A CONVERSATION WITH PARKER RIGGS (OMNIMYSTERY NEWS 11/11/14):
OMN: Introduce us to Rose Chandler, your lead protagonist. What is it about this character that appealed to you as a writer?
PR: It’s great fun to live vicariously through Rose. She’s a former CIA covert affairs agent, brave and athletic, tough and sassy. Rose never says she’s sorry—for anything—and boy is she bossy! In the first draft she wasn’t even the lead character, but as I edited the book her voice kept getting louder and stronger, taking over entire chapters, pushing her way into the lead role. She became such a complex character, I had no choice but to make her the star.
OMN: What makes her complex?
PR: Her strengths and weaknesses. Outwardly, Rose appears confident and resilient, with a take-no-prisoners attitude. These are true features of her character, but beneath that steely surface, she’s also carrying around some pretty heavy baggage. Rose struggles with feelings of loneliness and isolation; she’s socially awkward and has trouble making friends; she’s vulnerable when it comes to matters of the heart. But no matter what life throws at her, Rose never gives up. Professionally and personally, she’s a skilled survivor.
OMN: One of the secondary characters in Finding Jessica is Detective Elmer “Rocky” Rhodes. What is it about this character that appeals to you as a writer?
PR: Rocky and Rose are yin and yang. She’s traveled the world, he’s lived his entire life in one town; she struggles to relate to people, he’s friendly and adored by his wife and kids. She’s into fitness and eating well; his idea of a workout is a walk from his car to the donut shop. She loves designer clothes and shoes; he has no fashion sense. Rocky is the perfect complement to Rose. He trusts her; she respects him. They make a great crime-fighting team!
OMN: Tell us about the book cover design and how the book came to be titled.
PR: There’s a point in the story where Rose simply states, “I have to find Jessica.” The minute I wrote those words, I knew I had a title! The book cover is from a scene in the book. The dog is Cosmo, Rose’s miniature dachshund; the painting beneath the sheet is a masterpiece by Rose’s client, Barrington Bigelow, the internationally acclaimed artist who has hired her to find his past love, Jessica. Is the painting the key to finding Jessica? I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to read the story if you want to find out!
OMN: Many readers have a mental image of what a series character looks like. Indeed, it’s likely you have a mental image yourself. If your book was was adapted for television or film, who would play the parts of Rose and Rocky?
PR: I think of Julianne Moore when I imagine Rose. She’s the right age, gorgeous, and knows how to play a strong woman. Rocky is harder to cast because of his looks: he has a square head, his complexion is pitted from old acne scars, and his belly barely fits his clothes. There aren’t too many actors who look like Rocky, but I think Kevin James would bring Rocky’s personality to life. I loved him in Mall Cop.
OMN: This is your first published novel. What advice might you give to other aspiring authors?
PR: Take the time to do it right. Before I even sat down to write the story, I devoured Stephen King’s book On Writing. It’s one of the best books out there on the craft of writing. And if you’re a new writer, don’t be embarrassed or too proud to admit you need help. I hired a development editor and learned how to tighten the plot, develop my characters and so much more. The lessons I learned (an experience equivalent to taking an in-depth course in creative writing), have been invaluable.
OMN: You co-authored the book A Treacherous Trader with New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams. How did this come about?
PR: I think it was a miracle, because I still can’t believe I have two books being published! It happened when I was sending out queries last year for Finding Jessica. Ellery’s agent didn’t feel it was cozy enough for her readers (other agents thought it was too cozy—so you can see how this is a very subjective business), but she loved my voice and asked if I would be interested in writing the fourth book in Ellery’s Collectible Mystery series. Of course I said yes! Co-authoring A Treacherous Trader with Ellery has been a dream come true. The book is due to be published sometime in December, and as soon as I get the exact publication date, I’ll post it on my website. [UPDATE: A Treacherous Trader is now available, as is A Devious Lot, Book # 5 in the series, which I also wrote. Currently, I'm working on Book #6, so stay tuned for more adventures with Molly Appleby!]
OMN: What prompted you to use a pen name for this book?
PR: My last name is hard to spell and people have a hard time pronouncing it. It made sense to use a name readers could easily remember—after all, if you like the book, I want you to be able to tell all your friends and family about it, and not be stumbling around trying to remember my name. Riggs is an abbreviated form of my last name, and I chose Parker as my first name in honor of Robert B. Parker. He was my favorite mystery writer for so many years. I will strive always to honor his name.
INTERVIEW WITH THE NASHUA TELEGRAPH (11/9/14):
NT: What motivated you to write this book? How long have you been working on it?
PR: I became motivated to write the book after seeing the movie Julie and Julia. I was so impressed by Julia Child, how she took courses at the Cordon Bleu cooking school, and subsequently wrote a cookbook later in life. I realized I had waited long enough to pursue my dream to be a writer.
I finished the first draft of Finding Jessica about four years ago, but as a new writer, I wasn’t too proud to admit it needed polishing (which is a nice way of saying it needed major editing). For two years, I worked with a development editor to learn how to tighten the plot, develop my characters, and so much more. By the time we finished, I felt like I’d graduated with an advanced degree in creative writing! I truly believe taking the time to do things right led to what happened next: Ellery Adams (a New York Times bestselling author), asked me to co-author the fourth book in her Collectible Mystery series, A Treacherous Trader. It has been such a wonderful experience. Now Finding Jessica has been published, A Treacherous Trader is coming out soon, and I’m living my dream. It’s been an incredible journey, and like any good story, I can’t wait to see what happens next! [UPDATE: A Treacherous Trader is now available, as is A Devious Lot, Book # 5 in the series, which I also wrote. Currently, I'm working on Book #6, so stay tuned for more adventures with Molly Appleby!]
NT: Is the book geared to a particular type of reader? What do you hope readers will take from the book?
PR: The book is geared toward anyone who loves a good mystery with some psychological depth and a splash of humor. My hope is that readers will relate to the lead character, Rose Chandler, and come to admire her as I do. Rose is quite complex. She’s a former CIA agent, now an art dealer and private investigator. Outwardly, she’s tough and confident, but she struggles with feelings of isolation and loneliness. That’s what I love about her. Her strengths and weaknesses make her real. Because no matter what life throws at her, or how difficult the choices, Rose never gives up. In that way she reminds us—neither should we.