by Marie Valentine, editor
In one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure of editing, Ryan Parmenter had me grinning and grimacing while reading Hyperbole, laughing through the bleakness of the comedy. In a dystopian “post-7/11” world, people swallow black boxes that reveal their deepest secrets when they die.
The book reveals and revels in the characters’ hedonistic tendencies, which cause them to mute out and erode their most important relationships. Scrutinizing the absurdity of everyday, the author provides a public service through revealing the contradictions of daily life. It spares nobody and nothing: religion, consumerism, romance, and the main character Harland himself are all punching bags for the literary whiz-bang of Parmenter.
I almost wrote “Palahniuk” in that last sentence, because Chuck’s style echoes eloquently in Parmenter’s prose. The tone was what made me sit up and really take notice of the very dry, dark humor. The jokes come from a place past the point of caring, which is entertaining and exciting while a little scary to imagine. Think: nihilism of Bret Easton Ellis with sociopathic twists of Martin Amis. Absurdism of Vonnegut also comes to mind, but Parmenter is more contemporary humor. He uses some of the best devices of mystery thrillers to create tension, pushing the reader to cliffhanger chapter endings, ready to dive into the next section.
Parmenter graciously took the time to share a little about writing and self-publishing Hyperbole:
Parmenter On Writing
I was forced to keep a daily journal in fourth grade and sort of rebelled against it. I didn’t like my teacher at the time, and I didn’t want her reading my private thoughts, so I purposefully wrote inane drivel and filler. I liked reading sci-fi and horror – tore through a lot of Stephen King in junior high – and tried writing a supernatural murder mystery at age thirteen. Got fifty pages in and my attention span fizzled. In high school, I wrote two-thirds of a Pulp Fiction-esque screenplay, because what writer in 1995 wasn’t doing that? My main takeaway from creative writing courses in college was to make everything count – be as descriptive as you want, as long as it lends something to the story or tone or characters. I’ve written a bunch of poetry I’ll never publish, and I have recorded a lot of music, some with great lyrics and some with stuff that would definitely embarrass me today. These days, if I’m writing poetry or lyrics, minimalism is the key.
Parmenter On Inspiration
I found myself in a job that was dull, depressed by the nightly news, in my thirties and trying to figure out how to be an adult. This was the core for what would become Hyperbole – dissatisfaction and confusion, but a sense that it was all tied together. I called it Hyperbole very early on, because it felt like what my life would become if everything went to the extreme. But it’s also a comedy. I love black comedy – the contrast between the mundane and the insane is always humorous to me. So Harland, the narrator of Hyperbole, is kind of a witty loser, maybe a genius who’s too lazy to achieve anything, and blames the crazy world around him.
Parmenter On Going Indie
As I was finishing Hyperbole and researching publishing and author blogs, I was finding so many horror stories about authors’ protracted efforts to break into mainstream publishing – corrupt agents, apathetic publishing houses, the “print is dead” B.S. I don’t know how much of that stuff is true, but it sounded like a challenge where the frustration could easily outweigh the benefits.
At the same time, the modern ease and availability of self-publishing and increasing ubiquity of tablets made the decision pretty easy for me. I knew from the start that I have a niche market. I’m not writing shirtless-male romance or legal thrillers. I want fans of satire, black comedy, transgressive fiction, and readers who like a good mix of highbrow and lowbrow. So I’ve taken on the challenge of self-publishing, seeking and marketing directly to potential fans with a very limited budget, using social media as the primary point of contact. Marketing is not my strong suit, but I’m giving it a shot. I have also tried to hedge my bets by recording and producing an unabridged audiobook version, in addition to eBook and trade paperback through Amazon/CreateSpace. So with three versions of Hyperbole available and some virtual elbow grease, I’m hoping I can sell some copies!
I’m excited to be part of the ever-growing community of indie authors. So far, I have found that indies are very open to “scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” The level of support and interdependence seems to be high, which I think is great. My only fear about the perception of “indie” is that it will become saturated with half-baked content, and that good stuff will be lost in the clutter. So I’m very much a proponent of taking as much time and care producing work as one would do in a traditional publishing model. I can promise that I’ll only ever publish something I can stand by. Even if what I stand by is pretty eff’ed up.
You can see a sample of the book here.
Read more about the indie book launch, including the audio book creation process, here.
Marie Valentine is honored to have had a part in the project by editing Parmenter’s novel, Hyperbole. She edits literary and genre fiction as well as nonfiction and memoirs for clients submitting to agents as well as self-publishing. To contact her about editing your project, please request her by name in this form.