Friday, January 27, 2012

Man & Other Natural Disasters by Nerys Parry - Character Interviiew, Give@way

Man & Other Natural Disasters
Author: Nerys Parry
Genre: Fiction – Literary/Historical
Published by: Enfield & Wizentry, Great Plains (September 2011)
Age Recommendation: 18+
Format: Hardcover
ISBN13: 978-1926531120
Number of pages: 214

Man & Other Natural Disasters by Nerys Parry

Simon Peters, a recluse full of half-cocked theories on every subject from heart-broken shrimp to the Jungian consciousness of DNA, spends his days hiding from his horrific past in the basement of the Calgary City Library. Enter Minerva, a twenty-two year-old business major whose ghostly resemblance to Simon’s dead sister compels him to reveal his shocking past: a sister who died of spontaneous human combustion, a father crushed in a rock blast, a mother who disappeared in a tornado – all in one hot prairie summer.

But parts of Simon’s story do not add up. When he finds Minerva passed out and bleeding on his bathroom floor, he must conquer the tyranny of his own memory and confront what really happened that summer of 1962. But the truth, when uncovered, proves no less astonishing than the original tale.

Based on real events recounted during the Sons of Freedom movement of the 60s, Man & Other Natural Disasters is a testament to the power of story in a world too often shaken by forces outside our control: nature, terrorism, death—even love. Of all the planet has yet to throw at us, the question remains: can we recover from the worst natural disaster yet—ourselves?


·                 Finalist for Colophon Prize 2011

·                 Tied for 7th in Giller Prize Reader’s Choice Award

Click here to read an excerpt from Man & Other Natural Disaster.
Man & Other Natural Disasters
Author: Nerys Parry
Genre: Fiction – Literary/Historical
Published by: Enfield & Wizentry, Great Plains (September 2011)

Buy the book at:



LAURIE: Today we are lucky to have Simon Peters, the quirky and complex protagonist in Nerys Parry’s Man & Other Natural Disasters.  A rare individual, rarely sighted and hard to get a hold of, Simon has graciously agreed to answer some questions.

But, before we begin, here’s a clip of Nerys being interviewed on television. This is what she has to say about meeting Simon for the first time and working with him over the years:

Here's the link to the video if the above won't play for you.

LAURIE: Simon, let’s start with a question I like to ask my guests as a kind of icebreaker. Do your friends think you are an introvert or an extravert? Why?

SIMON:  If I had any friends, they would probably say I was introverted. When you live a lie, the less people that know you the better.

At work they’ve even gone so far as to nickname me the Yeti, after Nepal’s abominable snow creature. I presume it’s because I am so rarely sighted outside of my office, and also because of my hair, which has been stark-white since I was fourteen.

LAURIE: In the book you reveal that this hair of yours has caused you many problems over the years.  You write:

“When I was young, I used to shave my hair completely, or wear dark glasses and pretend I was an albino.  But that didn't stop people from staring. 

"What happened to you?" they would always ask.  Strangers on the train, patients in waiting rooms, people in foyers, students in libraries.  "What happened?" they'd ask, as if something so horrific as to turn my hair white could be told with justice in the seven minutes between trains.

Now I am almost forty-two, and my white crown goes unnoticed for the most part.  Many men my age are balding or greying or both.  Every life is full of surprises.  Some just take longer to catch up with us.”

Now I don’t want to ruin it for our readers, but your life has been full of some particularly nasty and shocking surprises. Do you really think everyone is at risk of going through what you went through?

SIMON: I have limited experience with other people’s lives, it is true, but have read much, and can confirm that there are others in our past and present that have suffered as nasty or worse surprises as me. As I often tell people, ‘in this infinitely frightening and expanding universe, the possibilities for natural disaster and human stupidity are endless.  The unimaginable does happen, sometimes to the most unimaginative people.  It just works out that way.’

LAURIE: It’s true that you’ve had your share of horrors—and many of them happened when you were very young.  While I know you don’t want to give too much away, can you tell us a bit about your family?

SIMON: It’s still is hard to talk about, to be honest. Thirty-three years it’s taken me to be able to face what really happened to my family, and there are still gaping holes in my memory that no amount of digging seem able to fill.

I am the only one left. My parents and sister all died one after the other, my father by earth, my mother by air, and my sister by fire.  It would appear that I was fated to die by water, and many times I have felt like I am drowning, figuratively at least, in guilt and memory. I often wonder why I keep on swimming, to be honest. But for some reason as inexplicable as life itself, I do.

LAURIE:  You had such a strange upbringing, violent and isolated.  But some of it had at least the veneer of normalcy, and for a time you even attended a regular school. You must have been asked, like any other child, what you wanted to be when you grew up.  What did you answer them?

SIMON: For a time when I was fourteen I wanted to be a doctor. But then disaster, as it so often did in my life, got in the way. After my father’s death was a long period of darkness I prefer not to talk about—writing about it was difficult enough. My first real job was in construction, working on skyscrapers overlooking the Rockies. But in the end I wound up as a book repairer. I have worked in the basement of the Calgary City library for almost three decades now, fixing the bent and the broken, the books without covers, the volumes with broken spines.

