Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Interview with Joanne Parsons - Author of "Predator in the House"

A couple of days ago, I introduced you to the book "Predator in the House," by Joanne Parsons. Today, we get to go in-depth and learn about her in today's AUTHOR INTERVIEW.  This book isn't glorifying sex trafficking, in fact, it is the opposite as she hopes to raise the awareness of the public to this crime. Parsons has also declared that she will be donating the first $1,000 or proceeds to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Predator in the House Kindle Edition

Dr. Mel's Review

"Predator in the House is dynamic and compelling. It grabs you from the first word and doesn’t let you go until the very end."

Joanne Parsons is fulfilling a commitment she made to herself during her career in healthcare. “I wrote Predator in the House as an entertaining and intriguing crime novel to raise awareness of child sex trafficking.” She is standing behind her commitment, and is donating the first one-thousand dollars in pre-order sales proceeds to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Parsons began writing after being widowed and retiring. She is author of two historical fiction novels, award-winning, Kitchen Canary, and its sequel Through the Open Door.

Predator in the House is not a grim story of a trafficked child.” Parsons balanced the dark subject of child sex trafficking with humor. “It’s a fast-moving cat and mouse game between a dysfunctional married couple. Karl Shea is searching for a missing child, his wife, Shirley, murders for the thrill. Their shared motivation to kill sex offenders is their only bond and ties them together until the very end.”

Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review, recently previewed the novel“Readers who like a good investigative piece accompanied by broader social and ethical issues will find Predator in the House a provocative novel about sex offenders under close inspection, children who vanish into a sordid world, and how a couple's fixation on ‘the kill’ changes their lives and values.”

The eBook edition of Predator in the House is available on Amazon at the pre-order price of $.99 until September 7, 2020. Each purchase will contribute to a donation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Joanne C. Parsons

Tell your readers a little about yourself, where you grew up, where you live now, where you went to school etc. Let them get to know the personal you.

I’m a Baby Boomer, from a post-war family with seven children, who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just west of Harvard Square. As a teenager, I wore sandals and T-shirts, but never quite made the transition to a real Hippie. I credit my English writing skills to the Catholic school education I got right through high school.

I was on my own after high school and got a job as the ‘mimeograph girl’ in a hospital owned by a large health system. Recognizing the need for an advanced degree, I earned my college degree as an adult single mom with two small children and a full-time job when I was in my mid-thirties.

Over the years, I remarried, and advanced professionally with the health system, finishing my career as the CEO for two assisted living residences in Cambridge and Lexington, Massachusetts. Sadly, my second husband passed away as I was planning to retire.

I began writing books as a way to immerse myself in something other than grief and loneliness. Kitchen Canary and its sequel, Through the Open Door, were my first novels. Writing them introduced me to new experiences like book fairs, festivals, library appearances, presenting at book clubs, and book signings.

Jim, also widowed, came into my life as I was finishing Kitchen Canary, and just two years ago, married me despite having to read endless drafts of my books.  We have a home on a pond on Cape Cod. Collectively, we have five adult children and ten grandkids. Summers are especially busy as they all visit and enjoy making Cape Cod memories.

What inspired you to author Predator in the House?

I worked for a health system that owned and operated hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living residences. Part of our continuing education was to learn about the signs of children being abused or trafficked who present in emergency rooms or doctors’ offices. I found the stories of these children so compelling I vowed to do something to raise awareness. At first, I thought about volunteering, and then it occurred to me that a book that raised awareness would touch many more people than I could alone. Although my first two novels are historical fiction, I wrote Predator in the House as a crime suspense novel, intending some of the scenarios in the book would educate and inform the reader.

Where did you get the inspiration for your book’s cover?

I searched a lot of stock photos. I didn’t want the cover to be grim and sad, as many readers would not want to read a book on such a dark subject matter. Predator in the House actually has a lot of humor in it as the two main characters, a loveless married couple, spar, and scheme against each other. The girl on the cover is looking over her shoulder, hopefully conveying we need to be aware of predators.

Who has been the most significant influence on you personally and as a writer?

Wow, that one makes me think. My mother died when I was fourteen years old, leaving seven children between the ages of five months and fifteen. The going was rough at times, but I have to say, there were wonderful, caring women who reached out to our family and to me personally as I grew into an adult. The compassion and kindness of women I encountered on my journey to adulthood influenced my development as a person.

