Adele Parks isn’t just a bestselling author, she’s a multi-million bestselling author – with 18 novels to her name. (That’s one a year since she published her debut, Playing Away, which she admits requires serious discipline and commitment.) She’s also a passionate advocated for reading – judging the likes of the Costa Book Awards and is an ambassador for The Reading Agency. Her latest book is I Invited Her In.
As a child I read a lot of Enid Blyton, as did just about everyone in my generation! She wrote such a diverse range of novels that could hold a child’s interest from being very young to pre-teen. That’s quite something! My sister really enjoyed Malory Towers and St Clare’s: I remember when she finished the entire series she was upset, deflated that there wasn’t any more, so I used to make up stories about what the characters did in the holidays to entertain her. I devoured The Magic Faraway Tree series and The Wishing Chair. I loved to be transported to fantastical worlds where anything was possible. I firmly believed in magic and saw the value in escapism. Reading delivers that same magic and escapism for me now.
I read To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee when I was about twelve or thirteen, not a child, but certainly not a woman: an ideal age to appreciate the gentle humour and irony of Scout’s unselfconscious observations that were focused on adult hypocrisy. I remember understanding – possibly for the first time – that books could do more than entertain. They make us think and feel, possibly even be better people.
I remember reading Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes and that being very important to me. This book is an excellent and rare combination of hysterically funny and seriously sad. Marian Keyes takes the taboo subject of addiction and forces an inspection of the addict in her numerous guises (many horrible and some more palpable), yet the reader never loses sympathy for Rachel. Quite a feat. I remember reading it and thinking, ‘That’s just the sort of book I want to write’. I didn’t mean that I wanted to write on the same subject matter, I meant the tone. It confirmed my belief that there was a market for the sort of book I had in mind to write so I felt more confident about committing time to my own writing. I then produced Playing Away, which got me my first book deal. That was totally life changing!
I read such a lot that my recommendations continue to change all the time, and I might recommend something different every month. I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all: it’s not true of what we wear or eat, why should it be true of books? So I recommend different books to different people.
All that said, a book I have often bought as a small gift or stocking-filler for many of my friends is The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I don’t know where to start trying to describe this plot! Basically, the hero time travels due to a genetic disorder. This may sound a bit of a leap but when you read it, you believe it. I cared so much that his love may be doomed because he can’t stay in her time and place.
Emma by Jane Austen is a novel I have re-read dozens of times since I was a little girl, and it never fails to amuse me. Quick-witted, beautiful, headstrong and rich, Emma Woodhouse is exceedingly keen on matchmaking. Yet she’s oblivious to the question of who she herself might marry. Through this comedy of romantic education, she discovers her own capacity for love and marriage. I love Emma because she’s so often wrong and I do get excited by a flawed heroine! It’s a great comfort read because (I don’t think this is a spoiler) it all turns out well in the end! True Jane Austen.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a young child, so long ago that I can’t remember a single book influencing the decision. It was more of a general sense that all the books I’d ever read were compelling me that way! Most probably an Enid Blyton tipped the balance.
I live by the adage ‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry,’ and so I believe that books that can tap into both emotions are a true reflection of life and the most satisfying to read. I know when I’m writing I always try to take my reader through an entire emotional range; I like a book to be heart breaking and heart warming by turn. A book I think does that wonderfully is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s an unexpectedly funny book about loneliness. It is life-affirming and I did laugh out loud whilst reading it, yet there were moments when I was moved to tears.
Sitting around reading an entire book in one day, and then another the day after and perhaps a third after that... You get the picture. My husband and son are always in and out of the pool, I’m more likely to be found sat next to it, on a lounger, book in hand!
I’ve read every book by Kate Atkinson. I first discovered her about twenty years ago when I read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever come across. It’s the story of Ruby who was born while her father was in the pub. Her mother, Bunty, had never wanted to marry him, and dreams of being swept off to America by a romantic hero, but instead, is stuck in a flat with her three children. That’s the starting point, but Atkinson effortlessly shifts from between characters and times periods to detail a family history spanning generations. Atkinson is famed for her literary time shift novels but she’s also written contemporary detective novels. It’s exciting when a writer isn’t pinned into a genre.
Most likely one of my own, I suppose. When I wrote the novel The Other Woman’s Shoes, I remember pouring a lot of myself into the female protagonist.
I’m a very disciplined, committed writer. To write 18 novels in 18 years you have to be focused, dedicated and organised! I write every day (a minimum of 1000 words and a goal of 2000 words). I do this Monday to Friday for about eight months of the year. The other four months of the year are spent developing plot and character, researching or promoting. I always develop plot and characters before I begin writing.
I am lucky enough to have a room that we call the library in our house. It’s not really a library, just a sunny sitting room with more books than any other room (all our rooms have books in them). In my ‘library’ I have a whole wall of floor to ceiling bookshelves. My books are ordered by colour, red, orange, yellow, moving through the rainbow, finishing with blacks, then whites. It looks wonderful as a feature wall and is often commented on - however I can never find a book when I’m looking for it and if I buy too many books of a certain colour I have to rearrange, so it’s pretty impractical!