When our very own Suzi Parker isn’t writing about politics in the south, breaking news, cultural trends or her beloved Duran Duran, she’s been hard at work on her third book — her first novel Echo Ellis: Adventures of a Girl Reporter.
But I wondered why Suzi chose to write fiction this time, after writing two successful non-fiction books, so she agreed to answer a few questions about her foray into the world of becoming a novelist. Plus we have the honor of the first excerpt of Echo Ellis exclusively for readers of The Broad Side!
Obviously if you like this literary appetizer, there’s more where that came from!
So, Suzi ….
JB: What inspired you to write this book? It’s your first novel, right?
SP: The idea came to me years ago when I would have these adventures that I knew would never make it into print. I thought it would be interesting to tell what happens behind the scenes when a reporter is chasing a story. Often the back-story and the capers that occur chasing leads are much more interesting than actual big story.
It is my first novel. It took me years to write it, and it had many incarnations. I had to plot out the book because you really do have to know where your character is going to end up in the end. I have volumes of notes on where I wanted her to go and who she would meet along the way. I probably know more about Echo than I know about myself.
JB: Is Echo modeled after anyone, real or fictional?
SP: She’s a bit my alter ego mixed with a hint of Emma Peel from the 1960s British television show “The Avengers,” Lara Croft, Nancy Drew and Lois Lane. She loves music as much as I do, and she suffers constantly from wanderlust, again a lot like me. And she finds herself in trouble frequently.
JB: What kind of research did you have to do?
SP: The book takes place in Arkansas and Mississippi, places that I know very well, but I had to research about China because there is an Asian twist in the plot. I also researched technical terms related to the plot, which I don’t want to give away but there was a lot of research to make sure I had all of it correct.
Without further adieu, the blogosphere premier of Echo Ellis: Adventures of a Girl Reporter:
I’m not your typical Southern belle.
I’ll pass on pastels, pantyhose, or pearls. Pampered Chef parties don’t rev my engine. Pomegranate martinis, forget about it. I prefer beer. Or whiskey. Straight.
Marriage is not in my list of Top Twenty things to do before I die. Hell, to me, equals a fortieth wedding anniversary. Instead of planning a wedding, I’d rather fly a MiG over Russia, ride an elephant in Thailand, discover a murder on the Orient Express, sleep with a real-life James Bond, or hop onto a rock band’s touring entourage.
My name is Echo Ellis. I’m journalist-for-hire who chases stories and yeah, occasionally, men – if they can hold my attention for more than five minutes. It’s amazing how many can’t.
The next big story keeps me going. For me, it’s sometimes better than an orgasm. I heart corrupt politicians, slimy businessmen, brilliant art thieves, crafty con artists, sneaky polluters, diabolical scientists, and anyone else who lacks the ability to do the right thing. To expose these bastards, you have to be stealthy, callous, and smart. Don’t get too friendly with them. Sure, share a beer but God forbid, don’t sleep with one of them. A lot of reporters do. Journalist Code of Ethics clearly states: Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. I’m fairly gung ho on ethics and the First Amendment.
There was never a time in my life when I wanted to be anything but a reporter. Okay, I flirted for ten seconds with fashion designing in seventh grade but drawing didn’t come naturally. Being nosey did. Who, what, when, where, why, and how became as entwined in my life as passport stamps and rock music. My parents dragged me around the world more than once, and we always had the ideal mix-tape for the adventure.
I watched all the old movies about reporters. His Girl Friday. All the President’s Men. Network. My dad even found old copies of Lou Grant on VHS and gave them to me one Christmas. Smoky newsrooms, curmudgeon editors, looming deadlines – it seemed like the most glamorous romantic life ever. Reporters worked hard and played hard. It was a world I wanted to be a part of badly.
Journalism isn’t quite like the movies these days. Newsrooms aren’t filled with cigarette-puffing reporters because of anti-smoking laws. Editors can’t be as rude because of employee lawsuits. Newspapers. Well, we know what’s happening there. They’re dying. Still, Reporterland is an adventurous life if you don’t have to worry about an employee handbook. Luckily, I don’t.
Being brash and bold doesn’t always serve a girl reporter well in the prim and proper good ol’ boy South. That’s when batting the eyelashes, drawling out the words like “sugah”, and swishing the hips work to my advantage. If I have to wear a Laura Ashley sundress to get the story, well, okay, even I won’t go that far.
A good story will present itself in the most unlikely of places – a bar at midnight, a psychic’s lair, a craps table, the backyard. A sixth sense sounds, like a tornado siren, immediately followed by the five W’s and the H swirling in my head. Before you know it, I’ve got notepad and pen in hand and the questions are flying.
Sometimes the story clicks with just a flirty encounter. Like the one you’re about to read. If I’ve learned anything in journalism, the story behind uncovering the story is often more thrilling than what ends up published.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly want to know what Echo Ellis will be up to in this book …. and more to come!
Image courtesy Suzi Parker