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T. Jefferson Parker...A Writer's Life in Fallbrook

Ellen Fusco

Special to the Village News

T. Jefferson Parker, a Fallbrook resident, is a New York Times bestselling author, whose novels have been translated into 13 languages. He writes novels and short stories and formerly was an award-winning reporter. He has won a Los Angeles Book Prize for Best Mystery and is a 3-time recipient of the Edgar Award for the best in mystery, presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America.

Parker conducted a talk on his new book, "The Rescue," at the Writers' Read gathering at Fallbrook Library, Thursday, May 4. This thrilling title is set in Tijuana, Mexico and deals with the bond between a journalist and a dog that she adopts.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Parker, which was quite illuminating about the trajectory of his writing career. Parker's earliest experience in which he learned that words have power was while sitting on his mother's lap at three-years-old and listening to her read books about nature. The words and the drama of the stories were very enlightening and engaging for him.

One of his favorite titles was, "Shag, Last of the Plains Buffalo," by Robert M. McClung. Parker was an English major. He loves reading the classics such as Steinbeck, Poe, Hemingway, Warren (Robert Penn), Joyce, Shakespeare, as well as narrative stories of the Bible.

A few events that have impacted his life the most were falling in love for the first time, getting married and having children, plus baseball and surfing the waves.

He used to write long-hand, then by typewriter and now on his desktop computer.

He finds it difficult to write in the voice of the opposite sex. He feels there is more scrutiny and attention from his publisher when he is writing in the female voice. He leaned on his publisher for advice on the female perspective especially when he was writing his three-book series on Merci Rayborn during the 1990s.

Parker's methodology for selecting names for his characters is by using the phone book, picking from movie credits and reading baby name books. He actually writes the story first and then names his characters. The most difficult part of the writing process, he said, is to try to hatch enough of your story in your mind to simply write the very first sentence. The hardest part about writing is not writing. The publisher requires a brief paragraph synopsis of your book that may end up being a 60-page outline single-spaced.

Parker had the following advice for aspiring writers to remember, that although rejections are ultimately part of the complete writing process, continue to persevere. Finish your book so it is as good as you can get it and then submit it to an agent and move on to the next story idea.

He also recommends that all writers focus on reading as much as possible. Read "up," not "down." Constantly reading builds your muscles and hones your own writing skills.

It takes Parker three months to get going with his story, six months of writing, and three months of revising. It takes approximately one year from conception to publication date.

Although Parker does not really like to conduct research as background for his writing, he did, however, research the Mexican cartels while writing his newly published novel, "The Rescue." He does have numerous contacts in law enforcement (police, sheriff, FBI, CIA, and DEA), which have all proven to be quite helpful in the authenticity of his works.

He always carries a notebook with him as he runs errands or is waiting for an appointment just in case he has a great story idea. He is constantly on duty and is always solving problems with his current story or characters. He maintains files of articles that he has compiled from magazines and newspapers of subjects of interest for possible inclusion in future novels.

He actually has a smile on his face when he creates a good sentence.

Parker is happy when a book is completed and published. It is a long year from conception to completion, but it is a good feeling to have written, but to also simply write.


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