I was fortunate to meet Bryan Bliss at a conference a few years back, and I’m happy to report that his debut novel, NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, will release next week on February 24. I’m so excited about this book that I’ve already pre-ordered it.
Abigail doesn’t know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the “end of the world.” Because of course the end didn’t come. And now they’re living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. Bryan Bliss’s thoughtful, literary debut novel is about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love.
Bryan was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:
As well as writing for teens, you also work with them. In what way (if any) does your work inform your writing?
It definitely does. I spent over ten years working as a youth pastor, while also volunteering as a writing instructor for teens. I think it’s impossible for those kind of experiences to not shape how you write. And while I definitely don’t use actual information from real teens in my writing, I couldn’t imagine writing young adult literature without that kind of contact. Teenagers are messy and unpredictable. They’re scary and hilarious. They are shockingly mature, but still fighting to hold on to what’s left of their child-like innocence and wonder. Even as I’m typing this I’m thinking: “Man, why would you want to write about adults?”
No kidding! And I love the unique premise of NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES. Where did the idea come from, and what do you want readers to take away at the end of the story?
The idea came from my own struggle with religion, honestly. More specifically: the kind of religion that preys on belief and the desire to be better people. From there, I began to build the story with one central question: “What happens when you lose faith in your parents?” I think it’s a common realization usually relegated to minor things, those moments when you discover your parents aren’t perfect. Maybe they lose their cool and yell at somebody. Maybe you catch them in a lie. But in the case of No Parking, I wanted to up the stakes a bit. What happens when a parent decides – based on religious conviction – to give away everything the family has? As an adult, it is conceivable that you or I could do this and bounce back. That one crazy summer we went fundamentalist. But for a kid, it’s the epitome of a life-changing moment. And that’s what I most wanted to explore, I think. How does a teenager deal with the loss of faith, family, and everything she’s considered true?
All of that said, I want to say that this isn’t a religious book. It deals with religion, but it’s not making a specific claim about faith or theology. I can’t keep people from projecting those feelings onto he story, but my intent was not to create a mechanism for proselytization. I like to say it’s similar to Friday Night Lights, if you’re familiar with that show. It’s not a show about football – it’s about the lives of teenagers and their families. But football plays a big part in that story. The same goes for my book. It’s not a religious story, but religion is a big part of what’s happening. Of who these people are.
And it goes to show that teenage struggles can transcend all demographics. Last month there was a Goodreads giveaway for NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES. What other promotional methods have you used, and what have you learned so far from the lead-up toward your book’s debut?
Honestly, I haven’t done much yet. I kind of operate under the assumption that people don’t want to be seen as marketing opportunities. So, while I’m planning on doing some blog posts around the web and will definitely be Tweeting about my release, I’ve kept it pretty light. If anything, I feel like I did a lot of my leg work early on in my career. I met people. I made friends. These relationships turned into contacts, obviously. But more importantly, they’re friends and writers who genuinely care about my work. So I don’t even have to ask for them to retweet links or to market for me. They do it because we’ve become close, because they think I’ve written something of value. I think it’s very important – whether you’re a new or established writer – to connect with a community of like-minded writers. For marketing, sure. But that’s the icing. You’re gathering fellow travelers for this journey and it’s indispensable.
What a beautiful way to describe the writing community. Can you tell us about some of your current projects?
Book number two is called Meet Me Here, and it’s currently in the editorial process. It’s about two former life-long friends who come together on the night of their graduation. Both of them are dealing with big questions about their future and what happens when the sun rises the next morning. It’s definitely lighter than No Parking at the End Times, but I hope the bigger questions – courage, heroism, tradition – will also shine through. Other than that, I’m in the very beginning stages of book number three… I think I’ll keep that one to myself for now, but it deals with a topic that I’m very passionate about – one that hasn’t received much (or any) treatment in the YA world.
Sounds like intriguing stuff! Thanks, Bryan, for giving such great answers!
To get NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES for yourself, you can click the image below: