Author Interview: J Daniel Parra

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Early last month I received an email from Angela Craft, a marketing and publicity manager for Diversion Books. She was sending out queries for those interested in participating in a book blog tour for a summer book about to be released, Pieces of Tracy.

Silly me, new book blogger who just jumped in feet first (which I don’t recommend!) had absolutely zero idea what a book blog tour even was! I fired off a response to Angela that I definitely wanted to be included…again, jumping in with my feet first. Don’t do it! So I asked a friend, my lovely co-writer at The Eclectic Bookworm, who’s been in the book blogging biz for a while. She explained about blog tours, and then I felt even sillier! I signed up for everything on this book blog tour: a review, a give-away, an author guest post and an interview with the author, J Daniel Parra. You can follow Daniel on Twitter and like him on Facebook for more about his debut novel.

This is only my second interview, and I was uncertain what to ask, so I kept it relatively short compared to my interview with Linda Harley (Destiny’s Flower). I was very interested by the fact that this wasn’t Daniel’s first attempt at writing a novel. Find out more in our interview below!

J Daniel ParraTell me about yourself.

I’m J. Daniel Parra, author of the debut novel, Pieces of Tracy, available now from Diversion Books.  I live in New York where I love running in Central Park and sampling specialty cocktails, though not at the same time.

Why did you choose a female as the lead character? Was it difficult writing from a female perspective?

I’ve always loved fiction with strong female protagonists and have never had trouble connecting with a female perspective.  As Tracy’s story unfolded, I realized that the best way to tell it would be to involve a protagonist who embodied the qualities to make this journey.  It all happened very organically but I don’t think I ever imagined a man at the core of this story.  It just made sense to do it with a female.  The key to writing about a woman for me was not to get too caught up in the obvious girlie things like hair and makeup and clothes and although those elements are there, I tried to make Tracy much more fully realized than that.

It took four years to finish Pieces of Tracy. Did you go back to Rome during the writing?

I managed to do all of my research in one trip where I kept a detailed diary of my experiences. At the time I didn’t realize how much of my diary would work its way into the book. A few things are invented, but for the most part the places and locations are as I experienced them, although I experienced them on a smaller budget than Tracy’s, I should add.

Your agent prompted the title of your debut novel. What was your original title?

That title is still in the book.  Non Basta Una Vita, which translates to One Life Is Not Enough. I stumbled in this phrase in the preface to Henry James’ Italian Hours and this notion that one lifetime is not enough to get to know Rome stayed with me and caused the spark that prompted the story.  All told, I think Pieces of Tracy (Many thanks to Melissa Sarver, my amazing agent!) is a much better title but I still have a sweet spot for One Life Is Not Enough.

The cover features the Roman Coliseum with New York transposed in the background. Is this a hint to Tracy’s choice in the novel?

What I love about the cover is that it beautifully represents Tracy’s dual attractions.  Whether the outcome of Tracy’s dilemma is in any way depicted there is up to the reader.

Before your trip to Rome that inspired this book, what did your day-to-day life look like? How has it changed?

I think on the surface my day-to-day hasn’t changed much. I still love my work and writing. But, as anyone who’s visited Rome can tell you, it’s a city that stays with you.  New York is much the same and that’s why I enjoyed juxtaposing these wonderful cultural capitals in one narrative.

Pieces isn’t your first attempt at writing. What happened to all the attempts prior to Pieces? Will we see any of those works come to life?

I’ve been writing fiction since high school.  That’s a lot of years spent getting it right!  I’m focusing so much on future works right now so I’m not sure if my previous efforts will see the light of day but I wouldn’t rule it out.

How did you get into writing?

I have always loved stories and story-telling.  I created stories for my younger sister’s stuffed animals which I did episodically.  I learned in front of an audience (of one) how to keep a story alive and to create characters that would best embody that story.  I was also a journalist for several years and that taught me the mechanics of language, words, punctuation, grammar, etc.

What are your suggestions for struggling writers (i.e. writer’s block, lack of inspiration/direction, etc.) ?

In my opinion, a writer’s best tools are inspiration and discipline. Let those pillars anchor you.  Maybe conviction is another pillar. But be prepared to work hard and to take criticism. Also: read, read, read!  I seriously learned everything I needed to know about writing by reading books.  The answers are all there.

Goodreads tells us that you’re working on a new novel. Can you give us an idea of what to expect next?

(Darting eyes coyly)  The only thing I will say on that topic is that if you enjoyed Pieces of Tracy, you’ll want to check out my next book.

It’s been a pleasure spending time with you.  Thanks for having me!

Here is my review of Pieces of Tracy – and you can enter the giveaway to win the book! To read Daniel’s guest post about publication, go here.

Tomorrow’s blog tour stop for Daniel’s Pieces of Tracy will be with Cinta Garcia De La Rosa. Check out Daniel’s guest post at Indie Authors You Want to Read.  Monday, 7/22, the blog stop will be at Diary of a Mad Stitcher.

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