Book Tour, Review & Giveaway – Man & Other Natural Disasters by Nerys Parry
Simon Peters, a recluse full of half-cocked theories on every subject from heart-broken shrimp to the Jungian consciousness of DNA, spends his days hiding from his horrific past in the basement of the Calgary City Library. Enter Minerva, a twenty-two year-old business major whose ghostly resemblance to Simon’s dead sister compels him to reveal his shocking past: a sister who died of spontaneous human combustion, a father crushed in a rock blast, a mother who disappeared in a tornado – all in one hot prairie summer.
But parts of Simon’s story do not add up. When he finds Minerva passed out and bleeding on his bathroom floor, he must conquer the tyranny of his own memory and confront what really happened that summer of 1962. But the truth, when uncovered, proves no less astonishing than the original tale.
Based on real events recounted during the Sons of Freedom movement of the 60s, Man & Other Natural Disasters is a testament to the power of story in a world too often shaken by forces outside our control: nature, terrorism, death—even love. Of all the planet has yet to throw at us, the question remains: can we recover from the worst natural disaster yet—ourselves?
Man & Other Natural Disasters
Author: Nerys Parry
Genre: Fiction – Literary/Historical
Published by: Enfield & Wizentry, Great Plains (September 2011)
Age Recommendation: 18+
Number of pages: 214
Simon works in the basement of the Calgary City Library. He does book repair and maintenance. He was born on August 20, 1947, the last day of the drought. A woman is sent in to help figure out how to cut costs on book repairs, and she looks like his sister who died in a fire. He also has a roommate named Claude.
The chapters were divided into water, air, earth and fire. The way Simon describes what a baby must feel like in childbirth (like what things you would have to do all at once to simulate it) really sounds scary! He describes the art of repairing a book.
I wasn’t sure what was actually going on. There were different events that were described in the story, but in the end it was all revealed. I was very surprised at what was revealed at the end! This sure was an entertaining book that had a surprise at the end. Very well written story! I look forward to reading more books by Nerys Parry.
Nerys Parry Interview
About Your Book:
Man & Other Natural Disasters:
Q. Describe your book in one sentence.
A. Simon Peters has a secret he can’t tell anyone—not even himself, but when disaster-prone Minerva Walters enters his life, he has no choice but to finally face the horrible truth both he—and his country—would rather forget.
Q. How did you come up with the title?
A. The title was originally going to be for a collection of short stories that revolved around natural disasters, but then Simon came along into my head, and he insisted that his story be a full novel. In the end, when I finally found the true events that Simon was hiding, the title proved even more appropriate than I had at first imagined. You’ll have to read it to understand why!
Q. Is there a message in the book that you want readers to get?
A. First and foremost, I want people to enjoy the book, but one of the most exciting elements that readers have mentioned to me was how relevant they felt the story was to what was going on in the world today: the rise of religious extremism, terrorism, natural disasters, etc…
Simon’s story, based as it is on real events, reminds us that when we respond to threats, be they from increasing natural disasters or terrorism, it’s important to be careful not to invoke terror or cruelty ourselves. It’s all too easy to justify our own violent or destructive actions when someone or something makes us afraid. I think Simon’s story is also an important reminder that histories (our own and our nations’) are always in the process of being rewritten. The truth is never as easy to find as we think, and so it’s important to keep hunting for it, to not take things at surface value, and to understand that memory—our own and our collective memory—can often be unreliable. It’s important, above all else, to remain compassionate and open, even in the face of extreme acts by others.
Q. Are any parts of the story realistic?
A. The book is a balance between classic literary fiction and historical fiction, and so much of the story is based on real events that took place in the Kootenay region of British Columbia in the 1960s. Also, many of the myths recounted in the book are based on traditional legends from the Rockies, and the book binding information was from an interview I had with the real “last of the library book repairers” in the Calgary City Library.
For those that are interested, I explain in more detail what parts of the book were based on fact, and where fiction took over, in the notes in the back of the book.
Q. Did you have a favorite character in the book, and why did you like that character?
A. My favourite character is Simon, the narrator, although he was one of the toughest characters I ever had to write. As an unreliable character, he was difficult to trust, and he often led me down the wrong path before I’d catch him in a lie and realize he was still hiding the truth. It was very frustrating at times. But his mind is so fascinating, and he has such a unique and unmistakable voice. The way he reads poetry in science, and how he’s so smart with theories and yet so stupid with people, and yet so sensitive deep down—all that is rather endearing. But what I admire most about Simon is how he survived such terrifying experiences and yet still managed to emerge from these horrors with such a strong desire to live, even love—I can’t help but be impressed by that.
