Billy Parker made a promise after he published his first book.
“I promised God the next book I wrote would be inspirational,” the Tremont native said. “I tried to add that aspect to the Gilmore family’s travels in ‘Wagon Road.’”In his is first book, “Extending Shadows,” Parker gave his readers the occasional glimpse back in time to the main character’s family.
“Even though it is a mystery-thriller set in the 1980s, there are instances throughout it where I take you back to the family’s early history,” Parker said.
This time, the story is set in the distant past.
“In ‘Wagon Road,’ I get more in-depth with the family’s story and the journey that brought them to where they are,” he said.
“Wagon Road” is set in the late 1700s. Gee and Mina Gilmore are traveling The Great Wagon Road that stretched from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Augusta, Georgia. Although the Gilmores’ story is fictitious, the road was a regularly-traveled route for settlers in the southeastern United States.
“I can remember taking wagon rides as a child,” Parker said. “Just having that experience allowed my mind to wander into what it might have been like.”
In the novel, the Gilmore family sets out with bags of gold hidden in the floor of their wagon. They soon meet up with two Cherokees, Ratri and Shakunt. The pair decide to make the journey with Gee and Mina and are instrumental in helping the Gilmores reach their destination.
As the group continue their journey to Augusta, Parker introduces them to a host of characters. Each brings his or her own personal tragedies and triumphs to the tale.
Parker said he tries to give his individual characters flaws and strengths through their personal histories.
“I don’t base my characters off of anyone I know, I just simply create them as I go,” he said.
One of Parker’s favorite chapters has the Gilmores encountering a storm. Gee receives a head injury, and during a comatose state, dreams of when he was a young boy at his old home place. He sees his parents and his younger brother, Jimmy, but more importantly he dreams of the rooster he hated and fantasizes about ways to kill him.
Numerous obstacles impede the Gilmores during their journey down Wagon Road, including near-starvation and flooding.
Parker spent around three months writing and rewriting on his latest release, much shorter than the year-long process his first endeavor took.
“I felt inspired to write it and I worked on it daily,” Parker said. “Writing is just something I love to do. I lay in bed at night and think. I just can’t wait to get up in the morning to put it down on paper.”
A graduate of Itawamba Community College, Parker and his wife, Margaret, lived in Memphis and then Southaven until he retired in 2002. They returned to Tremont to live at the family’s old home place.
He surprised his family when he wrote his first novel. His third is currently in the publishing process. Before penning his first novel, Parker had only written songs and poems.
Parker dedicated “Wagon Road” in memory of his great niece, Chandler Rhea Pipkin, a Delta State student who died unexpectedly in 2018.
Parker is currently scheduling book signings.