My guest today is author Bodie Parkhurst, whose novel, GOOD ON PAPER, is currently blowing me away. GOOD ON PAPER is both disturbing and compelling. From the opening chapter, I was someplace I didn’t want to be, clamped tightly in my car seat by the seamless narration–rather like the characters, in fact.
The characters are, in the best tradition of timeless literature, not heroes and villains but protagonists and antagonists. Parkhurst says she rewrote GOOD ON PAPER five times, from the point of view and in the voice of each of the five main characters. Children, haven’t I told you that every character is the main character of his/her own story, that may or may not be YOUR main character’s story? If I haven’t, I should have. This comes through from the first chapter; people who do things we (or I, at least; you’ll have to speak for yourselves) find creepy or monstrous are clearly frustrated and baffled by disapproval. It’s brilliant writing.
When I read her bio, I had to deconstruct it and ask about it, bit by bit. On future Tuesdays, I’ll post various of my questions and her answers. I hope you enjoy getting to know more about her as much as I do, and I hope you buy and read her wonderful book. Or all of her wonderful books!
Bodie Parkhurst is a writer, artist, and designer. She lives in a Craftsman worker’s cottage named Betty in the empty half of Oregon with the House Leroy, her son Patrick, two formerly-feral Hawaiian cats, and a ghost named Jesús. She has a Master’s degree in English with a minor in Art, got through college by driving a truck and working in a dairy, and believes that no experience in life should be wasted.If nothing else, it provides plot material. She provides cover design typesetting, and print coordination services to various small presses, and self-publishers.
From Bodie Parkhurst’s wonderful blog, where she shares news about her writing, her life, her projects, her printing house (Magic Dog Press) and her family recipes:
Good on Paper
by Bodie Parkhurst
Publication date: May 2010
Buy a book today
Available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions
Published by Magic Dog Press at CreateSpace
Once upon a time, a king named David got the hots for a steamy little number named Bathsheba. Lucky for David, Mr. Bathsheba was busy being one of David’s best generals, so Bathsheba was home all by her lonesome. See where this is heading?
Of course you do. So does Sarah Conrad, reluctant Bible scholar and unwilling paramour of Pastor Jimmy Jay Rayburn, televangelist extraordinaire. It’s a destination she knows all too well. But the destination is only the beginning. Sarah didn’t wind up sleeping with an aging self-described “man of God” by accident. Elaine’s minister husband isn’t divorcing her on a whim. Mute Elizabeth doesn’t vanish in a room full of blood just because, at long last, she has begun talking.
Or does she?
Join Sarah, her sisters Elaine and Elizabeth, and her sister-in-law Jennifer as they unravel how Dan and Gwen Conrad, clean-living, salt-of-the-earth farmers with guaranteed tickets to heaven, have managed to raise such disappointing children—and why someone is angry enough to push Dan Conrad into his own hay chopper and leave him to die.
Good on Paper is a terrifying, hilarious, infuriating, sad, poetic journey one family makes to self-knowledge, as well as a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be “good,” and not just “good on paper.”
Bodie, thank you so much for being my guest today! Don’t be shy, people–ask her questions. She doesn’t bite, and neither does the Magic Dog. If you ask her something she’s already answered to me, I’ll be checking to make sure the answers match. ha!
WRITING PROMPT: Write a multiple-character scene from the point of view of each of the characters in it, with each character seeing it as part of his or her own story. None of this “Holmes is the star and I am his chronicler” stuff.
Bodie PDecember 14, 2010 at 9:48am
Thanks for inviting me to be here, Marian–you run a lovely blog, and I’m glad to be a part of it today.
Marian AllenDecember 14, 2010 at 9:55am
Delighted to have you here. I’m deep into GOOD ON PAPER, and loving every phrase. It’s so insightful! Your talents–in the plural–never cease to amaze me!
Bodie PDecember 14, 2010 at 10:04am
Why, shucks, thank ya kindly, ma’am (ducks head and digs toe into dirt). Actually, I love it that you’re loving the book, even if parts of it are not very likable. I wanted it to be experienced, rather than read.
Marian AllenDecember 14, 2010 at 11:13am
That’s how it is: experienced more than read. I feel as if I understand the kinks and knots abusers of all kinds put into the logic of their prey–and themselves. And it vindicates something I’ve observed in abusers: how often they honestly believe themselves to be good people.
Bodie PDecember 24, 2010 at 12:38am
You’ve hit on a key point, and I’m so glad it’s coming through–abusers often believe themselves to be good people, and good parents. And they sometimes can do kind and loving things–like Dan Conrad putting aside money each year Elizabeth is missing, so if she ever comes back he can make up the birthday and Christmas gifts she’s missed. As terrible as their relationship is, and as much as he’s hurt her, there’s still this little gem of love and caring. I find that heartbreaking, because it’s those little gems of love that keep abused children trapped and coming back for more. In some ways, they’re the cruelest part of the situation, because they keep hope alive. And yet, it would be wrong to dismiss Dan without acknowledging that it lies within him.
Marian AllenDecember 24, 2010 at 9:13am
It’s definitely coming through. I’ve had three daughters who picked emotional abusers before they found healthy relationships, and it’s freaky to see them cooperating in their own control. People are always saying things like, “Anybody who would put up with that crap deserves it,” but they don’t understand. The best thing abusers do is confuse their targets and their target’s support group. Sometimes, they don’t even do it deliberately and with calculation. Sometimes they honestly believe, as you said, that they’re the good guys and that THEY’RE the victims!
You’re doing a frighteningly great job of depicting that without having to explain it. I’ve never seen anybody do it better. Now I’ve got to buy a paper copy of GOOD ON PAPER so I can pass it around.
Bodie PDecember 24, 2010 at 3:16pm
Thank you–I wanted to convey the complexity of the experience, and how it contributes to so many people “cooperating in their own control,” as you put it. The reality is that in most cases without that cooperation abusers couldn’t continue to abuse. (I’m not talking about young children here, who are pretty much powerless.) That confusion of love and cruelty is absolutely central to the experience. There has to be something good and lovely to keep luring the victim back within boot and fist range.
Nancy WilliamsDecember 14, 2010 at 10:48am
So timely…here is Bodie and Marian together. The BBT Cafe won’t let me in again. Ugh! I posted the book cover Bodie…today and as Marian already knows I have a blog award for her.
My character says, “Greetings earthlings.” He looks around to see a man by a bushel of carrots.
Man by carrots says, “You green guys eat carrots.”
Okay, I know that was lame.
P.S. Bodie, I will host you too. I have a couple days next week available or the week after if you like.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author
Marian AllenDecember 14, 2010 at 11:15am
Nancy, thanks for stopping by, and thank you again for the award! I’ll announce it here on Thursday, probably, since tomorrow is Food Day here.
“You green guys eat carrots.” Sheesh! ~grin~
Bodie PDecember 14, 2010 at 11:35am
Hey, thanks, Nancy! I’d love to visit your blog–let me know what you need. And the book cover looks amazing on your blog. Here’s hoping it sells you lots of books.
MARIAN ALLEN · Sally the HouseDecember 21, 2010 at 8:14am
[…] Last week, my guest on Tuesday was Bodie Parkhurst, author of the it-just-gets-better-every-chapter GOOD ON PAPER. I send her some interview questions based on her biography, and her answers were so satisfyingly complete I decided to post them separately. […]
MARIAN ALLEN · Leroy and JesusDecember 28, 2010 at 8:26am
[…] Here is her first appearance with me and here is her second appearance with me. […]