ask “how much longer can I do this without looking like a total dumbass?” (Their answer was always: as long as it takes).
What are you reading right now?
I just finished reading Megan Abbott’s book GIVE ME YOUR HAND which is fantastic. I also loved THE HIGH SEASON by Judy Blundell. It’s kind of been an amazing summer for escapist books—I also loved WHEN KATIE MET CASSIDY by Camille Perri and of course THE PERFECT COUPLE by the genius Elin Hilderbrand.
You can catch Miriam at the following upcoming events (we recommend you do, because she’s delightful): July 31stat Astoria Bookshop (NYC), August 1stat Books are Magic (NYC), August 2nd at Elliot Bay (Seattle).
Read our review of Miriam’s debut here!