Saturday, September 15, 2012

10 Questions: Israel J Parker

Israel J Parker, Author

About Israel

Israel Parker is the author of "The Anne Marie." The former Helicopter Rescue Swimmer for the Coast Guard penned his first novel "The Anne Marie" in 2011. He has noted that the book is an allegoric telling of some of his experiences in and out of the Coast Guard. The book has since sold thousands of copies and is required reading in a dozen schools.

About the book:

Newfoundlands are considered to be the most loyal breed of dogs. It is said that once one of the giant water-dogs bonds with a human, they can never bond with another. Atticus Stockton is a Newfoundland living in Wells, Maine with his master, John Stockton. Together, they make their living from the sea on their fishing boat the Anne Marie. The dog’s life is perfect- hot meals, good company, with a kind master and crew. One fateful day, Atticus’s life is turned upside down when a violent storm breaks apart and sinks their fishing boat in the seas off of Maine’s rocky coast.

The unforgiving storm takes the Newfoundland’s family away and leaves him emotionally and physically devastated with an uncharacteristic phobia of water. When no one from Atticus’s small town will take him in, he is forced into a dog pound in nearby Portland, Maine. There, in the confines of the pound, the big dog meets other interesting canines with stories of their own. As Atticus rests each night on the lonely concrete, he is haunted by vivid dreams of his once perfect world and its abrupt ending.

Can Atticus find a home and overcome his fears? If so, can he ever love another human again?

The Interview

#1: You self-published your first book, The Anne Marie, last year. Tell us about that process, and why you decided to self-publish instead of going the traditional route.

The short answer is that I wanted the control that self-publishing offered. I had several agents interested; but in the end, I decided that I wanted to control every aspect of my work.  I did a lot of research on publishing (part of the neuroses that makes me who I am) for the first go around. 

#2: You are a Coast Guard Officer. First, let me thank you for your service. When I think of Coast Guard, I think of daring rescues, of heroes. What is the most dangerous thing you've ever done in your job?

Well, I was stationed in New Orleans (Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans) in 2005 when both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita hit the area.  I was hoisted down and hacked through roofs in the middle of the night throughout the city of New Orleans in those early hours and days of the rescue effort.  Being hoisted down from a helicopter between power lines into the unknown was pretty scary, but I wouldn't trade the experience for the world.  In the first day of our effort during Hurricane Rita, I was shocked by static discharge to the point that I was knocked out for a few minutes.  I of course came to and finished the rescue. One night, long after those storms, I was deployed to a sinking vessel that had suffered an explosion aboard.  While on board the vessel evacuating personnel, a fire broke out and there was a possibility that the vessel could once again explode.  I think this was the only time in my career that I actually thought I might not come out in one piece.

#3: How much of your Coast Guard experiences end up in your writing?

The short answer, a lot!  I think the Coast Guard has afforded me some opportunities to see and experience things that not many others get to.  I have had the chance to see people at their worst and at their very best.  I have seen extreme happiness and extreme sadness and these types of experiences, I think, change your perspective on life and the world forever. 

#4: How many dogs do you have?

I had two when I wrote The Anne Marie, Atticus and Roxanne; Atticus the Newfoundland and Roxanne the Basset Hound.  Unfortunately Atticus passed away a couple months ago.  He was a good friend, and I miss him more than I can express with mere words, even if I am a writer. 

#5: How did The Anne Marie become required reading in so many schools? Did you plan it or did it just happen?

I didn't really plan for this to happen; it just sort of did.  One of my neighbors, who happened to be a teacher, read my book, and she asked if I would come to speak at the school where she taught.  The librarian at the school was so impressed with the book that she told all the other librarians about it.  The others read it, and the rest is history.

#6: What writing projects are you working on now?

Currently I am working on a novel with the working title of Green Valley; and let me just say that it is a lot different than The Anne Marie.  I have tried to live my life in a fearless manner, and I want to approach my writing in the same fashion.  The Anne Marie was from my softer and more sentimental side, Green Valley is from my darker mostly unseen side.

#7: John Grisham has made quite a career of writing courtroom thrillers. Do you see yourself focusing on the unique perspective your career in the Coast Guard affords you, or will you step outside that and do different things?

I've been lucky that because of the Coast Guard I have had the opportunity to experience a host of things that I never would have experienced otherwise.  As far as writing about those particular experiences, I am not currently working on any non-fiction or fiction Coast Guard stories. Only time will tell if that ever changes.

#8: Did your Coast Guard buddies know you were writing a novel before you published? If so, how supportive were they?

A couple people knew; all of which were supportive. They knew I was a bookworm, and I don't think it surprised them too much when they found out that I was writing too.

#9: Tell us something about Israel Parker that might surprise us.

This one is easy.  I only sleep about four hours a night.  It freaks people out when they discover how little I sleep.  Whenever someone asks how I get so much done, my reply is always, "I'm just awake more hours in the day."  In essence, for me there are more hours in a day.

 #10:  Let's do something different. There has to be a question you were hoping I would or wouldn't ask. Ask yourself that question (please let us see the question), then answer it.

I am glad you didn't ask if I thought that I was successful.  That question, I guess, kind of always bothers me.  I don't feel like a success, and I doubt I ever will with regards to writing.  I view storytelling as my art and my passion.  My goal is to always improve and challenge myself with my next story.  I hope I never feel successful because viewed success breeds a relaxation of skills, and I want that tension to continue to force me forward.
* * *

Thank you, Israel, for taking the time to answer these questions. I especially like your answer to the first question. We are conditioned to believe it is egotistical, or amateurish to want total control of our writings. It goes along with the notion that only a professional editor/publisher/agent can possibly know what is and what is not great writing. I think authors can know, too, but especially the readers. Readers always know.

I also feel compelled to follow up question #9, as well. I read a lot of biographies, and one of the common traits I've found in people who are really successful, is that they sleep only a few hours a night. I've always had to have a full eight or I can't function. 

To find out more about Israel, visit his website. Follow him on Twitter as @IsraelParker


  1. I suppose you could tell by the questions that I'm a bit fascinated with the Coast Guard experience.

  2. I loved this book! Not only is it a great story for kids and adults alike, there's something about it that took me back to the days of my childhood when books were my best friends.

    ~Joyce Scarbrough

  3. IP is not only an inspiring author but an inspiring man! You're my hero, dude! Can't wait to read the next book.

  4. I'm so sorry about the loss of your dog. Atticus sounds like an amazing pet and friend. I understand about having no words to describe that bond. Even though we're writers, some things go beyond words.