Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Conversation with I.J. Parker

Award-winning author Ingird (I. J.) Parker was born in Munich, Germany, and arrived in the U.S. in 1960 to marry her Texan husband while a student at the University of Munich. They met at a  school dance organized by American exchange students. By then she had been exposed to American culture via books and magazines, and was fascinated by all things American. During the 1980s, she was a professor of English and Foreign Languages in Virginia, and started writing as a hobby.

 Ingrid, why did you decide to write mysteries?

 I loved mysteries and had enjoyed the Van Gulik Judge Dee series. Doing the same thing for Japan was a challenge, but at the time no one else was writing historical mysteries about Japan. Rowland’s books came a decade later.
Why did you set your novels during the eleventh and twelfth centuries?

I’ve always had an interest in history and literature. The eleventh century is the time when Japan’s literature blossomed, and there was a good deal of cultural material available. Also, Japanese customs during the time were still heavily influenced by Tang China. There are some obvious similarities between my setting and Van Gulik’s.
Has your independent publishing been successful?

As to the success:  My sales are still modest, but I earn more now than I did when I was traditionally published. As to why: I lost my third publisher over contract negotiations. Their two-book offer was ruinous for me, and I declined. More importantly: I now have control over my books.  That includes their content, cover art, release times, and promotion.  And I have a lot less stress. Also, I can publish other novels and my short stories.  Almost all of my short stories have appeared previously in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and won me a Shamus Award in 2001, but a story is dead as soon as the magazine is off the shelves. Now the stories live again and are selling well, proof that there is interest in short fiction, something publishers have always denied.
How do you promote your books and have you found social media outlets helpful in marketing?

I don’t like social media and do as little as possible in that area. I promote very little, having found that I cannot spare the time from writing more books. It’s to be hoped that the books will eventually pay off. Another aspect of my doing very little promoting is that this usually involves massive giveaways of books or selling novels for less than 3.99. This undervalues my books.  I’d rather settle for fewer sales.
Tell us about your latest release.

The last release was THE EMPEROR’S WOMAN in November of last year. My protagonist Akitada, a nobleman in the ministry of justice with a taste for criminal cases, becomes involved in the apparent suicide of an imperial concubine at the private home of one of the princes. The court suppressed what turned out to be murder in order to cover up a scandalous affair.
How do you research your novels?

I use both primary and secondary sources. The Internet is not useful for my subject matter. By now I’ve been at it for so long and have accumulated so much material that the process is less onerous than it was for the early novels, which took me years to finish.
Advice for fledgling historical mystery novelists?

I believe in doing the research via primary and scholarly sources. That goes also for better known settings and eras than mine.  Nothing looks more amateurish than a novel cobbled together with a smattering of historical events and facts that frequently contain bad errors or lack all local color or cultural details.

I also believe in working hard at one’s chosen profession. Electronic publishing has made it much too easy to publish material that isn’t ready for public consumption. And of course, books should be sufficiently edited to eliminate the more appalling grammar and diction errors.

Your social media links?

I do very little on FaceBook: is a listing of my books on Amazon’s Author page: and this is my web site:


Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Ingrid. It's good to have you visit here this week.

I.J.Parker said...

Thanks, Jean. It looks very nice.
I look forward to comments. :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this blog post and wish you much success, Ingrid.

Mary Arnett

Naomi Hirahara said...

Love I.J. and her work! May she continue to prosper. And she is active on Crimespace. I see her posts there all the time.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I agree, Naomi. She's a writer to reckon with.