Tampa, Florida native, Douglas Parker, better known as Trey Parker, never imagined when minoring in Creative Writing as an undergraduate student at Florida State University that he would one day become a best-selling writer. At the time he didn’t think writing would lead to a lucrative career. He even decided to focus on Business as his major instead while finishing at Florida State and then went on to obtain an MBA in Finance at Florida A&M University.
However, due to relationship troubles with his then longtime girlfriend (now wife), Trey put his thoughts and feelings to paper and turned his pain and experiences into urban fiction books loosely based on his life, starting with The Tea. He has now gone on to write a trilogy of books with a number of lessons for readers.
Trey Parker spoke with OBWS to discuss the trilogy. Read on to find out how the current New York resident came up with the concept and titles for the trilogy, what can readers expect from the plots, what’s up next, and more.
Lela: What led to you writing The Tea several years ago, and how did it turn into a trilogy?
Trey: I started writing when I was in graduate school at Florida A&M University. I was having relationship challenges with my girlfriend at the time – now my wife. We broke up due to my infidelity, and I was torn apart. So, I wanted to write about how I was feeling, which led to me creating a fictional book centered around a character that I felt represented my partner and how she was handling the situation. The Tea added some twists and turns to the real-life situation as well as several different characters.
It started out as a way to put my feelings down on paper, and then it turned into a book as I continued writing. It was my first book, and I didn’t know what to expect. I started selling it out of the trunk of my car, and then I had a big book release. It was successful, thankfully, and a lot of people loved it. They told me I needed to do another one. So, I decided to keep it going by creating a trilogy.
Lela: Tell us a little bit more about the plot.
Trey: The main character’s name is Lisa. She has a boyfriend who she’s been with since high school, and they then went on to college together. He was her first in quite a few ways. Once she finds out that he’s cheated, she’s shocked and decides to dump him. She’s single for the first time as an adult and has her friends amping her up to go out and date as a young single woman in her 20s in Atlanta.
The part that’s definitely connected to what was then the real-life situation is the infidelity part. I just created a story out of that with different aspects of the character.
Lela: How did you then create Thy Cup Runneth Over: Black Men Fear Love?
Trey: I wrote The Tea from a woman’s perspective, but I wanted to create Thy Cup Runneth Over from a guy’s perspective. So, it’s based on the main male character, Terrance, from The Tea, Lisa’s ex-boyfriend. It’s him dealing with the repercussions of his infidelity. He’s a single man in Atlanta dealing with the decision to either win her back or bounce back and find a significant other. He has his college buddies telling him to just remain single and try to find another beautiful woman. As you can guess, there’s a lot of drama.
Lela: Tell us more about the progression into the third book in the trilogy, Naked Hustle.
Trey: It’s actually the one out of the trilogy that’s most closely related to true life events. While living in Atlanta at the time that I was writing the books, I met a young lady that was a former exotic dancer. She told me her story, and I was blown away by it. I asked her if she would be okay with me writing a book very closely related to her life, and she agreed. We sat down for roughly an hour and half. She went through her life’s story, and I created the Naked Hustle from there.
It connects to the trilogy, particularly Thy Cup Runneth Over. She’s one of the women that Terrance cheats on his girlfriend Lisa with. LaToya, the main character, is broke and in need of money. A lot of her friends have gone off to college and became successful, but she didn’t do the same and fell on hard times after getting into some trouble. She was eventually introduced to dancing, and another dancer ends up taking her under her wing showing her how to really make good money.
She becomes an underground celebrity based on her name, likeness, and profile as a dancer. However, becoming a “celebrity” of sorts, especially underground, you’re connected to a lot of shady characters – drug dealers, sketchy politicians, and others. She gets caught up with that, and she almost ends up losing her life.
Naked Hustle has been the most successful out of the trilogy. It was an Amazon best seller and has done really well.
Lela: How did you come up with the names for the books?
Trey: With The Tea, I didn’t have a name at first, but I looked at the storyline. The characters would get together and vent, keep it real with one another, etc. So, it was somewhat a play on words because they would discuss things over tea, but there was also a lot of gossip or “tea” as well. “What’s the tea” was one of the themes in the book, like what’s new? That led to the name. Even with the cover image, my girlfriend now wife and I were sitting at a restaurant and had a teacup on a plate. We thought it could serve as the perfect cover image and snapped a picture.
With Thy Cup Runneth Over, I wanted to make a connection to The Tea, which was about gossip. So, Thy Cup Runneth Over was about blessings that you have but how they can drown you if you’re not careful. Sometimes your cup running over can mean good things are happening, but it can also include a myriad of terrible things happening based on bad decisions. It’s an overflow of challenges as well as blessings. It’s obviously from the Bible as well.
Naked Hustle just came naturally to me. There was a song that came out in Florida awhile back with that name, and it also captures what the book is all about. So, it just made sense.
Lela: What’s the overall theme that you would like readers to take from the trilogy?
Trey: My goal was to talk about our stories in a way that we aren’t necessarily accustomed to. I wanted to tell some aspects of the Black experience with rawness and an unfiltered lens. I wanted elements of the books to seem as realistic as possible.
Growing up, there weren’t a lot of books that really spoke to who I was. Therefore, I wanted my books to resonate with Black audiences. Through the trilogy, I wanted to provide inspiration as well and create mental health awareness. I wanted to let the audience know that you aren’t alone and can get help.
Lela: Since the stories were loosely based on your life, did you come out of the process with any lessons of your own?
Trey: One of the main things I learned from the books is that you can make it through anything and bounce back. Through every challenge is a small opportunity. No matter how low you are, your situation can improve if you stay focused and keep the faith.
Lela: Who was your target audience when writing the books?
Trey: Black women were 100% my target audience. I was raised by Black women, and I just wanted to speak to other Black women in a way that they can relate to. I, of course, feel like everyone can read the books, but Black women were the audience that I had in mind while writing.
Lela: Why is entrepreneurship important to you through being a self-published author and having other business ventures?
Trey: I have a full-time job with a startup company, and I am an entrepreneur on the side. What’s kept me motivated is my hope for the future, in a weird way. I’m big on self-actualization and trying to figure out how I can add value to the world. With the pandemic, I really had a lot of time to reflect. I want to always make sure that I do things that I’m passionate about, help people, and add value in both my full-time job and entrepreneurship. I think that’s how you build wealth, both financially and mentally.
Lela: With most states operating at almost full capacity now, do you have any plans to do a book tour with the trilogy?
Trey: When there aren’t any masks required at all and less liability, I’m definitely open to doing a tour. I was doing a tour on the east coast then things shut down. So, absolutely.
Lela: What’s next?
Trey: I have a few things coming soon. Not only do I work for a startup company, but I’m also building one myself. I also have some e-commerce ventures that I’m doing. So, stay tuned.
Be sure to follow Trey on Instagram @TreyParker_ and purchase his trilogy of books – The Tea, Thy Cup Runneth Over: Black Men Fear Love, and Naked Hustle – on Amazon. If you'd like to collaborate with Trey Parker, contact him at Douglastparker@gmail.com.