Monday, February 15, 2010

Donald James Parker Discusses Homeless Like Me

Donald James Parker

Synopsis of book:

Brian has a dream of writing the great American novel. He knows that without a gimmick to set him apart from the rest of the pack, he'll never succeed. From reading Black Like Me, he gets the idea to masquerade as a homeless man to get the material to write the saga of those suffering from poverty. During his first visit to the local homeless shelter to gather facts, he is accosted by Zeke, one of the subjects of his research. In order to save his skin, Brian spills his guts to the huge black man. After hearing the story, Zeke sees value in the project for his homeless brethren, and pledges to help the wannabe paperback writer. Also on his first visit, a vision of loveliness, aptly named Angel, takes away Brian’s breath and subsequently his heart. She turns out to be a fanatical Christian who is waiting for God to reveal the identity of her future husband. Brian decides to write a novel and make Angel the heroine. With the recent popularity of atheist books, he figures he can market a story where the Christian heartthrob is sweet-talked out of her irrational faith by a smooth talking protagonist. He hopes his plotline will somehow become a reality, and he will be able to sweep Angel off her feet and her religion under the carpet. Things get complicated when Angel becomes involved in protesting same-sex marriage and ends up mentoring the former homosexual partner of a member of the Rainbow Warriors, an anarchist organization trying to usher in gay power while ushering out the government. When a Native American patron of the rescue mission introduces Brian and Zeke to the supernatural power of God, they both are faced with a decision that could rock their world.

Donald James Parker is tha author of Homeless Like Me.  Donald, thanks for stopping by. Please give us a brief bio.
There is nothing exciting in my life to spice up a bio. I went straight from high school to college (thus avoiding the Vietnam War and some potential excitement). I obtained my degree in four years and then my life became unpredictable. I taught school for a few years before giving the classroom up to program computers. I discovered the computers listened to directions much better than teenagers. My heart is still with the young adults though. It was hard finding my way when I was a kid. Our world has become much darker and more dangerous since then, making the coming of age process a very precarious one. My goal is to help teens find their way toward a productive, healthy, and happy life.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I dabbled with writing back in 1980. The real journey to publish began in 2006. I'm not sure the bug has bitten yet, because I'm not compelled to write out of love for the publishing jungle. I hate having to classify something as a certain genre. I think I cross genre lines with my work. My books are about life and man's relationship with God. Life doesn't stay within genre lines. If you have to pigeonhole my work, Christian fiction will perhaps be the most meaningful classification.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
I started out wanting to write about sports and love to teach people to love each other and to live life to its fullest by taking on challenging projects which stretched them as a person. Now after maturing, I find my message is similar but incorporates God into the equation as a main ingredient rather than just as a catalyst.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?
My latest book, a stand alone titled Homeless Like Me, came out about a month ago. It should be interesting to the writing community because the protagonist is a wannabe novelist. He decides to write a story about the homeless and disguises himself as a transient. His disguise doesn't fool one of the regulars, a 300 pound angry black man. The two become an odd couple and work together to produce the book. A twist of fate occurs when the hero falls with one of the volunteers at the rescue shelter. Due to her influence, the hero has to entertain the notion that God might really exist, bringing about some agony of the soul in deciding what to do with his book.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Zeke is a huge black man who hangs out at the shelter. He is unemployed as a result of a former drinking and anger problem (mostly directed at his father) that earned him some jail time. He takes the wannabe novelist under his protective wing to help him with his project. His journey to learn to forgive his father is one of the main themes in the book, even though he is only a sidekick and not the hero.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
To be perfectly honest, I don't develop anything. I just sit at the computer and type. When I get done, people ask me how I did that. I can only say it is a God thing. I don't analyze what I've written and contrive to add a dash more romance or make a character a tad meaner or more loveable. I sometimes wonder what kind of monster I could create by applying my computer analysis skills to my writing. I don't plan on finding out anytime soon.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
See the answer to question above. Mark Twain said that anyone attempting to find a plot in Huckleberry Finn would be shot. I might suggest that trying to find a plot in my work is a daunting challenge. I like to duck out of this one and say that my novels are character driven instead of plot driven. I usually don't know what's going to happen myself until I write it. Some people call that writing by the seat of your pants. Others might call it creative genius.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
I have a distinct (I think) writing style. I don't follow rules very much. I'm trying to tell an engaging but edifying tale, not conform to someone's arbitrary regulations for writing a good novel. I couldn't care less about setting and description. The interaction of my characters, their conversations, and their thoughts are the things I focus on. My characters carry on intense and humorous (I hope) conversations that I refuse to interrupt with meaningless literary fluff. My POV is usually third person omniscient. I like to get into my POV's head and reveal his or her thoughts about what happens to them.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I was raised in a rural area. My hometown, in which I am living again, had 5400 residents when I grew up. I spent a lot of time on my uncle's farm. I learned the facts of life and death on the farm. The importance of character and reliability were hammered home in that crucible (or maybe it was only an incubator). My heroes are usually people grounded in such character with emphasis on honesty, hard word, and the golden rule. They might have their moments of wavering, but they always find their way back to the straight and narrow.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Hard to choose. I'll use this one from Apex Reviews:
“Homeless Like Me courageously exposes the reader to one of the more often ignored aspects of the human experience….Parker's insightful tale chronicles a…journey through the good, bad, and ugly experiences of a particular subset of the greater population. Without falling into hyperbole or exaggeration, Homeless Like Me provides the reader with invaluable insight into how devastating homelessness can be - as well as just how easily it can happen to anyone, regardless of the stability of your current situation. Despite the heaviness of the subject, though, Parker's trademark humor adds just the right touch of levity, providing an effective counterbalance to what could be a decidedly difficult subject to explore. A compelling read from beginning to end, Homeless Like Me is recommended reading for anyone unfamiliar with the specific trials and tribulations that accompany life as a homeless person. Sure to inspire an increased appreciation for the plights of people from all walks of life."

What are your current projects?
I am working on perhaps my most ambitious novel yet – a story of an American Indian reservation and a clash of traditional native religious practices and Christianity.

Donald has written many other books as well:  Reforming the Potter's Clay, Love Waits, Angels of Interstate 29, Against the Twilight, and the Masterson Family series including The Bulldog Compact, More Than Dust in the Wind, All the Voices of the Wind, All the Stillness of the Wind, and All the Fury of the Wind
Learn more about Don at:

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