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Interview: Christopher Parker talks about The Lighthouse

Christopher Parker talk to NZ Booklovers about his debut novel, The Lighthouse, that was ten years in the making.

Tell us a little about The Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse centres around Amy, a young woman grieving the loss of her mother, and the journey she takes to the mysterious town of Seabrook where she encounters Ryan, the loyal, hardworking son of a ranch owner who lives on the outskirts of town.

The two of them strike up a connection and quickly forge a deep bond, but it soon becomes apparent that neither Ryan–nor the town of Seabrook–are what they appear to be.

The story has a little bit of everything–mystery, romance, adventure–but at its heart it’s a mystical tale about a young woman’s journey through grief.

What inspired you to write this book?

It started off as just a simple idea about a father and daughter, disconnected from each other after a tragic loss, who travel to this cute town and have a transformative experience. My daughter had been born a couple of years earlier and so I think that’s where the initial motivation came from, but then I had the idea of incorporating a lighthouse into the story and everything changed from that point. Then the story became much bigger and grander in scope (and consequently it took me a lot longer than I ever thought it would to complete the manuscript!).

What research was involved?

One of the characters has suffered a stroke and horses feature quite prominently, so there was a bit of research involved as my knowledge in these areas is limited–but other than that I was free to write from imagination. Creating Seabrook was especially fun. Being able to construct a town from scratch, invent the geography, the buildings, the people, and come up with a myth surrounding its lighthouse was probably the easiest and most enjoyable part of the whole writing experience.

What was your routine or process when writing this novel?

I didn’t have a very structured routine–I just tried to fit in writing whenever I could. It’s a long process and so to keep sane I tried not to fixate on reaching ‘the end’, and I didn’t set myself writing targets or word count goals either. As long as I made some progress forward on the manuscript each time I sat down to write, then I knew at some point I would inevitably finish the thing.

If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

That’s a tricky one. One of the main characters loves country music, so whatever soundtrack the book had would have to include an old-fashioned country ditty... playing from a cassette tape (you’ll need to read the book to catch that reference!)

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

If I were the casting director and money was no object, I’d be grabbing Bradley Cooper to play Kevin, Sienna Miller to play his wife, and Lukas Hedges to play Ryan. As for the main character, Amy, I’m not really sure–perhaps an unknown? Whoever played her would have to have great acting chops because that character has a LOT to do.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

Looking back, the most satisfying aspect was how much I was able to learn. It started off nine years ago with a very basic idea and no knowledge of the craft of producing a novel whatsoever, and somehow, through trial and error, multiple drafts, hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of words, I managed to make it through to the other side and create something I’m very proud of. The actual writing of the book was a roller coaster and not always enjoyable, but the sense of pride at finally completing it has made the journey very worthwhile.

What did you do to celebrate finishing The Lighthouse?

I haven’t formally celebrated yet as I’m waiting for publication day. A good friend bought me a bottle of port, which he thought was a very authorly drink, so I plan to have a wee tipple on the eve of release!

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I’ve recently gotten into non-fiction and Billy Bryson’s “One Summer” has been a highlight. It explores the events that took place over one summer in America in 1927 and it really does transport you back to that time. From the meteoric rise of Lindbergh (and his subsequent downfall), Babe Ruth, Al Capone, the beginnings of what would ultimately lead to the financial collapse, the birth of the ‘talkies’–it truly was a pivotal period in history. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’ve written a children’s book about a wayward, mischievous dog that’s been illustrated with over 100 amazing pictures by Karl Whiteley, and hopefully that should be out sometime next year. In terms of my next adult fiction novel, that’s being outlined now and I hope to get stuck into writing that once The Lighthouse is finally out in the world.


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