Carolyn Parkhurst does not do things the easy way; breaking convention and surpassing expectations seem to be more of her forte. Ostensibly her first book, The Dogs of Babel, was about a husband grieving after his wife dies. But as the man works with the dog, the only possible witness to her death, he tries to teach it to speak.
As he struggles, the reader can’t help but be drawn into this wild, original premise and root for the man and the dog to communicate. It led to one of the more interesting book discussions I’ve attended.
In the interview below I ask Mrs. Parkhurst if she had any concern about using a reality show as part of the premise for her second book. I am sure I am not the only one who groaned upon learning that the plot involved a fictional reality show called Lost and Found, worried she had suffered from the dreaded sophomore slump that has done in many a novelist. The reality, though, is this book is also quite original in many ways.
Now I’ll let my questions and her answers speak for themselves.
This book is quite a departure from The Dogs of Babel. Was that an intentional choice to avoid getting classified as, say, a writer who specializes in novels about dogs?
Well, I suppose I did make a deliberate decision not to put any dogs in my second novel, but the differences between the two books are more a result of my wanting to try something new. I start to feel stuck if I revisit the same subject matter too often; challenging myself to do something different helps keep me excited about the process.
How much research did you do for this book as far as watching reality shows? And which came first, the watching of the shows so you can better create your book, or the realization that you can use the shows you watched to help structure a book?
When you’re talking about watching reality shows, “research” is a bit of an exaggeration. I’m a fan of TV in general, and I’ve certainly watched my share of reality shows, so that’s the piece that came first. Like a lot of people, I like the drama of reality shows — even though a lot of them aren’t very good, and there are questions about how “real” they really are, part of the fun lies in the idea that you’re watching events that might actually have an effect on someone’s life. I thought that the drama and structure of a reality show, along with the fact that I’d be placing my characters in an intense, pressure-cooker-type environment, would provide a good backbone for a novel.