Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Steven Parlato Author Interview

Book Nerd Interview

It’s been a swervy road from there to here, including stops along the way as an art student, waiter, quality manager (ugh), actor, and freelance graphic designer. Husband of Janet, proud father of Ben and Jillian, I’m a published poet, artist and teacher. My young adult novel, THE NAMESAKE, is about to be published by a new YA imprint. It’ll be available January 18, 2013! Next stop? Only time will tell.

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What was the greatest thing you learned at school?

Wow, tough one! It had nothing to do with chemistry or algebraic equations. Probably that you can’t be happy pretending to be someone you’re not just to be accepted. When I embraced my interests—art, drama, writing—and realized it was okay to be intellectual, I was much more content.

Is there such a thing as a formula for storytelling? 

I’m sure there is, but I’ve never tried to figure it out or adhere to it. To me, writing is a more organic process, and I tend to let the story take the lead.

What are “Character Rules” and give us some examples. 

Characters should have layers and the capacity to surprise us, while still being believable. Flaws are also essential. My protagonist, Evan Galloway, for example, is a great kid. He’s smart and funny, but he can also be a little pigheaded and clueless to those around him. Wait, I think I just described myself (the pigheaded and clueless part)!

What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them? 

I’m a writing teacher, working with developmental as well as college-level writers, in addition to being a writer, and I think similar challenges exist regardless of the level at which we find ourselves. These are the tendency to get discouraged or to listen to those voices (often in our own heads) telling us we’re nothing special or having nothing new to say. We need to work really hard to tune out those negative voices. The solitary nature of writing can also be a challenge (as well as a blessing). It can be a lonely gig. Luckily, we get to hang out with interesting characters of our own creation!

In your new book, The Namesake; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?

Happy to! The Namesake has been a real journey for me. I started the book after a family member’s suicide. While it’s obviously not about my relative’s death, I couldn’t shake this idea: What would it be like to have a really great life upended by a parent’s suicide? Evan goes through the emotional wringer in The Namesake, on his quest for answers. Not only has he lost his dad in a tragic way, he’s lost his sense of himself. He’s named for his father, and there’s that expectation of following in Dad’s footsteps, a pretty awful concept given the circumstances. I think of the novel as part mystery, part coming-of-age tale. Readers (including my agent and editor) have responded to Evan’s voice and sense of humor, and that makes me happy. It’s a fairly dark topic, so I’m glad people see the humor and root for Evan. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Evan? 

 I was surprised at the twists and turns the story took. I also was surprised to realize that, if I really listened to my character, he’d figure out the best way to tell his story. Another thing that rocked me a bit was how real these characters became for me, and how attached I am to them. It was rough to go through some of the darker moments with Evan, Alexis and the rest.

Do you have a favorite quote that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire you? 

It’s not visible in my work area, but a favorite quote is actually one I chose for my yearbook. Albert Einstein said, “To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything.” Pretty appropriate for a writer, I think.

If you could introduce Evan to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 

Wow, what an awesome question. I’m going to go all Lit and Comp here and say Hamlet (I know, not technically a “book”). The Evster has a bit of the Melancholy Dane in him, after all. There are also some Alice in Wonderland references in The Namesake, so it might be interesting for Evan to hook up with Alice.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us? 

I have a couple of very different drafts in the works. One is a ghost story about a kid named Dexter who’s uprooted from his ordinary life to live in a Cape May-like seaside tourist town. His great-aunt, a sham psychic, runs séances out of her supposedly haunted inn. It turns out Dexter actually is sensitive to spirits inhabiting the place. I envision it as a three-part series. I also have a more serious book in the works with a Holocaust theme. As a poet, I like the idea of a novel in verse at some point, not unlike Ellen Hopkins, but different. I write sestinas, which don’t rhyme and are great storytelling poems, but I’d have to have the right idea for it. And I grew up working in a family store, so I’ve always wanted to write a book with that setting.

Most horrifying dream you have ever had? 

Yikes! As a child, I was subject to crazy, night terror dreams, which I (thankfully) can’t really recall. I had a very vivid imagination, so the briefest glimpse of a horror movie ad would have me terrified. More recently, my awful dreams tend to be of the wife or child in peril variety. Monsters or killers make an occasional appearance, and I’m often running through creepy, dark places. It’s a little surprising, even to me, then, that I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead and Stephen King. There’s nothing like a good scare, though, and I’ve always wanted to write a really scary novel.

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie? 

Well, I won’t say ALWAYS, but I have been known to say, “Good,” even if I’m terrible, when someone asks, “How are you?”

If I came to your house and looked in your closet/attic/basement, what’s the one thing that would surprise me the most? 

That I have not appeared on Hoarders. Well, it’s not that bad, but I am a packrat. I think it’s because I’m sentimental. Okay, “one thing”: You’d be surprised to find a theatrical quality Scarecrow costume. I made it myself several years ago when I played my dream stage role in The Wizard of Oz.

When was the last time you cried? 

Oh gosh, didn’t I just admit to being sentimental? Um, I have been known to cry at Barnes and Noble while grading student essays – not because they’re bad, because of the difficult lives some students lead. I also welled up when I received the pdf ofThe Namesake, from the awesome realization it was becoming a for real book.

Who was the last person you hugged? 

My wife, Janet, and when we hug, our dog, Austin, often joins in.

When was the last time you told someone you loved them? 

Janet, earlier today, but I’ll say it again right now (turns to his daughter). Jillian, I love you.

Where can readers stalk you? 

You can find me online at:
Twitter: @parlatowrites

Or stop by the Waterbury Barnes & Noble sometime; I do an awful lot of grading there!

Gifted artist? Standout student?

All his teachers are sure certain that Evan Galloway can be the graduate who brings glory to small, ordinary St. Sebastian's School.

As for Evan, however, he can't be bothered anymore.

Since the shock of his young father's suicide last spring, Evan no longer cares about the future. In fact, he believes that he spent the first fifteen years of his life living a lie. Despite his mother's encouragement and the steadfast companionship of his best friend, Alexis, Evan is mired in rage and bitterness. Good memories seem ludicrous when the present holds no hope.

Then Evan's grandmother hands him the key--literally, a key--to a locked trunk that his father hid when he was the same age as Evan is now. Digging into the trunk and the small-town secrets it uncovers, Evan can begin to face who his father really was, and why even the love of his son could not save him.

In a voice that resonates with the authenticity of grief, Steven Parlato tells a different kind of coming-of-age story, about a boy thrust into adulthood too soon, through the corridor of shame, disbelief, and finally...compassion.

You can purchase The Namesake at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you Steven for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive one a copy of The Namesake by Steven Parlato.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks Steven, I'm excited to get cracking on this book! And thank you Jean for hosting this wonderful author!

  2. I thanked Steven on his FB page...Thanks!!

  3. Thank you Jean and Steven for this awesome giveaway!