Michael Parker woke up one night with the image of a man and a woman meeting in a used car lot fresh in his mind. But that was it. So what then? “I did what I always do when writing anything: I asked myself, over and over, in as many ways as the question can be applied, Why?” Get to know Parker and some of the whys behind his new novel, All I Have in This World.
The risk that Marcus and Maria take, in deciding to buy a car together after knowing each other for less than an hour, is astounding. Do you feel there’s a benefit to taking a risk like this?
To be honest, I would not do this myself. But so much of developing credible, dynamic characters is thinking about what you might do in a certain situation and then having the character do the opposite. In their case, the risk is certainly worth it, as it saves them both. All human relationships are risky, because they involve a level of trust—not only in your instincts, but in the belief that the bond you’re making will turn out to be mutually beneficial. It’s quite possible to live your life without taking risks, but I’ve already written that character, more than once.
I set it first in North Carolina, but it felt obvious to me, and stale. I was writing the novel while in West Texas. I have been living part-time in Central Texas for some time, and when I switched the setting to West Texas—a landscape that is always shifting and revealing itself anew, even though, to the innocent eye, it may look the same: rocks, dust, cacti—the novel took off. I suppose my adopting this landscape was a huge risk, and since the novel is about risk, it seemed fitting, if not inevitable.
This novel has a lot to say about the power of a deep friendship, and it almost privileges that over the power of a love affair. Was that your intention?
At an early point in the first draft, I discovered that Marcus and Maria not becoming lovers was not only the right decision for them but the thing that saves them. And I have written far too many books and stories about failed love: boy-meets-girl/loses-girl/loses-weight/loses-his-mind. I never set out to write a book with what people call “a happy ending,” but there is so much struggle in this book, so much to overcome, that their trust in each other, though hard-earned, becomes more powerful than a romantic relationship.