Can you tell our readers what to expect from your current novel 'About Last Night'?
About Last Night is about two women, Steph and Pip, who are now in their 30s but have been best friends since they were at school together and although their lives have gone in different directions they are still best friends. Or at least, that's what they think until Steph desperately needs Pip's help after one eventful night and Pip suddenly isn't sure if she can help. It’s a book that looks at the issues of betrayal, adultery, truth and trust.
This novel is all about friendship and what we require, even demanded, from our friends nowadays. I’ve always tried to accurately write about the complexity of being human; my characters are very real by which I mean they occasionally mess up, they see that and deal with it. About Last Night is tense and intriguing. The question is how far would you go to cover the wrong doing of your best friend? What do we owe our friends in terms of loyalty?
Where did your inspiration come from for the novel?
I’m interested in the theme of female friendship. I think friendship is such a delicate balance of mutual respect and give and take, it can be sustaining, life affirming or extremely disappointing. Women have and will always depend heavily on their friends; they are crucial relationships to us. A long time ago my husband overheard me tell a fib to cover for my friend (she had a hang over but I told her boss she was ill), he was really angry with me even when I tried to justify my actions by arguing it was just a tiny white lie. ‘Maybe this is a tiny white lie but where will it end?’ he demanded and I thought, ‘Wow, what a great idea for a book, how far will we go for our friends?’
How important is friendship to you?
Very but not as important as my family. Ideally a best friend is someone you trust and respect. Someone who you can have a laugh with but you can also turn to when you’re down. Someone who you do things for ungrudgingly, whose happiness is genuinely important to you. That’s quite a big ask when you think about it; almost as illusive as true love.
You worked as a management consultant in advertising, so when did you decide to change paths and become a writer?
I’ve always dreamed of being a writer, from a very young age but I bided my time. I wrote one novel but didn’t submit it, it wasn’t up to it. I waited until I was at a stage of my life where I knew I had something compelling and different to write. I worked on my novel three times a week for three hours and for five hours at a weekend, while holding down an extremely busy day job. I was very disciplined and determined. I then did lots of research on which agent might be interested in my kind of work. It paid off, just three months from my initial approach to my agent he secured me a deal for my first novel, Playing Away.
How much did your degree in Language and Literature help you in achieving your publications?
A huge amount because I read and read and read and …you get the picture. I’m a firm believer that by reading the classic, great writers some level of osmosis occurs and aspiring writers lift their game when they write. So many people wrongly think writing a novel is the same as retelling a funny story to your mates in the pub; it isn’t. It’s a craft and to do it well you have to understand word choice, sentence structure, plot, characterisation etc. Most importantly you simply have to be in love with the mystery of the written word. My degree opened a world that had breadth and depth beyond my imaginings.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I have two top tips.
1. Read. Novels, articles, newspapers anything you can get your hands on. If you are not in love with the written word, you’ll never be a decent writer.
2. Write. Seriously, it astonishes me how many people tell me they want to be a writer but then confess they never write anything more elaborate than a shopping list. Write every day even if it’s only for 20 minutes and even if you’re not in the mood. If you’re stuck for something to write about set yourself tasks, such as describing what you can see if you look out of the window, or your earliest memory or how a new dish tastes. It doesn’t matter what you write, or even if you ever use the exercises in your big novel, it simply develops discipline. But I do have a lot more tips on my website. http://www.adeleparks.com/tips.html
Your new hardback 'Whatever It Takes' is out on June 2012, can you tell us a little about this?
Whatever it Takes is about a family who relocate from London to a coastal village (Dartmouth) because they want the children to develop relationships with their grandparents. Dartmouth was a joy to research. I spent a number of weekends striding along the cliff tops, pottering around the harbour and sitting on the beaches watching the waves roll. What a job!
During the novel it transpires that the grandmother has Alzhiemers and as she becomes increasingly confused she lets slip a huge family secret. The repercussions are enormous. The novel is about extreme betrayals, family secrets and the sometimes magnificent, sometimes destructive power of longing. I wanted to take a look at family responsibility and the importance of having a sense of belonging to something or someone.
You believe reading to be very important, who is your favourite read?
I simply couldn’t pick one. I admire so many writers in fact on some level I admire all writers it’s a damn hard task if it’s done well. Helen Dunmore, Jodi Picoult and Philippa Gregory are my favouite contempory women writers at the moment and I like Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh if I had to pick classical authors. However, this list is by no means a complete list!
How has travelling to places such as Italy and Botswana affected your writing?
Yes, I have set one of my novels in Italy. I lived in Taranto in southern Italy for a year when I was 21. It was a fabulous year; great fun, unforgettable. I do think travel is a genuine privilege. I’ve since holidayed in Italy about a dozen times, including taking my family with me for a month long research trip (oh, the things I have to suffer for my art). I ought to add, whether a book is set in Italy or Blackpool I visit the place and stay there as long as necessary to get a feel for it. I have the same approach to the professions of my heroines. I shadow people in different industries or jobs if it’s relevant to character development. I can’t bear sloppy research.
When I lived in Italy I was deeply and profoundly struck by the unusual and particular romance of the place and people. I knew I would write a book set in Italy once the appropriate plot presented itself which it did in 2008 when I wrote Tell Me Something. Before then, I’ve been known for writing spiky, almost unlikable heroines who have to learn to be a little more gentle and humble. Elizabeth is the opposite. She is perhaps my most romantic and naive heroine and Italy suited her romantic nature. She has to learn to open her eyes and wise up as she faces a demon of a mother-in-law, infertility and dealing with a husband with a wandering eye. That’s more than enough for any woman! So Tell Me Something evolved as the plot, setting and heroine all fell into place, the place being Italy! It’s a difficult process to describe but you know when it works. I’ve yet to write a novel set in Botswana but I haven’t ruled it out.
What is there beyond your next novel release? Can you tell us about any more novels after this?
I can tell you that there certainly will be more!
Interview by Lucy Walton