Riley Michael Parker Interview


I have been fascinated with storytelling from a very early age. I love hearing people's stories, and of course, I love sharing my own. I am also a bit controlling and have a God complex. I like creating little worlds, telling everyone what to do. When I was little, other kids didn't like to play 'guys' with me... You know? Action figures? My guys didn't fight as much as they hung out, had lunch, and went to the movies. Everyone else's guys were blowing things up, and my guys were working through romance troubles and daring each other to venture into the graveyard. I wanted their guys to act like mine.


No, as a kid I was afraid to write so I read instead, but I did find other outlets. I drew and I wrote little songs, parodies in the vein of Weird Al. I was into stuff like legos and playing guys because it gave me room to create, a reason to write dialogue, which eventually led to me getting involved with table-top, paper and pen, dice rolling RPG sessions, both in middle school and high school. Role-playing games are just telling stories with your friends - you know, while eating Cheetos and drinking far too much Mountain Dew, often until the break of dawn. I wasn't cool enough to go get drunk at parties, and I wasn't getting laid, so I threw my own parties. Dorky, beautiful, socially despicable, sexy little parties. A girl even showed up once. Only once. It was an amazing creative outlet though. I wouldn?t be who I am today without it.


In high school, but I only dabbled. I wrote an erotic satire of the Adam and Eve story from the Bible, and a few other little satires, but nothing worth showing anyone. I was really into Irvine Welsh back then, and Bret Easton Ellis, and so I tried to write like them for a little bit, but I don't know anything about drugs and I have never been wealthy, so that didn't pan out. But I kept writing. I would write a story and then throw it away. I felt like I was getting better, but I still wasn't writing anything good. Then I realized that it was because I didn't know anything. I needed to get out into the world. Eventually I got fired from my job and evicted from my apartment, which was just the catalyst I needed. I went out. I lived a bit. And then I started writing again. I think it's better than what I used to do. I think I get better at everything with every year that goes by. At least I hope I think that. Now that we're talking about it, I'm dubious.


No, not really. Not at all, I guess. I just tell stories the way I see fit. I like long-winded speakers, so I often write in a long-winded fashion, with lots of commas and semicolons, and an ellipses or two in ever story. I also like short, short stories. Flash fiction. I like to make big things from little pieces. I am very inspired by Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, the dead bastards. Not to say that I write like them, but they inspire me. Brautigan died the year I was born. If he had died the year before I would pretend that I am him reincarnated, but sadly it is not the case. I love him though. I love Vonnegut too. In most of his novels, every single one of Kurt's chapters work as a standalone short story, and I admire that. Everything is short, and sweet, and has a point. Kurt Vonnegut was bigger than fiction. Brautigan too. I can only hope to hold a candle to those men.


Yes, of course. It is bizarre to me that people don't. Vonnegut was the best living author until very recently, as you know, and Brautigan killed himself long, long ago, but I actually mostly read contemporary literature. Very few "classics". I am most excited by things that unfold in front of me, not the books of my grandparents.


It's a little all over the board. I am a big fan of Marilynn Robinson and Jincy Willet, two underrated, talented women. I love the works of Jeffrey Eugenides. Miranda July excites me. Gary Lutz. Jonathan Goldstein. Willy Vlautin. Charles Burns... He does graphic novels, but they amaze me. Junko Mizuno. Jeffrey Brown. Small press people as well, like Kevin Sampsell and Suzanne Burns. Chelsea Martin is worth her weight. Patrick Dewitt seems to be on the right track. I like a lot of writers. I recommend everyone read these people.


I do. More and more. I am working towards making a feature right now, which means making a few shorts beforehand to work out any kinks before we spend the time and money. I like the process. The writing is my favorite part, but it is fun to put these scripts in the hands of other people and have them read my words. I paint and draw as well, so I like to think that I have an eye for composition, but it is the hardest part, for sure. Part of me just wants everyone to look directly at the camera and recite their lines. Part of me wants to play everyone myself. Luckily I work with people who stop me from such nonsense.


I write about a lot of dreadful things. I like to think that everything is funny, that tragedy is comedy, and the worse it gets the better. So I wrote a piece of flash fiction about a group of men defiling a secretary for sport. I liked it when I first wrote it, but the next day it really bothered me. I kept thinking, 'Do I really find this funny?' And the answer was yes, and that, of course, disturbed me. So I just started writing other little stories about the same awful men, constructing a reality in which such a vile crime could be shrugged off. I tried to make it romantic. It's satire, but I wanted there to be real emotion slipping out from these dreadful, over the top characters. I wanted them to love each other, to be willing to die for each other. I may be overselling it, but I just wanted to write a little book about men who want nothing more than to be men, in any way they can; men who romanticize the their fathers, and the old west, and the so-called glory of the white male world. I wanted to write about the worst that men can do in a place that felt familiar, even comfortable, and I feel like I did what I set out to accomplish.


No, not by any means. There is a part of me that likes to poke fun at things. To focus on the absurd, to blow things out of proportion, but it is just a part of me. I tend to focus on families in most of my writing, or failed romance. A lot of friendships in various stages. I write about incest kind of a lot. More than most, for sure. I think it is one of the only real taboos left, sleeping with your relations, and so it intrigues me. Writing about incest allows me to shape familiar tragedies in different ways, giving me the option to reexamine the different roles people play in romantic relationships. It?s funny though, because even though I am proud of my work, writing about incest causes me a lot of anxiety when the holidays come around and my slew of aunts and uncles ask to read what I?ve been working on. I always have to tell them that I haven?t written anything, which is so weird. I should just show them my work and start eating turkey at home.


There are two, actually, who have read my work. My father and my maternal grandfather. My grandpa is my biggest fan. I sent him an early draft of The Family Pernice (yet to be released), a collection of stories about a talent family that is just teeming with incest. He called me up the day that he got it and raved about how much he loved it. I informed him that a lot of the characters were based off of people in our own family, and he said that he knew, that it was fairly apparent. Then he brought up all of the incest, laughing. ?Don?t send that to your aunt Connie.? He is a very funny man. He is a big part of the reason I write at all. He used to read to me a lot as a kid, and he purchased about half of the books that I read between the ages of six and twenty. My father bought the rest. Those two men have done nothing but encourage me. I send them stories about young men making love to women possessed by demons, and at worst they say is stuff like, ?a little rich for my blood, but goddamn it, keep at it?. I love those guys.