Monday, May 3, 2010


Little can be said about Stephen Parrish; less should be. He was one of those chaps in the group of "serious writers" into which I stumbled about two years ago.  His killer wit and strange attachment to improper spelling make him weirdly endearing.

Parrish's debut novel The Tavernier Stones was released officially on May 1. It's an intellectual's adventure story spanning two continents, Amish and Catholic religions, cartography, gemology and more math than I could ever learn. All without being stuffy or irrelevant.

You can learn important stuff about Stephen at some of his other blog tour stops (see below).  For all the non-important stuff, here is my own interview with Mr. Parrish.

Step #1

  • beer or wine? Wine, red, full of spice.
  • Miss Snark or Evil Editor? Miss Snark. I just can't picture Evil Editor in stiletto heels.
  • rich or brilliant? Brilliant, no question about it. If I think a girl is pretty, then discover she's an airhead, a strange thing happens to my perception: I no longer think she's pretty.
  • clever or sincere? If you let me replace "sincere" with "authentic," then I choose it over clever. Be who you really are and I don't care if my jokes go over your head.
  • celebrity crush: Cate Blanchett.
  • a phrase you use often: "Don't make me come over there and sit on you."
  • favorite movie: The best movie ever made, if movies can be ranked, is "Ben Hur."
Step #2
TELL US about any of your weird writing habits or idiosyncracies. (ie, What’s one “thing” you need to write, the thing without which the creative juices would cease to flow?)

I have to have a title, even if just a working title, before I can write a single word. And I have to have a name for a character before I can make him do anything. Otherwise it's just a matter of laying down words, any words at all, to seed the composition. And a good way to pick up tomorrow where you leave off today is to quit in mid-sentence.

Step #3
TEACH US one or two of your favorite vocabulary words.

1. Boner. Being out of vogue makes it funny. Also, I was formally reprimanded recently for using it in business correspondence, so naturally I employ it every chance I get. Boner, boner, boner.

2. Brain, used as a verb, i.e., to brain someone, to strike him on the head. Francis Parkman liked this verb when describing one person attacking another from behind: "He brained him unawares." That such expressions have fallen out of vogue is one of the crises the English language faces in modern times.

3. Metaphysical. Nobody really knows what it means, but it sure sounds heavy.

Step #4
  • The last book I finished reading was The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama.
  • I gave it five stars.
  • One word to describe it is fuckingbrilliant.
Step #5
QUESTION: What was the most challenging Tavernier Stones sequence to write?

The church scene, during holy mass, during which the image of the cross descends on the wall. I started out describing the entire Catholic mass in exquisite detail, intertwining the observations of various characters as the sun rose and the hour approached noon. But characters were eliminated in subsequent revisions, and I was under pressure to shorten and simplify the scene. It has been rewritten so many times and is so overworked that I can't bear to look at it.

Step #6
QUESTION: I’m dying of curiosity. Which Disney movie did Zimmerman feature?

"Beauty and the Beast." Belle, a book lover, is my favorite Disney babe.

Step #7
GIVE US THE SCOOP. Tell us something about yourself that’s exclusive to In Search of Giants (ie, has never been publicized in print or podcast interviews.)

Everyone who knows me believes I'm an atheist. (Erica Orloff insists I'm Buddhist, and I love her for it.) The label is fair; I don't believe in any formally recognized doctrine, certainly no dogma, and I wish every religious tome could be replaced by the eleven beautiful words that comprise the Golden Rule.

Having said that, I was trained as a mathematician. There are theorems so beautiful, so intricate, so breathtaking, the idea they exist by chance is unexceptable. The universe has architecture. Architecture necessarily implies an architect.

Did the Red Sea part? Did Lot's wife turn into salt? I don't think so. Did the universe randomly assemble itself so that Galois Theory, the utter mindboggling power of infinite series, and Euler's Identity just happened, like hitting the right lottery numbers over and over? I don't think so.

