A Conversation with Camille Parke

When did you start writing?

I didn’t start writing until I was at university, though at the time I only took my academic writing seriously. I love words and have always composed stories in my head. It never occurred to me until recently that I should write them down for other people to read.  As a Social Anthropologist, I put most of my energy into academic writing. Now that I’m no longer working as an academic, I’m learning to redirect that energy into creative writing.

 

What’s your novel called?

Near Miss

 

Tough question: sum up your novel in three sentences.

This novel explores the role of chance, the choices we make, and the unintended consequences of our actions. Through their different experiences, Tiffany, a homeless former Merry Prankster, and Juan, the family gardener, help Tess to navigate a life lived at the margins of reality. There, that was only two sentences!

 

Genre?

Literary book club fiction

 

What are the themes?

Choices, chance, the nature of reality and the randomness of existence.

 

Who is your protagonist?

Tess Quinn at age 12, 22 and 32.

 

Tell us a bit about the setting.

The story is told in three parts. We first meet Tess as a lonely and isolated school girl in 1979 suburban Los Angeles. Ten years later, we rejoin Tess as she graduates from the University of California, Berkeley. The final section takes place in Washington, DC at the turn of the millennium. Each part of Tess’s story is told against an ‘end of an era’ backdrop – the death of the hippie and the economic upheaval of the 1970s; the end of the Cold War in 1989; and the last days of the 20th century.

 

What was your favourite part of the MA?

Reading my fellow students’ work and listening to their feedback on mine. I found it incredibly stimulating to be surrounded by such talented people. Being a party to their creative process fed positively into my own. It was my most productive period in recent years.

 

What are you reading right now?

I just finished reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. Not something I would have chosen myself, but selected by a member of my book group. After a bit of difficulty getting into it, I found I really enjoyed the story and characters, especially Eli. Didn’t like the ending, though.

 

Name some authors that have a similar style to yours.

I am a big admirer of Donna Tartt. A tutor once compared my style to hers. I was very flattered.