LAURIE: It seems books have a special meaning for you. In your confessions, you write:

“It used to be that we fixed almost every book and catalogue, but now, as with everything these days, there are what people call 'other factors to consider'.  Like anticipated circulation.  Like cost-effectiveness.  But I can't throw away a book, even a cheap, badly-written paperback that's been dropped in the bath so many times its pages have welded together. 

So I bring them home.
Over the years, my apartment has become something of a refuge for the forgotten ones, the broken ones, the ones with the missing back limb, the ones blind with the smeared ink, the ones naked without covers.  They wallpaper my walls, hold up my bed, keep hot coffee cups from ringing the table.  They stack themselves arm-height beside the couch, forming a perfect side table.  Books support the TV and my single potted fern.  There are drawers I can't close, doors I can't shut.  My apartment has become full to bursting with story.”

Obviously, story is important to you, and there are many myths and legends that have woven their way into your book. What do you think makes a good story?
SIMON: My Babka was the best storyteller I knew, and she always began her stories with “it was both a long and a short time ago.”  From her I learnt that a good story is timeless.  It is not just about what was, but also about what will be. What is—the indisputable present—disappears altogether in a really good story. A good fiction needs to be nothing more than pure possibility—the chance to imagine what and who we could be, if only things were different.

LAURIE: You’ve clearly read as well as repaired many books. Which ones would you say have most influenced you?

SIMON: Lyall Watson’s books on the paranormal have had the biggest influence on my understanding of the world.  Supernature, in particular, enlightened me on several ground-breaking theories, such as DNA memory, thoughtography, and spontaneous human combustion, which have helped me better understand the odd phenomena I have been unlucky to have witnessed in my life. It was also from Dr. Watson that I first learned water had a memory, which made me wonder, especially when my roommate Claude started going downhill, just what memory really was.

LAURIE: There’s a beautiful passage about this theory in your book.  If you don’t mind, I’d like to share it with our readers:

“Water has an amazing memory.  When it is ice, it forms the most perfectly bonded hydrogen structure in the world, a precisely angled crystal whose architecture is so resilient that the memory of it persists in all states.  Looking at liquid water, you would think that it was just a loose collection of ions, forming and unforming relationships with other ions that pass.  But look closer, and you will see thousands of ice crystals continuously constructing themselves, then falling apart, then struggling to rebuild again, even while the water bubbles with heat, even while it disperses in a gasp of air.  The water is forever battling its compulsion to disintegrate, always fighting to remember its ideal structure.

Perhaps that is all memory is: the struggle to return to a perfect state.”

I wonder, after having gone through everything you have since writing that passage, do you think you have, or even can, reach this ‘perfect state’?

SIMON: Even if it could be reached, I’m not so sure it could be maintained for any length of time. Memory is fickle, mutable, untrustworthy. If you’d prefer to look on the positive side, you could say it was extremely adaptable, in an evolutionary sense—it keeps us moving forward and living and reproducing despite all the mistakes we’ve made in the past.

LAURIE: Speaking of mistakes, you hint often at bearing a heavy sense of guilt. Who, of all the people you feel you have wronged in your life, would you most like to apologize to?

SIMON: Those who read my book won’t need me to name the one person who haunts me to this day.  Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her, when I don’t imagine the impossible: that I could find some way to make up for what I did. I suppose the book was my way of trying to apologize—something I have never been very good at. I hoped that telling the truth might make a difference to her, on the off chance that she might still be alive, and that, despite the disappointments and cruelties she no doubt has seen over the years, she might still be able to do such a strange thing as forgive. She was always special that way.

LAURIE: As you yourself say, “the unimaginable does happen”. One last question before you go: now that you’ve got your story out in the world, who do you think should play you in the film?

SIMON: Russell Crowe. Although he is far more handsome than I am, I hear they have wonderful makeup for that kind of thing nowadays.

LAURIE: So true! Thank you so much for being here and spending this time with me today. It's great to talk to you, Simon.  Keep the faith.
For more information:

Website  |  Email  Twitter  
Twitter: @nerysparry

Discounts available for purchases of 5 or more copies for book clubs! 
Check out Great Plains Guides for more details.

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The book is available for purchase at Chapters, Amazon and local bookstores across the country.  For those outside of the country, they can buy the book at or

About Nerys Parry
Nerys Parry is an award-winning writer with a skeleton in her closet–she’s also an engineer with a passion for uncovering buried histories. Her debut novel Man & Other Natural Disasters was inspired by the fanatical Freedomite movement that terrorized the Kooteneys for decades. This “delightfully quirky” novel was a finalist for the Colophon Prize, and tied for 7th on the 2011 Giller Prize Reader’s Choice Awards. Parry’s writing has also aired on CBC radio and been published in diverse publications.
• Long-listed, CBC Literary Prize for Fiction 2010
• Short-listed, Event Creative Non-Fiction Contest 2004, 2007
• Runner-up, FreeFall Fall Fiction Contest 2004
• Short-listed, Kenneth R. Wilson Canadian Business Press Award, 2007

Find and follow Nerys Parry on:


Enter for a chance to win a PRINT copy of 
 Man and Other Natural Disasters. US/CAN only.
Giveaway ends February 25th 11:59 PM CDT


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