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On The Table Read, “The Best Book Reader Magazine in the UK“, comedian and author Jen Parker discusses her new book, A Meh-Life Crisis, and what inspired her to write it.

JJ Barnes editor of The Table Read online creativity, arts and entertainment magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed Jen Parker about her writing and comedy career, what inspires her writing, and the work that went into her new book, A Meh-Life Crisis.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

I’m a comedian. I find the world to be a funny place, and I make fun of pretentiousness whenever I can. I’m lucky enough to think that life is good. Sure, it can be boring and lame at times, but hey- at least I don’t have a kid named Braxton or Eastman or anything like that (sorry to anyone who has named a kid Braxton or Eastman).

Jen Parker on The Table Read
Jen Parker

I’ve been performing comedy in Los Angeles for 20 years and love to be on stage. I wanted to write a book so I could speak to more people directly and connect on a comedic level.

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When did you first WANT to write a book?

I found myself in a post-breakup rut. Everything was lame, and I just wanted to sit on my couch, drink wine and watch t.v. (all noble choices, btw). I needed to DO something, and in a way, writing this book chose me (wow, who talks like that? Gross). I had been a writer for years, but I mostly wrote sketch comedy and short, punchy jokes.

I had more to say, and what I wanted to say was “Hey, life can suck but you can change that and make it good. Probably not great, but pretty damn good.” So I did! I still sit on my couch, drink wine and watch tv, but now I also wrote a book.

When did you take a step to start writing?

It was probably about 7 years ago now. WOW, I think it was! 

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

5-6 years. At times I had to step away to get perspective, sometimes for a year at a time. But I kept going, and that’s what matters. 

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What made you want to write A Meh-Life Crisis?

I truly wanted to inspire people with the realistic message that life can be good. I was sick of the fairy-tale and RomCom messaging that things can be perfect, or that kids can grow up to be anything they want (I mean, how many people can really become Prime Minister?). However, happiness is attainable and there’s always something in life worth laughing about.

What were your biggest challenges with writing A Meh-Life Crisis?

Writing is the worst, most god awful thing in the world and anyone who says otherwise is lying (or is facing real problems). The biggest challenge was not judging what I wrote until after I wrote it. That’s why I had to step away for so long. 

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

Not to brag, but I did. I know it’s a trope for an author to name their main character with a name similar to their own, but hey- I did that! I gave Jane my point of view of the world. That POV is basically ‘Everybody that’s lame should shut up. Also, trying to accomplish things in life can be good. And don’t name your kid Braxton.’ 

The other two leads are Elle and Christine. Christine, Jane’s sister, is in a stale marriage and thinks her husband may be cheating. She needs to feel desired, and strives to accomplish that. Elle, Jane’s best friend, is sick of random hook-ups and really wants to go back to dating women and maybe even have kids. Fear is in her way, as she’s been hurt in the past. 

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

My protagonist is her own antagonist (omg, I’m so deep!!!). But seriously, she believes a woman named Ridgeley from her art-school, university days is her antagonist. As Jane through her stuff and grows in character, she realizes she’s the only person getting in her own way, and she always has been.

What is the inciting incident of A Meh-Life Crisis?

A Meh-Life Crisis by Jen Parker on The Table Read
A Meh-Life Crisis

Jane’s grandmother turns 80 and asks Jane to track down a painting she created in college. This causes her to face a past she had hoped to forget, and admit that she’s the only person with the power to change her own life. Her action inspires Elle and Christine to take active roles in changing their own futures.

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What is the main conflict of A Meh-Life Crisis?

Jane doesn’t want to track down the painting because it means she’ll have to face Ridgeley, and perhaps talk to her old love, Dave. GOD that would hurt. Christine needs to discover if her husband is cheating, and develops a bit of a wandering eye herself. Elle has a hard time opening herself up to real love, but knows she needs to change to find happiness.

Did you plot A Meh-Life Crisis in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I flew. I had to. It was the only way I could get words on the page. Once I had a first draft, which was basically word vomit, I was able to take a step back and plot. 

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did A Meh-Life Crisis need?

YES. I hired an editor who helped me immensely with respect to laying the story out in the order that would make the most sense. I wanted a lot of editing. I felt it really important to get the perspective of a professional who wasn’t married to the material like I was. 

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Writing is the worst thing ever. Do it anyway!

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

I’m so proud it hurts. Writing a book was an awful, tormentful ride. It’s a light, funny book, but nonetheless it made me sit in a bunch of feelings, and work through them. And who wants to do that?!?  But, as I always say- I hate writing, but I love it more than I hate it. It was definitely worth the effort. I live to make people laugh. I’m confident that I now have a work out in the world that will do that.

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