Q. If the book had a theme song, what would it be and why?
A. Don’t haunt this place, by the Rural Alberta Advantage, and I can’t say why without giving away a part of the book, but suffice it to say that it reminds me of the relationship between Simon and his roommate Claude.
About Writing In General:
Q. How do you begin writing a book? Do you start with an outline? Do you hand write anything or type it out?
A. A story for me usually begins with a voice popping disembodied into my head. At first, it’s usually only a line, or an image the voice describes, and then I simply start. I’ll write a good 30,000 words then take it all out, throw it on the floor, and see if there is a story emerging. Then I’ll spend a few months thinking of the story, what it means, why I might want to write it, where the characters want to go. I’ll spend a lot of time throwing my characters into different situations, to see how they’ll react. I am merciless with my characters. Sometimes they get me back though, and often I’ll plan for something to happen only to have my character hijack it and do something completely different, but more real. Much of my process is about trust, and letting go. Giving the people on the page enough room to become as fully human as possible. There’s a magic to it all, and by the time I’m done my book I’ve pretty much fallen in love with at least one character, if not many.
Q. Do you have a certain writing style?
A. My writing style will often change with my characters. As I said, most of my inspiration begins with ‘a voice’. I won’t know what my characters look like, or even what they do, but I’ll know how they speak and think. Only when I write non-fiction can I really hear my own voice or style.
Q. Are any of your books based on things that you have experienced in your life or the life of someone you know?
A. At first, I thought there was nothing in my writing that came from my life, but when friends read the book they found little details that I have appropriated from my life, such as a friend who liked cherubs, or a father who could never finish a wallpaper job. In the end, I suppose all my writing is based on something I’ve done, heard or read, even though on the surface I often write about an experience I can only imagine, such as Simon’s.
Q. Do you have any rituals that you use when you are writing or a certain place you go to get inspired?
A. I have a hard time getting down to work sometimes, and so I often give myself 15 minutes to settle down, or read whatever I worked on the day before or google. Then I make myself little promises, such as “just 500 words, and then I can go away”, knowing full well I’ll stay for the full time if I can get as far as 500.
As for a special writing place, in celebration of the publication of my book, my husband bought me a beautiful, antique desk that faces into the room, towards the fireplace and windows, instead of at the wall. I realize now that there are enough figurative walls to face in this business without having to face a literal wall every day as well.
Q. How many books have you written?
A. I’ve written three novels, but only published one so far.
Q. Did you have to do much research when writing your books? If so, do you tend to write first or research first?
A. The amount of research depends on the book I’m writing, although I tend to be one of those writers who research more than I really should—I just love finding out new things. As for which comes first, writing or researching, I tend to do both together. Often the writing will lead to a gap in knowledge I need to fill, which will send me off looking for something really particular, like the price of bulls in 1962 in Canada. Other times the research itself will inspire a scene that will set me writing, such as the bomb scene in my novel.
Q. What advice would you give to those aspiring writers out there?
A. Don’t worry about getting published, worry about being the best writer you can be. Take risks and extract all the joy you can from the process itself.
About Your Reading:
Q. Are you reading anything right now?
A. I’m on vacation and have committed to finally finishing War & Peace, but have only made it 30% through so far. I’ve also been inspired by Book Gaga to start reading a poem a day, and am making my way through Rumi as well as Best New Zealand Poems (2008).
Q. What are some of your favorite books and authors?
A. Where to start? Certainly my favourite classic would be Ford Maddox Ford’s, The Good Soldier, and running close behind would be The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Revolutionary Road, Beloved, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Cave, An American Tragedy, The Age of Innocence, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Tender is the Night, Heart of Darkness, The Magus, and Sophie’s Choice (to name a few!).
Q. Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?
A. I suppose I look at certain books more technically, to look for hints about structure, and why certain books, such as those listed above, worked so well. I read a lot of classics, and so am often humbled by the depth of story telling some of these writers achieved, and I work always to get closer to the honesty and skill they present on the page. My dream would be to be able to make my reader feel the way some of these writers have made me feel.
Q. Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working on a novel?
A. I always read when writing. To stop reading would be to stop breathing! Often I research at the same time as writing, so that keeps me pretty busy, but I also always make time for some good literature because it inspires me to push for the best I can be. When I feel stuck, I’ll often turn to poetry, which will take me out of the narrative doldrums and into the ethereal emotional world, and for some reason that helps me break through writer’s block.
