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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC alumnus writes about unexpected kinship in latest novel

Courtesy of Linnie Greene.

Courtesy of Linnie Greene.

When two people — both fighting to escape their desperate histories — cross paths at a used car parking lot, an unexpected kinship grows between them. 

This relationship is the subject of Michael Parker's  sixth and latest novel “All I Have in This World,” which he will be reading from at Flyleaf Books  Tuesday night.  

The novel, published by Algonquin Books, will officially hit shelves Tuesday. The story follows two characters, Maria and Marcus, and their encounter in western Texas. Despite only meeting for the first time, they both agree to pull together their funds to buy a 20-year-old, sky blue Buick Electra.

Parker said he really wanted to work through the idea of two strangers deciding to buy a car together. His main motivation in writing these characters was to find out what would happen after they decided to share a car.

“I don’t know where my books come from, except that this one came from an image I had of a man and a woman who were strangers who meet in a used car lot and decide, after knowing each other for an hour, that they were going to buy a car together,” he said.

“That’s all I had. That’s all I ever have really is an image or sketchy scenario, and then I write the book to find out why people would do such a crazy thing.”  

Parker, a UNC alumnus, is currently a professor in the Master of Fine Arts writing program at UNC- Greensboro. Parker said he began writing his latest book in the fall of 2010, with the first draft only taking about a month to write.

“I wrote the first draft in 28 days, which is insane, because it usually takes me anywhere from a year or two years to write a draft of a book. But it just came really quickly,” he said.

This innovation is largely what drove Flyleaf owner Jamie Fiocco to host Parker. Fiocco said Parker is unique because he is a literary professor, making him able to give others an interesting perspective on the writing process.

“He is an accomplished author. It’s a real treat when someone is both a writer and teaches writing,” she said.

“Sometimes people write and they are just good at writing, but I think in this case Michael is really good at explaining his methods and also how he develops his characters and his story. It’s a really good opportunity for folks who are interested in either just reading better or writing better.” 

Kathy Pories , senior editor at Algonquin Books, has worked with Michael in revising and editing his last four novels. Pories said she has come to appreciate his writing style over the years, as well as the attention to detail he has in his writing.

“We have been publishing Michael Parker for many books now because we think he is an incredible writer and a great storyteller,” Pories said.

“He has a great sense of attention to each and every sentence, and then he has a great sense of rhythm, so they all kind of fit together.”

Parker said he hopes his writing will be able to motivate readers to ask questions about the world around them.

“I think my job as a writer, as (Anton) Chekhov said, is to ask questions, not answer them,” Parker said.

“What I want the reader to take away from any of the books that I write is to ask questions about how we treat each other and how we can be better people,” he said. 

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