Interview with Tiffany Pitts, Author of Parallax

10 Nov 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, Parallax?

Parallax follows the story of Kix Welty. Kix is a pizza delivery driver who accidentally learned how to teleport. She’s not very good at it yet and so she’s practicing, trying to get better. When a friend’s kid goes missing, she steps up to help – just as soon as she can figure out how to teleport to a place she’s never been, without going insane or getting lost in the multiverse. Easy peasy.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

A stray cat and Stephanie Meyer (but not in the way you think).

I didn’t always want to be a writer. For the first 32 years, I wanted to be a botanist. Who knows why? I sure don’t. It was fulfilling, but in a very structured way, I guess. It wasn’t until I was well away from school that I realized writing, without the chunky Latin and passive voice, is actually quite fun.

Then we moved to this house near a swamp and I met the neighborhood bruiser, a massive tank of a cat who appeared to have been stitched together from spare cat parts. He clearly had no fixed address and that seemed to suit him just fine. On sunny days, he would hang out on our back porch, sleeping in the sun. He was the reason we never had any swamp rats in our yard so I let him sleep wherever he wanted. And on my hour-long commute to the lab, I would make up stories about him in my head.

Then one day, I discovered that Stephanie Meyer and I were born on the same day (same day, same year). And that made me rethink a lot of things. There I was, slogging through science every day and there she was making up weird vampire stories. That made me mad! I CAN DO THAT TOO, Y’KNOW. And then I realized I wasn’t mad, I was jealous. Why did she get to write stuff and I didn’t? So, I sat down and wrote Double Blind. There are no vampires. But there is a massive, ill-tempered cat.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett (I cry every time.)

To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis (I love this concept so much.)

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, John LeCarre (I have read this 14 times and still don’t know all the details.)

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin (Mr. Darcy, will you ever learn?)

The House on Haunted Hill, by Shirley Jackson (The quintessential ghost story by which I judge all other ghost stories)

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

I would definitely like to get Connie Willis up there and ask her some writing tips, see what her days are like. She seems like a kindred spirit. And Shirley Jackson. I know she’s already gone but I have a zillion questions for her. I bet we she’d be cool communicating via Ouija board.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

Hanging out with the characters I love so much. Many of my characters aren’t human so I’m always interested to see what they do next. Often times, if I am having a rough day or I need to change my perspective somehow, I will spend the day spinning out a yarn about Toesy, the indestructible cat. He is such a delight to write.

What is a typical day like for you?

Typical days don’t seem to be a thing anymore. Plus, we have children so that means my writing time is limited.

My husband, Brian, usually takes the morning shift of parenting. He rousts the kids and feeds the hungry so I get to just grab my coffee and disappear. I sit down at my desk between 7:30-8am, open up my WIP and start. If I’m on a roll, I won’t surface again until early afternoon. Thor Michaelson (our dog) makes sure I know when it’s time for lunch.

Lunch always includes a bit of exercise like gardening or dog walks. Then it’s back to my desk for ticky-tacky stuff. Advertising, networking, editing- whatever tasks I have that are not writing. I get the afternoon parenting shift, so I knock off about 3pm when the kids are finished with school. Together, we do all the needful and make sure everyone is on the right track with homework and projects.

One thing I’ve found essential to my writing is working physical projects in tandem. Something about using my hands to create, helps me think through plot lines. So, while the kids are doing homework, I’m usually working on the house or on props for UEK Productions.

UEK is the small production company that adopted me in 2018 when we made a commercial about my dog’s campaign against vacuum cleaners (you can see it here). I’ve written a bit but mostly I’ve been making props and organizing film locations. It’s completely different from novel writing, much more physical, and a ton of fun. We recently wrapped principal photography for a short puppet series. Once that’s edited, we’re gearing up for a moster-ish movie and I get to make the monster. I am looking forward to it.

I need to stress that all of that extra work is possible for me because Brian is the chef of the house and I don’t have to cook dinner.

What scene from Parallax was your favorite to write?

All of my books are centered on a cast of six characters (with supporting characters in and out). The books don’t need to be read in order, each book is a stand-alone story, but there is development of each character as the stories roll on. Two books ago, one of my mains, a massive cat named Toesy, ate a bean-shaped nanobot thinking it was an overlarge bug. The nanobot then fused with his nervous system and learned how to communicate so Toesy named it Steve. Steve soon figured out how to manipulate Toesy’s DNA and started making ‘upgrades.’

In Parallax, Toesy comes to harm. But because Steve has always been able to fix him, no one is particularly worried about it. This time, while making repairs, Steve also makes a few adjustments (upgrades?). I won’t say what the adjustments are, but I will say that the ‘Nuclear Hairball’ scene was a delight to write from beginning to end. I was cackling a lot that day.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Take one step, every day. It doesn’t have to be big. And it doesn’t matter if you have to take three huge steps backward at the same time. As long as you make that one little step forward on one of your projects, you’ve won the day. ONE sentence, ONE small task, ONE trivial thing off your plate. Sometimes, that’s simply figuring out how a character is going to react in a fight. Other times, it’s rewiring the doorbell. Life is short and I have a long list of stuff I want to do.

Tiffany Pitts is the author of the new book Parallax.

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