Joe B. Parr
Joe B. Parr is a North Texas based Mystery Suspense writer. As a native of the Fort Worth, TX area, his novels are crime dramas based in and around DFW. Residents of the area will enjoy the familiar sights and sounds. For others, he provides a virtual tour highlighting the area’s feel and diversity.
His current releases, The Victim and Stolen Innocence, are available in both paperback and ebook (Kindle) on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and selected independent book stores.
He writes entertaining fiction with an undercurrent of social commentary. His books address provocative issues by introducing characters who provide multiple perspectives so that the reader is driven to explore their own thoughts.
In The Victim, those issues include gangs, media stereotypes and the racial tensions within the community. In Stolen Innocence, he highlights the growing issue of Human Trafficking and its disproportional impact on immigrant and minority communities.
Mike Markel writes the Detectives Seagate and Miner Mystery series, which is set in the fictional small city of Rawlings, Montana, home of Central Montana State University. That university is somewhat like Boise State University, where Mike is a professor, but in Rawlings the weather is colder, the football team less successful, and the murder rate much, much higher.
Born into a blue-collar family in Liverpool, England, Pete missed The Beatles but did go to The Cavern a few times. He immigrated to the US in the early 90s, and became a citizen. After twenty years in the corporate madhouse, Pete moved to Western North Carolina where he lives with a couple llamas, two spoiled dogs, a brace of cookie-eating goats, one ferocious cat, and a wonderful wife who thankfully understands his obsessive need to write fiction.
What are you reading now or what do you have in your TBR pile?
I’m multitasking on three fronts for my reading list at the moment. First, for pure enjoyment, I’m reading a James Rollins/Grant Blackwood book titled The Kill Switch. It’s a Tucker Wayne novel. This is my first time to read either author’s work. It’s special operations stuff with one of the main character’s being a military dog. I’m only a few chapters in but it’s kept my attention so far. We’ll see where it goes.
The second book I’m reading is titled Mass Incarceration – The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. It’s a nonfiction work outlining the damage that drugs and the war on drugs has done to the minority community. I’m reading this as research for my third Detective Jake Hunter novel. It’s a fascinating read with a ton of interesting research.
The last item on my reading list should actually be called my ‘listening’ list. I’m proofing the audio book of my second novel, Stolen Innocence. It’s amazing to listen to your own words being read dramatically by a professional. To hear a book read seems to add a layer of emotion that the pure printed word struggles to achieve. Both of my current releases will hopefully be available on audio book by Christmas.
Do you write an outline before every book you write?
I actually have a fairly methodical process I go through when writing a book. Part of that process is building at least a partial outline, but that’s definitely not my first step. While I’m an avid reader of mystery suspense novels and thoroughly enjoy the twists and turns and mental gymnastics, the novels I enjoy the most are the ones that make me think beyond just figuring out who is the bad guy. Because of that, all of my novels so far have been built around exploring some kind of social issue.
In my first novel, The Victim, the story revolves around gang violence, media stereotypes and racial tensions. Stolen Innocence explores the world of human trafficking. In both cases, I want to reader to not only enjoy ‘the chase’ but also to walk away a little more educated about these issues.
With that in mind, my first step is always to determine ‘why’ I’m writing the book in the first place. What is the issue or message I’m trying to communicate? From there, I will spend weeks, sometimes months, just crafting related thoughts. I’ll capture these in a Word document that is just a random catchall for notes. It’s almost stream of consciousness with no structure or order. I’ll note plot ideas, potential characters and locations. I may even write out dialogue from a scene that pops into my head. I’ll certainly capture statistics and research on the underlying topic of the novel. This document can end up being several pages long.
Once I’ve got some critical mass, then I’ll create a list of characters. Sometimes, I’ll go as far as to build a relationship map between the characters. Finally, after I’ve gone through all those steps, I’ll sit down and outline out the first several chapters, usually around ten. Once the writing starts, those have a tendency to shift and change anyway. This is just a starting point. I know it sounds like a lot ‘process’, but I’ve found that if I go through those steps with intent, I can free my mind to really flow when I start to write.
While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?
One of the beautiful things about writing fiction is that you get to make stuff up. One of the hard things about writing fiction, especially mystery suspense, is that whatever you make up has to be believable. One of the ways I’ve found to make it believable is to write each chapter from the point of view of a specific character. That not only gives the reader a focal point, it also gives me the opportunity to build out each character and to bring in some of their back story. The challenge however, is that in order to do that, you really have to get inside that character’s head. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt like I ‘was’ the character, but I’ve certainly gotten wrapped up inside that character to a point where I was feeling the emotions of the moment as I typed the words. There were a couple of chapters in Stolen Innocence that were mentally and emotionally exhausting for that very reason.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
While I go through a process that starts with the big picture, by the time I actually start writing, I’ve broken it down into very small chunks. You’ve heard the only saying about eating an elephant one bite at a time. If you sit down at your laptop and start thinking about writing 300 pages or 90,000 words or 60 chapters, your brain is just going to meltdown because thinking about that while you’re looking at a blank sheet will intimidate you to the point of paralysis. But if you’ve got that outline and you know what chapter one is about, whose point of view it’s from, where it takes place and the specific list of events that need to occur, then all of a sudden you don’t have to think about all those big numbers, all you have to think about is writing sentences. Anybody can write a set of sentences if you know all the information in the outline. When you start with a set of sentences, they tend to turn into paragraphs which usually ultimately form chapters. Get enough chapters written and the next thing you know, you have a book.
The Detective Jake Hunter Series
Stolen Innocence, Book 2
Books by Mike Markel
Detectives Seagate and Miner Mystery
Books by Pete Barber
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