People tell Andy Parker they can’t imagine what he has been through since the shooting death of his 24-year-old daughter, Alison Parker, on live television.
In his new book “For Alison: The Murder of a Young Journalist and a Father’s Fight for Gun Safety,” “I want them to imagine,” he said. “I want to show people that this is what it’s like. This is what you go through, and this is how you come out on the other side, how you manage your heartache and despair.”
Parker, with the help of Martinsville Bulletin staff writer Ben R. Williams, just has finished writing it, and now the book is in the hands of Apollo Publishing, set to be released March 5.
Alison Parker was a WBDJ7 television reporter who was killed on live television on Aug. 26, 2015, at Smith Mountain Lake. Cameraman Adam Ward was killed, and their interviewee was injured.
‘A hell of a tough write’
“It’s a tough read, and if you think it was a tough read - It was a hell of a tough write,” Parker said. He described it as “a hybrid between a memoir and a current events book.”
In the wake of her death, Parker became a national spokesman on the topic of what he calls “common sense gun legislation.” He defined that as “stuff like universal background checks, banning assault-style weapons, banning high capacity magazines, closing gun-show loopholes. It’s making it more difficult for the wrong people to get their hands on guns.”
He’s been interviewed by many national news outlets, such as CNN, and he wrote commentaries that have been published across the country, such as in USA Today. Around 10 months after her killing, he was ready to write a book, he said.
Roanoke bestselling author Beth Macy suggested he write one a few months after the shooting, but he wasn’t ready at the time, he said. When he was, he got some initial instructions from her agent: Hire someone to write a book proposal to send to various agents.
He contracted with literary agent Laurie Liss, of Sterling Lord Literistic, whose first book was “The Bridges of Madison County,” he said. He requested that Williams write the proposal.
“In four weeks’ time he had a terrific proposal done: a sample chapter, an outline and a synopsis of each chapter,” all in about 25 pages, Parker said.
Meanwhile, since June 2016 Parker has been writing between 500 and 1,000 words each day, he said. He had not written before, until penning op-ed pieces after his daughter’s death got him accustomed to the craft. He consulted such sources as Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style” and “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” by Stephen King.
Though he had hunted as a young man in Texas, he knew very little about the legalities of guns, he said. He threw himself into research on the topic and “learned a lot.”
His wife was his “first editor,” he said. “She helped with the lion’s share of it, but there are places she just couldn’t go.”
He ended up with about 99,000 words, and Williams’ editing pared it down to about 93,000 words, resulting in 336 pages.
“I’m honored to have been a part of this project, but make no mistake, this is Andy’s book through and through,” said Williams. “I look at it as a gemstone; when someone digs up a raw emerald, they take it to a jeweler to cut it and polish it. Everything you see in the finished product was already in the stone; the jeweler just made it look pretty. ... It was amazing before I even came along.”
The book also has 16 pages of photographs.
The agent shopped the proposal around in January, but she, Parker and Williams were surprised by “the reaction she was getting from every publisher— it was dismissive — and we were all mystified,” he said.
“They said ‘We love the story but we can’t touch the subject matter,’” he added.
‘There’s a backstory there’
He remembered one, however, who earlier had shown interest: Julia Abramoff of Apollo Publishing, who told him in 2016 that “‘You’ve got a story here and we want to publish it,’” Parker said.
Apollo’s business model is different from both traditional publishing houses and self-publishing companies, Parker said. The author does not pay anything to get his book published as with a self-publisher, but he also does not receive any advance pay, as with a traditional company. Instead, Apollo publishes the book at its own expense, and Parker will receive royalties from sales, after expenses have been reimbursed. Apollo paid Williams upfront for his editing of the book and the publishing company also provided additional editing services, he added.
“The irony of it is Ben’s the first person who made any money on this book,” Parker chuckled.
Writing the book was cathartic, he said. “I would get up every day knowing this is my job. I’m writing. There were parts of it that were easier than others.”
Said Williams: “I would encourage everyone to read this book, even those who don’t agree with Andy’s message. In fact, I’d say those who don’t agree with Andy are the ones who will get the most out of it. I think you’ll end up with a very different impression than when you started.”
Of the book, Parker said: “I want people to know more about Alison. There’s a backstory there. I want people to know stories about Alison that they never knew. She wasn’t just the smiling face on TV. She was remarkably accomplished. She lived a life in 24 years that most people don’t live in a lifetime.”