I always loved literature and writing and took many night college courses in American Literature and Journalism. I developed an interest in writing fiction the winter after I retired. I went to Florida for several months and thought about joining a grief group, but instead, put on my big girl pants and joined a writers’ group. Several people in that group saw my ability and encouraged me to expand my short story about an Irish immigrant into a book. That’s how Kitchen Canary was created. I am still in a virtual writers’ group with those same people today. They patiently and consistently pushed me for the last three years as I wrote Predator in the House.

What were your struggles or obstacles you had to overcome to get this book written?

I tend to rush through everything, and you can’t rush a book. The story has to develop and evolve, and you have to commit to do the hard work. My writers’ group friends pushed me to dig deep and give the book more depth. I went back and developed one of the characters at a late stage in the book at their encouragement, and that has made the book so much more interesting.

Many of the scenarios or incidents in the book come from my own experiences or from stories told at conferences I attended about vulnerable children being lured into the underworld of sex trafficking.

Tell your readers about your book.

Predator in the House is a sometimes laugh out loud novel about a dysfunctional married couple who find themselves bonded by one mutual interest.

Karl Shea is a retired detective from Boston’s Sex Crimes Unit who is searching for a missing, probably abducted child. He’s also a well-intentioned serial killer, focusing exclusively on sex offenders. His wife, Shirley, is duplicitous and complex, and when she learns of Karl’s guilty pleasure, she insists on getting involved. She wants to write crime novels and is sure the firsthand experience of killing a person will stir her creative juices. They play a cat and mouse game, as they scheme against each other and the police. Karl finds the road to the missing girl leads him close to home.

Who is your target audience, and why?

Predator in the House is a good crime suspense novel. The characters unfold throughout the book, and in some cases, their real truths are not revealed until the very end. The characters are complex and relatable and will evoke smiles and chuckles when readers recognize traces of themselves in them.

A by-product of the book is awareness. The reader will learn through the characters’ experiences the dangers of predators surfing the Internet, intending to lure vulnerable children. They’ll come to understand the signs of a child being abused or neglected and how to intervene.

Ultimately, Predator in the House is a good read for people who like a great mystery, and for parents, childcare and healthcare workers, or others who interact with children.

If you were going to give one reason for anyone looking at your book to read, why should they buy it?

I love a book I can’t put down, one that captures me from the beginning and sweeps me away into its story. Predator in the House is that book. You’ll want to curl up alone and follow the colorful, complicated characters, and when you’re not reading Predator in the House, you’ll be thinking about it and looking forward to getting back to it.

What do you consider your greatest success in life?

I suppose I should say raising my children or surviving some of life’s challenges. However, truly, in my job as CEO of two assisted living residences, it was my responsibility to influence the culture of the organizations. That culture, focused on dignity and compassion for the residents and the employees, contributed to an enjoyable experience for hundreds of people during the last years of their lives. The elderly are vulnerable, regardless of their socioeconomic level. They are often lonely, depressed, exploited, and even fearful. Having led organizations that provided a positive experience for staff and residents is my greatest accomplishment in life.

What one unique thing sets you apart from other writers in your genre?

I am a deeply empathetic person. If your house is on the market and not selling, I think I should buy it, just to ease your anxiety. My writing reflects my ability to empathize with the characters I create, whether they are bad or good guys. I seem to be able to understand their pain and what drives them.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I marinate. When I’m stuck, I let it sit in my brain and marinate for a while. Eventually, an idea will surface. Another technique I developed writing Kitchen Canary when I was alone most of the time, is going to bed early and just lying there, thinking about my characters and what drives them. Again, often an idea comes.

What one piece of advice do you have for new authors.

I’d recommend being involved in a writers’ group. My fellow authors are all in other states, but we email frequently. We are gentle, but also frank, giving each other feedback. We all credit each other with improving our work.

Tell your readers anything else you want to share.

I’m grateful I discovered this love of writing at this stage of my life. The greatest joy is knowing others enjoyed reading one of my books. I’ve been told several times, my books brought people back to reading. It’s my gift to you. Thank you.