Indie Spotlight: Wesley Parker

by | May 8, 2024 | A Writer's Journey, Feature Articles, Indie Spotlight | 0 comments

While he currently has three books published and one scheduled to release this summer, being an author wasn’t necessarily a life goal for Wesley Parker. Parker was pursuing his bachelor’s degree in mass communication at Colorado State University, when he discovered he was 21 credits short of being able to graduate. So, he set off to find a program that would fill that need.

He found that program when he wandered into the English department chair’s office.

“It turned out the creative writing minor was 21 credits exactly,” said Parker. “And for the capstone course, you had to either write a poetry book, which I wasn’t doing, something else, or you could come up with the first 40 pages of a novel.”

Parker chose the option to write the first 40 pages of a novel and started writing what would eventually become his debut novel, Coffee and Condolences after having a nightmare that his wife died in a car accident.

“I woke up in a panic,” said Parker. Instead of trying to forget about the nightmare, Parker used it to fuel the plot for his creative writing project. He started asking questions, like what a situation like that would look like for a man, especially if the man received a settlement, but was now alone.

He also discovered he could process his own life traumas through the process of writing, having grown up in the foster care system from the age of eight until he was emancipated at eighteen.

“A lot of that book deals with how (the main character) struggled with fatherhood, and his own complicated relationship with his mom. And (having) an absentee father,” said Parker.

While he completed the program and graduated in 2017, the novel stalled until Parker and his family moved to New Jersey.

“One night, my wife and I went to New York together for an overnight trip,” said Parker. “We took the train up and coming up the escalator at Penn Station, I was like ‘Okay. This is it. New York is where it should be set.’”

That trip and nailing down the setting was all Parker needed to get the creative juices flowing again, and he finished the novel soon after. Originally, he’d planned to pursue the traditional publishing route. He came across an agent on social media who was offering a three-page critique in exchange for a donation to a GoFundMe for a friend’s sick dog and took advantage of the offer.

“I sent her the first three pages of Coffee and Condolences,” said Parker. “And she hated it.”

She admonished Parker for starting the novel with dialogue, even though others who had read the book loved the opener and thought it was funny.

“I remember getting that (feedback) and being disheartened,” said Parker. “That was the moment I decided I’m going to self-publish, because I hadn’t even traditionally published that novel, yet, and I already felt like someone was trying to take my story away and do something with it that didn’t feel natural to me.”

With that experience under his belt, Parker turned his sights to publishing through Amazon, and his debut novel, Coffee and Condolences, launched in July 2020.

From the back of the book: Miles Alexander had it all. A loving wife, two beautiful children. But now they’re gone. When his family is killed in a car accident, the settlement leaves him enriched beyond his wildest dreams but crippled by guilt. After trying to commit suicide and failing miserably, he lands in the office of Dr. Sandra Felt, a no nonsense psychiatrist with a knack for helping grieving patients rebuild their lives. It’s here that he’s inspired to fly to New York City and reconnect with his long-estranged step-sister who he hasn’t seen in over a decade. But he gets more out of this trip than he expected after wanders into a coffee shop and meets Melody, a gorgeous and free-spirited barista who takes her cues from the universe. But she has a secret of her own, and the reality of it just might push an already unsteady Miles over the edge.

Like with Coffee and Condolences, Parker also explored past traumas and life-altering experiences with his second novel, Headphones & Heartaches, in which the main character, Percy, navigates life in the foster care system.

“No book I’d ever read explored the emotions of (living in foster care), and what it felt like to live like that, where you’re constantly unsure of if you’re going to be able to stay,” said Parker. “The idea for it was easy to write because I lived it.”

Unlike Coffee and Condolences, which took Parker years to complete, Headphones and Heartaches was written in around six months during the height of the COVID pandemic.

“I wrote all of that book, believe it or not, in the front seat of my car during COVID, because everything was closed,” said Parker, who typically likes to write in public. He used his paid time off from his job and treated writing the novel like a shift, often writing for eight hours at a time.

“I would pull up and park, get my drink, use the bathroom, then put the seat back in my car, and just get to it,” said Parker.

Headphones and Heartaches released in 2021.

From the back of the book: As he watches his mother cling to life after another overdose, Percy Martin promises her that he will make something of himself, circumstances be damned. But when social services comes to place him in foster care, he believes he can better keep that promise on his own. He’s ready to run away and take his chances on the streets until his social worker, a former foster child himself, offers Percy a deal: One year in foster care in exchange for returning to his mother if she lives and completes treatment.

Percy agrees and finds himself in the home of Grace Wilson, a single waitress with a loving home and a heart of gold. Free from the trappings of poverty, and thriving in his new environment, Percy must navigate his junior year of high school and all the pain and joy it has to offer—including new friendships and first love. But accepting the life he’s grown to love comes a price, and as the prospect of returning to his mother looms, Percy must decide if that’s a price he’s willing to pay.

In 2023, the follow-up novel to Headphones and Heartaches called Detours and Do-overs released, continuing Percy’s story.

Originally, Parker had no plans to tie his first novel, Coffee and Condolences to the two books featuring Percy, but when he was writing Detours and Do-Overs, he was also “heavy into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” And then he watched the movie Snatch.

“It was really cool to see how people somehow managed to make their way into each other’s orbit,” said Parker.

He’d had readers ask about Miles over the years and inspired by those movies, he ultimately tied the books together by having Miles make an appearance. The loosely connected trilogy became known as the “Paying it Forward” series, not just because of the storylines in the books, but because Parker is doing that in real life with his sales.

