RON PARSONS is a writer living in Sioux Falls. Born in Michigan and raised in South Dakota, he was inspired to begin writing fiction in Minneapolis while attending the University of Minnesota. His short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and venues, including The Gettysburg Review, Indiana Review, Storyville App, The Briar Cliff Review, Flyway, and The Onion. His debut collection of stories, THE SENSE OF TOUCH, was released by Aqueous Books in 2013.
You can visit his website at http://ronparsonswriter.com/ or http://www.aqueousbooks.com/author_pages/24_parsons.htm.
Can you tell us who or what was the inspiration behind your book, The Sense of Touch?
When I was attending college in Minneapolis, a friend of mine loaned me copies of two short story collections: “Like Life” by Lorrie Moore and “The Watch” by Rick Bass. I think I read both books on consecutive nights and they really affected me. I thought they were just perfect; collections of small, brilliant gems. I resolved that someday, somehow, I would publish a short story collection of my own. It took a long time and a lot of good fortune, but eventually I was able to make it happen.
The theme of “The Sense of Touch” is the importance of connecting with others and how we are inevitably changed, for better or worse, by those encounters. The book’s epigraph is from a wonderful Wallace Stevens poem called “It Must Change,” and the cover, designed by my publisher Cynthia Reeser, depicts a butterfly, which is a symbol of transformation.
Is this your first published book and if so, can you tell us your experiences in finding a publisher for it?
This is my first publication. I started by submitting short stories to literary reviews. After many rejections, a few acceptances began to trickle in. My first true success was placing “Hezekiah Number Three” in the Spring 2008 edition of The Gettysburg Review.
When I felt that I had enough good stories to try to publish a collection, I began submitting the manuscript to potential literary agents. Those that responded politely recommended that I try contacting independent publishing houses directly. Almost randomly, I chose ten publishers, sent off the manuscript, and then forced myself to forget about it. It took almost a year, but the first to respond was Aqueous Books with an offer to publish my debut collection.
Where do you live and if I were coming to town, where would we go to talk books?
I live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a beautiful, growing metropolis located in the fertile Missouri River Valley at the gateway to the Great Plains of North America. When you come to visit me here, we will first stop to browse at Zandbroz Variety, a great independent bookstore located on Phillips Avenue in our historic downtown, and then we’ll settle in at one of the nearby cafés and find a table outside in the sun. So be sure not to visit in January!
When you’re not writing, what do you do to relax and have fun?
I like softball and baseball. I like to read. And I really traveling. I especially love to take plenty of quick trips to other cities to catch a particular concert, play, or sporting event that I want to see. And I love dogs.
Do you make a living off your books or do you have another job?
I wish! Actually, I am an appellate attorney, a job that I love very much. I spend most of my working hours reading, writing, and crafting arguments. And every now and then, I get to present oral argument before an appellate court, usually either in Pierre, where the South Dakota Supreme Court is located, or in St. Paul or St. Louis, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has its chambers. I once had a First Amendment case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where I was privileged to sit at counsel’s table with Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, who argued the case. I remember all of the black-robed Justices walking into the vast marble-columned courtroom, and after we were instructed to sit, I found that I was looking directly into face of the great Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who gave me a warm and reassuring smile. But that didn’t stop her from voting against our client!
In your opinion, what makes a good book great?
In my opinion, a book is great when it stays with you and comforts you with wisdom and companionship long after you set it down.
Psychologists tell us the thing we think we’d most like to grow up to be when we’re ten years old is our avocation. What did you want to be?
Almost throughout my entire childhood, I wanted to be a cartoonist. I could always be found drawing both at home and during school. I wanted to be the next Gary Larson. I continued to draw “Far Side” or New Yorker type cartoons well into college. A few of my single-panel cartoons were syndicated in a feature called “The New Breed” and appeared in newspapers across the country, including one that was published in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Times. But after entering law school, I just never had enough time to do that and continue to write fiction, which I decided was my true passion.
Can you give us a short excerpt from your book?
They were relaxing at the top of a waterfall, in a small, still pool where the mountain waters hit an upward slope of folded granite. It was sort of a rounded bathtub, carved out of the rock throughout the centuries by the rushing river, a river so hidden that it was without a name. Just below were the falls, about a 30-foot drop into another, much larger pool of clearest water that was gathered for a respite, a compromise in the river’s relentless schedule downward, between split-level decks of flat rock. Further on, the river reanimated and released into a sharp ravine, pulling westward, down through the rugged mountains and faceless forest – the Black Hills National Forest – gaining force until it joined with the rush of the Castle River, near the old Custer Trail, and was swallowed into the Deerfield Reservoir to collect and prepare for the touch of man.
From “The Black Hills” in The Sense of Touch.
What’s next for you?
I am continuing to work on short stories to submit to literary views. It’s the form of writing that connects with me most. But I am also in the process of trying to develop a novel. Thank you for this opportunity. I am grateful to you and your readership for having me here.