Parker Pace - A Psychological Thriller That is Probably Going to Mess With Your Head
Parker Pace was born in the UK, but Seattle is her home. More than anything, she loves to read. Give her a good book, and she doesn't care about the rest. She also loves live musicals and the theater. It fascinates her to see a story come to life. For her, there’s nothing like it in the world. The last musical she saw was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They don’t play that one as much as they used to, but it has a beautiful score and she highly recommends it. As our Author of the day, Parker tells us all about her book, Storybook, Inc.
Please give us a short introduction to what Storybook, Inc. is about.
The story centers on high school senior Mica who is struggling with depression in the wake of her father’s suicide. At the behest of her principal, she enrolls in the Program, a secretive “boarding school of sorts” run by a company called Storybook, Inc. whose motto is We Fix Things that are Broken. Mica’s entry into the Program sets into motion a bizarre series of events that finds her, and her traveling companion Roman, on the run for their lives, desperate to understand and escape from the Program. In a sense, it’s kind of an Oz story, and the central questions are who is behind the curtain and why?
What inspired you to write about a secretive boarding school for at-risk youth?
I was reading an article about addiction and this whole notion that a person has to hit rock bottom before they can face their demons. And it just kind of came to me. What if there was a better way?
Tell us more about Mica. What makes her so special?
One distinct possibility throughout the narrative is that Mica is suffering a nervous breakdown. In that sense, she is the ultimate unreliable narrator, because she can’t even trust herself. She also can’t trust anyone else. Her ability to listen to her gut, in spite of everything, is what makes her stand out.
Readers say they found this book hard to put down. How did you manage to keep it fast-paced?
The whole idea from that start was to have this amazing twist ending—not a mid-book twist or a near-the-end twist—but this absolute last page gotcha moment. The kind you don’t see coming because the possibility never enters your mind, even though it’s right there in front of you the whole time. I think because of my excitement about that structure, I was really racing toward the end myself.
Was there anything in particular, an incident or something you read, that made you want to tackle this?
I had just finished reading I’m Not Stiller by Max Frisch when I started writing, and so questions of identity and free will were definitely swirling around in my head. But what I kept coming back to was how unique the idea was. I looked everywhere, and I couldn’t find anything like it. In the end, I knew it would be conceptually difficult to pull off, but all I could think was how the potential was there to do something pretty original.
If you could have lunch with any author, who would it be and what would you eat?
I would probably be too nervous to eat, but I would choose Norman Mailer. Setting aside some of his more notable shortcomings as a human, his books changed the way I think. I remember finishing An American Dream and being just torn up inside. Not knowing if I liked it, and kind of wanting to throw up, but still I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And maybe that’s what it’s all about.
Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
With Storybook, Inc., I had all these divergent ideas going round in my head. One of the central themes to comes out of it was this idea that, while we are all unique, there is this large extent to which we’re really not that different. And the possibility that it’s in that space where we find peace of mind.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
“The Program will change your life or your money back,” is my favorite line from the novel, because it’s equal parts dramatic and unassuming, but it’s vague too—in that it doesn’t promise change for the better—and it starts out to mean one very precise thing, but as the reader moves to the conclusion of the story, it starts to mean something entirely different. I think of it like a little reminder not to make assumptions.