Sunday sit-down with… Adele Parks
Despite film deals and a clutch of bestsellers under her belt, author Adele Parks – who hails from Teesside – tells us why she’ll never be a literature snob
By Jo Dunbar
Although she now lives in Surrey, Adele Parks is extremely proud of her North East roots.
This week Adele published her 21st novel, Both of You, which was written as the pandemic took hold last year. No stranger to the bestseller lists, Adele’s books have been published in over 20 different languages and have sold millions of copies.
You live in Guildford now, but you’ve kept links to the North East.
I’m settled down South, but my mum and dad and my sister and cousins are all in Teesside. I’m there whenever I can be, and Teesside University very kindly gave me an honorary doctorate about 10 years ago. I work very closely with the National Literacy Trust and I opted to become the ambassador of the North East, particularly Middlesbrough. I made a conscious decision to keep it close to my heart. Even though I am physically miles away, if you cut me open, I am definitely a northerner.
Both of You has a brilliant twist – because you’ve written so many novels, does it get tricky to come up with new plots?
I write a year in advance, so I was writing Both of You during lockdown last year. I knew the plot and then lockdown happened. It was actually brilliant because it complicated this particular plot, because people were much more accountable. Because my book is about women and their relationships, a lot of things were obviously heightened during lockdown. I spent a lot of time thinking about how lockdown brought us closer to our families but also exposed issues within families – there was a lot going on. I thought, as a novelist, I’d be insane to ignore the pandemic. A lot of authors did ignore it because they were desperately hoping it would go away, but my view was that it has been so seminal for all of us and we should be acknowledging that this is our world and this thing happened. I really enjoyed putting it in the plot. My next book, which I’m writing now, also mentions the pandemic in passing.
Has it been difficult to feel inspired during lockdown or has it been the perfect opportunity to write?
My husband and I normally work from home anyway, so we were in a relatively lucky situation. We already had desks and computers, where so many people were trying to share computers and space. I think what I did discover that, as a writer, I very much depend on outside stimulus – so while I’m very used to being at home and writing, I equally overhear conversations in pubs or cafés and that informs my writing and makes it more vivid. But because of the nature of Both of You, I didn’t struggle as much as I might have – some of my books in the past have been set abroad.
I did really miss the same things that we all have. I used to go into London at least once a week, I’d see my publishers, catch up with other authors because – as we have all discovered – working from home can be very, very lonely. I had quite a lot of things set up to keep a balance and, like everyone else, I’m going to have to work hard to bring that balance back again. This is my third book launch in lockdown – I’d quite like to have a party now! And I really miss literary festivals, it’s lovely meeting readers.
You’re passionate about getting children reading…
Reading ought to be a basic human right. It’s not only about education and entertainment, it’s about empowerment. Our lives have been painfully limited during the various lockdowns. The one escapism we have is reading. Someone once said: ‘If you’re not a reader you live one life. If you are a reader, you live thousands of lives.’ It’s so true – you get to be a historical figure or live in the future – it really is the best form of travel.
I’ve been working with the National Literacy Trust for about 15 years. If kids aren’t accessing books and it doesn’t become a habit and a part of their lives, it’s harder to get into books as an adult. The same way that it’s harder to get into exercise as an adult if you haven’t been an active child.
When I was little, my mum would have my sister and I at the library almost daily. We loved it and we are both strong readers now: it was very much in our family. Books were around the house. People always think I’ll say I had the works of Charles Dickens scattered around the house – and eventually they were, when I was studying an English degree – but when I was a kid it was Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper and Catherine Cookson. It doesn’t matter what people are reading. There shouldn’t be judgement about what type of book is a ‘good’ book.
You’re a Sunday Times bestselling author and you also have a film deal too – that must be so exciting!
Just My Luck is optioned, and the same people might be keen to do the same for Both of You. I think it’s one of those things, once one of your books takes off, you get quite lucky. I can’t quite take it in, it’s a ‘pinch me’ moment. Because it’s all happened in lockdown, I haven’t gone out for a big meal to celebrate. Hopefully we’ll be able to announce something. It’s all happening in Hollywood so, if it were a different time, I’d be in LA – but I’m on a lot of Zoom calls instead.
For me, it has always been about the books; the excitement for me is when my books get to number one. The chart position is exciting, but there are lots of other exciting things about being an author: when you see your books translated into different languages and small things like when someone goes up to my mum and dad and tells them they’re a fan of my books.
Both of You by Adele Parks is out now in hardback, eBook and audiobook.Buy your copy