My sincere thanks to Stephen Parrish for this interview, my review copy of his book, and a newly-found Skype addiction.  I'll be posting my own review of The Tavernier Stones on Wednesday; and on Friday, I'll hold a contest so that you can win your very own copy of this debut novel. Plus, Stephen has generously offered a piece of the Berlin Wall as an additional prize. Imagine that as a paperweight!

Until then (and..because you might have to garner information for Friday's contest....), go check out these other places that feature Stephen Parrish:

Adventures in Reading: On word-cutting. 

Mark Terry chats with Steve about marketing your book.  Well, their books.  Not your book.  You have to do that yourself, you lazy thing.

Jen K. Blom: Is Steve a dog or a cat person?

Hoosblog: An explanation of the title "Greatest Jewelry Salesman in the World"

Jude Hardin: The possibility of an American signing tour

Travis Erwin: What is Steve's secret publishing-jackpot fantasy?


  1. I think perhaps just the mention of Miss Snark gives Stephen boner especially if he's had a few glasses of spiced red wine, but he better be careful before the snarky one gets jealous and turns beastly by braining the beauty Cate Blanchett with her stiletto. And that is very much a real threat not metaphysical dogma.

  2. They're going to be sick of me by Friday. Hell, I'm already sick of me.

  3. Travis - you're way too clever to be friends with me.

    Stephen - shut up. you're just sleep deprived.

  4. The stars in the background of your page make me look like I have a skin disease. Was that intentional?

  5. "Galois Theory ... and Euler's Identity"

    Steve, you're making my head hurt. "Boner" makes me spew coffee. Every time.

  6. My mother used to use threaten me with being brained on a regular basis as a child. I'm absolutely sure though that she never used the word boner in a sentence. Such is the charm of the Irish Catholic Mammy - threats of casual violence are perfectly acceptable but references to sex - strictly verboten.

    By the way Stephen - I fully agree with you that there is a deep and inherent beauty in physics an mathematics and its profundity is soul stirring.

  7. I disagree that boner is passe and out of vogue. If Parrish is using it, it immediately has relevance.

  8. Belle? Well, I can appreciate the bookishness, but Ariel, man--it's all about the cleavage.

  9. I disagree that boner is passe and out of vogue. If Parrish is using it, it immediately has relevance.

    I'm a force in literature!

    Belle? Well, I can appreciate the bookishness, but Ariel, man--it's all about the cleavage.

    Ah, but look at what Belle fell in love with. There's hope for me yet.

  10. I think there's some sort of beautiful mathematical symmetry or something in these three answers:

    Brilliant, no question about it. If I think a girl is pretty, then discover she's an airhead, a strange thing happens to my perception: I no longer think she's pretty.

    Stephen is the anti stereotypical male. Most men think with their boners. Stephen apparently does the precise opposite, whatever that may be, exactly. Bone with his thinker?

    Great interview. One of the best I've read. Ever.

  11. I'm the same way, it's crazy. I MUST have a title, or everything I write will be thrown away BLAH. And I need the character names, as well as the first line. The first line is a big one. And then after names, title, and first line, comes first scene.

    After that, I'm good to go. I can write in any order, doesn't matter. But I can't get past the need to do that stuff in particular order.

  12. Stephen - I actually thought your answer to #7 was brilliant and thought provoking and insightful. I thought this was another brilliant interview. Great job Aerin!

  13. And this, ladies and gentlemen (and anyone else), is why I love interviews! The things I didn't know from just reading your blog.

    Metaphysical is one of my favorite words, too. Probably because it is my absolute favorite poetry.

    And...Aerin. Thanks a pantload. Now I have total blog envy. It's so pretty here. I need a telescope!

  14. Intriguing interview. Well done.
    Interesting man. Love the idea of someone who thinks of the universe as architecture giving away a piece of the Berlin wall...



Related Posts with Thumbnails