Q. Are there other books you love or writers you admire that are from your local area?
A. There are so many! I’m lucky to live in a town with such fabulous writers like Elizabeth Hay, author of Giller Prize-winning Late Nights on Air and Joanne Proulx, a lovely friend and superb author of Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet. Two of my favourites local authors would have to be Jasmine Aziz (Sex & Samosas) and Sandra Nicholls (And the Seas Shall Turn to Lemonade)—these ladies and I form the threesome Three Women/Three Books which has been successful in garnering some local press. I also enjoy Barbara Sibbolds’ The Book of Love and the Ottawa Book Award-winning Gabrielle Goliger’s Girl, Unwrapped.
Q. If you have to describe yourself with one word, what would it be?
Q. What is a typical day in your life like?
Q. What three artists would I find in your Ipod or CD player?
A. Rural Alberta Advantage, Eddie Vedder, Josh Ridder
Q. If I came to your home and looked in your refrigerator what would I find?
A. Just about anything you could imagine (and possibly some things you wish you couldn’t).
Q. What is one food item that you can’t live without?
A. Sundried tomatoes.
Q. What is your favorite color?
A. Depends on the day. Today it’s Taupo Lakewater Blue (I’m on my way to the beach!)
Q. What do you like to do when you are not writing (hobbies, etc.)?
A. Backcountry camping and hiking. I’d live in the woods if they let me.
Q. What famous person do other people tell you that you most look like?
A. Some say I bear an eerie resemblance to Hemmingway’s granddaughters. Others say it’s more like Michael Jackson.
Q. What is the one thing about yourself that others would be shocked to know?
A. I cry at anything on film, even the sappiest rom coms, no matter how public the place, and even if they are in cartoon. Most recent embarrassment was tearing up at “Friends, With Benefits” on the plane to New Zealand.
Q. Choose a book title for the story of your life.
A. It’s Only Just Begun
Q. What is next for you in 2012?
A. Once this book tour is over I will take a week’s vacation in the Australian bush in a swag tent, and then rest another week in Fiji before heading home for book events in Calgary in March and Toronto in April (see my Events page for details). Then there’s the e-book launch to look forward to (date to be determined), along with a book trailer my producer friend is working on, and the creation of the fabulous Three Women/Three Books blog with my friends Jasmine Aziz and Sandra Nicholls. I’m hoping to squeeze in a few other events during that time, but that should pretty well take me to summer, when I plan on switching gears and knuckling down on my next novel, as well as attending the Brandon Literary Festival in Brandon Manitoba in the fall. So, lots on the books, but I wouldn’t mind adding more!
Q. How can your readers contact you?
A. Readers can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or can comment on my blog at www.nerysparry.com. They can also follow me on twitter @nerysparry
Q. Is there anything you would like to add?
Any book club wishing to purchase more than five copies directly from the press will receive a 25% discount (click here for details). The press has also put together a fabulous Readers Guide available here. Depending on the time and place, I am always willing to attend book club events, either in person (if practical) or via Skype. Connecting with my readers makes all the work worthwhile.
You have a chance to win a print copy of Man & Other Natural Disasters by Nerys Parry. All you have to do is comment on this post and leave your e-mail address. I will use random.org to pick a winner.
Man & Other Natural Disasters by Nerys Parry – NURTURE Book Tour Schedule:
- January 23rd – Jaidis S. @ Juniper Grove
- January 24th – Cheryl F. @ Black Diamond’s Book Reviews
- January 25th – Lindsay H @ Everyday Is An Adventure
- January 26th – Bobbie @ Nurture Virtual Book Tourz™ Blog
- January 26th – Lucy D. @ Moonlight Gleam’s Bookshelf
- January 27th – Laurie J. @ Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews
- January 30th – Jaidis S. @ Juniper Grove
- January 30th – Jennifer @ Mad Moose Mama
- January 31st – Lindsay H @ Everyday Is An Adventure
- February 1st – Morgen B. @ Morgen Bailey’s Writing Blog
- February 2nd – Gail An. @ Gail Anderson-Dargatz
- February 2nd – Laurie J. @ Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews
- February 3rd – Bobbie @ Nurture Virtual Book Tourz™ Blog
Link to the author’s tour page: http://nurtureyourbooks.com/vbtblog/2011/12/upcoming-book-tour-man-other-natural-disasters-by-nerys-parry/
• Short-listed, Event Creative Non-Fiction Contest 2004, 2007
• Runner-up, FreeFall Fall Fiction Contest 2004
• Short-listed, Kenneth R. Wilson Canadian Business Press Award, 2007 Find and follow Nerys Parry on:Author Website