Prior to becoming a published author, he’d connected with the charity Camp To Belong River Valley, now known as Rooted Kinections, a camp that brings together siblings impacted by foster care and other out-of-home placements. Having been separated from his own siblings while in foster care, Parker was well-aware of the important work the camp was doing and decided to donate 50 percent of the proceeds from his books to the organization. But after seeing the positive impact his donations had on the campers, and because he has a good-paying job as a social worker at a juvenile detention center and doesn’t write for income, he decided to just give all of the proceeds to the camp.

In addition to allowing him to donate the proceeds from him books to charity, that job also served as inspiration for his upcoming novel, Only for the Benefits, slated to release in the summer.

Active on Instagram under the handle wewritesforfun, Parker generally uses his platform to share funny memes or post about his life. He’d started posting occasionally about his day job and found people were interested in the subject. Then he’d had a health scare that landed him the ICU where he was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic.

He pulled from all of those moments to explore both his experiences working in the juvenile detention center, as well as needing health insurance to deal with a health crisis. He added in a divorce as a plot point and the story took off, where the main character takes a job at a juvenile detention center for the health benefits.

“It just explores what juvenile justice is like,” said Parker. “Because there are so many nuances to it that people miss. You only read the headline, like this kid was arrested for robbery or carjacking or murder. But they never really talked about what the kid has been through. And a lot of these kids have been through so much trauma.”

The main character is also dealing with estrangement from his wife, as well as his own abandonment issues stemming from his childhood. A widowed neighbor plays a big role in helping the main character through the process.

“It’s almost like you find that one person in your life at the perfect time when you need them,” said Parker. “So that’s what it explores. I try to mature with every book. I never want you to feel like I’m selling you the same book twice.”

Parker isn’t afraid to step out of his comfort zone, either, in the pursuit of the story. In the book, the two characters bond over stand-up comedy, which is something Parker enjoys and had always wanted to try. He spent three months writing a comedy bit for the novel during his breaks. Once it was done, he found a coffee shop away from his hometown that was holding an Open Mic Night.

“I signed up under the character’s name. I didn’t tell anybody I was doing it. And I went, and I performed it, so I could know what it felt like to be on stage and have the light on you,” said Parker.

Parker’s goal with every book is to simply explore being human and analyzing events of his own life in a fictional setting.

“My books deal heavily with theme,” said Parker. “What fascinates me the most are the emotions that we carry inside of us every day that we have to mask. I love exploring first love and lust and regret. Coming of age and found family. And do it in a humorous way.”

In general, Parker said he isn’t trying to make anyone feel certain emotions when they read his books. He doesn’t write to fulfill any specific genre requirements.

“I just want them to maybe leave my books with having a different view on the world or feeling like they understand something they didn’t understand before,” said Parker. “Like the one that’s coming out this summer is the same thing. It’s just a different subject matter. I just like creating characters that you come to love, that maybe you see yourself in, and that are complex. Because being human is really, really hard. That’s what I want people to take away. Being a human in the world is a complicated undertaking.”

So far, the most rewarding aspect of publishing for Parker are the connections he’s made with others through his novels.

“When you’re writing (the book) and you’re in the thick of it, you don’t know how people are going to take it. You just know how you feel,” said Parker. “To see people connect with these characters, it’s like they’re connecting with me, personally. Because my main characters are an extension of me in a lot of ways.”

Over the years, he has also connected with members of the author community who have helped him along the way.

“Leanne Hart, she’s awesome. Nikki Lamers, she champions my work like it’s her own. Matthew Hanover, that’s another author I’ve met,” said Parker. “I firmly believe you meet people when you need to meet them.”

One of those people is author Jennifer Kitchens, who Parker had developed a friendship with. They’ve even met up with their families. Parker connected with Kitchen after Coffee and Condolences was released.

“She reads all of my books literally as I write them,” Parker said. “When I finish a chapter, I email it to her, and it’s so cool because I get feedback in real time. So, by the time the book is done, I know what’s working, what’s not working, and she’s become one of my best friends.”

Marketing his books has been the most challenging aspect of being an indie author, likening the process of selling his books directly to being a door-to-door salesperson.

“I’m not good at that part at all,” said Parker.

Instead of overtly marketing his books, Parker handles that aspect in the same way as he handles the sales of his books, by focusing on giving back.

He kept a list of people who liked his posts or he interacted with in some way, and when the book released would send them a free digital copy.

“I would always say, like, “Hey, no pressure, you don’t even have to read it. You don’t have to review it. I’m not asking for anything. This is just me, saying thank you for following me on this journey,” said Parker.

He also uses his platform to promote other authors.

“That’s how I do it. I try to put out love into the world. So, that’s my marketing,” said Parker. “I found that it comes back tenfold.”

When asked what his advice is for any budding authors out there, Parker said to not get too wrapped up in the future.

“Everybody has a book in them, but people get scared. And they think 5,6,7 steps ahead. They’re like, what if people don’t like it?,” said Parker. “How the hell would you know, you haven’t even written it?”

While he has found a couple of books on the craft of writing a novel that he personally uses, he encourages new authors not to focus too much time and money on how-to-write books, and instead to focus on just writing the book they want to read.

“When you’re writing something, you’re the first reader,” said Parker. “You know what works and what doesn’t. Don’t let the world tell you, you’ve got to buy all these books about how to write to do that.”

Parker’s novels can be found on Amazon.
Find him on the web at and on Instagram at