Author Adele Parks has cre­ated a fair few fic­tional ‘happily ever af­ters’, but what of her own? She tells Han­nah Stephen­son about her jour­ney to find­ing Mr Right

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

Queen of rom­coms Adele Parks on her real-life ‘happily ever af­ter’.

She’s on the top of many women’s hol­i­day read­ing lists along with the likes of Mar­ian Keyes, Jane Green and Lisa Jewell. Her 13 pub­lished rom­coms have sold in their mil­lions and been trans­lated into 25 lan­guages – yet Adele Parks is not par­tic­u­larly ro­man­tic, she re­flects. In­deed, the Teesside-born author has been pro­posed to no fewer than seven times, but is noth­ing like as sen­ti­men­tal and ide­al­is­tic as Jo, the heroine of her lat­est novel The State We’re In.

Re­leased last month to rave re­views, Parks’ new­est book tells the story of Jo, an eter­nal op­ti­mist who be­lieves she will find ‘the one’, and Dean, a cyn­i­cal com­mit­ment­phobe. They meet on a plane and ap­pear to be op­po­sites in ev­ery way, but it’s only af­ter get­ting off the plane that their real jour­ney be­gins.

“I never thought that get­ting mar­ried was the be-all and en­dall,” Parks, 44, ex­plains. “But I know a lot of women be­lieve in a ‘happily ever af­ter’ that will only come via a happy mar­riage.”

Adele laughs at the mem­ory of the var­i­ous pro­pos­als she’s re­ceived over the years.

“The first one was from a boy who was 16... At that time the pro­pos­als used to come quite quickly in the re­la­tion­ship and I’m al­ways sus­pi­cious of any­one who pro­poses within the first three months,” she says.

Parks – whose par­ents Tony, an ICI en­gi­neer, and Mau­reen, who worked at Bar­clay­card, have been mar­ried for 51 years – re­sisted mar­riage through­out her early 20s. “My mum mar­ried when she was 18 and my sis­ter mar­ried at 23. I was 20 and I re­mem­ber peo­ple say­ing, ‘You’ll be next’, and I was hor­ri­fied.”

Af­ter a few pro­pos­als, which she turned down, she mar­ried her first hus­band Si­mon, who she met while work­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing. Af­ter six years, though, they split up and she was di­vorced at 32, with a son from their mar­riage, Con­rad.

“I mar­ried my best friend when we were too young. As we both grew up, we grew apart.”

Find­ing Mr Right

The fol­low­ing year she met Jim, a mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, and they’ve been to­gether ever since.

De­spite her cyn­i­cism, Parks says she has fi­nally found ‘the one’ and they have now been mar­ried nine years. “I don’t think it could get bet­ter than this. He’s kind, gen­uinely sees the best in ev­ery­one while I see faults in peo­ple. He’s very op­ti­mistic about life.”

They met in a salsa bar in the UK, says Parks. “It was lit­er­ally ‘Our eyes met across a crowded room’. I asked him to dance and the minute I did that, I thought, ‘What if he’s a ter­ri­ble dancer?’ Ac­tu­ally, he turned out to be a bril­liant dancer – way bet­ter than I was.”

When they mar­ried, Jim took her sur­name – the ul­ti­mate ro­man­tic ges­ture of com­mit­ment – so now he’s Mr Parks. “My son Con­rad and I were Parks so he changed his name to be

the same as us. It’s a huge deal, but not to him. He’s very laid back about it.” Yet it was a dif­fer­ent sce­nario when they first met, she adds. “When I met him he was a com­plete com­mit­ment-phobe. He said he didn’t want a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship and nor did I. But we ended up lit­er­ally fall­ing in love.”

Build­ing on strong val­ues

Parks fer­vently be­lieves that her past has shaped her fu­ture. She grew up in a sta­ble fam­ily and started writ­ing as a teenager. “I’m close tomy par­ents and I have the same val­ues as them,” she says.

Af­ter leav­ing school she went to Le­ices­ter Univer­sity in the UK to read English lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture, writ­ing in her spare time and on week­ends. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing she spent sev­eral years work­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing and as a man­age­ment con­sul­tant, but she’d al­ways dreamed of be­ing an author and wrote her first novel, Play­ing Away, af­ter se­cur­ing an agent. It was pub­lished in 2000.

To­day, her hus­band is the di­rec­tor of Guild­ford Book Fes­ti­val, and has taken an ac­tive in­ter­est in his wife’s ca­reer. Yet she says in many ways they are so dif­fer­ent. “He’s def­i­nitely more ad­ven­tur­ous than I am. He has done all the strange snow­board­ing, he­li­board­ing, jumping out and off things that just make my heart ter­ri­fied.

“With us, the things that are dif­fer­ent are sur­face things, but the things that we have in com­mon are our fam­ily val­ues, at­ti­tudes to­wards money and other things that re­ally mat­ter.”

Parks’ nov­els cen­tre on re­la­tion­ships and key is­sues sur­round­ing them but she views the term ‘chick lit’ with a mea­sure of con­tempt. “I don’t hate it, I think it’s a dou­ble-edged sword,” she says.

“I do some work with adult lit­er­acy pro­grammes. I meet a lot of peo­ple who, if I said, ‘I write com­mer­cial women’s fic­tion’, would look at me blankly. If I say, ‘I write chick lit’, they think it’s some­thing they could ap­proach and then I hope that they will be pleas­antly sur­prised.

“I just think it’s re­ally sex­ist. I am a fem­i­nist and I’m 44 –well past be­ing a chick.”

She agrees that chick lit has a stigma of be­ing pre­dictable. “Peo­ple think it’s go­ing to be about a sin­gle woman who is des­per­ately seek­ing love. There’s more to women than that.

“There are no neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions about be­ing a crime writer, so why does women’s com­mer­cial fic­tion have to be re­duced to chick lit?”

She recog­nises that there will al­ways be some lit­er­ary snobs who won’t ac­knowl­edge the value of com­mer­cial women’s fic­tion.

“Peo­ple ei­ther love it or dis­miss it and the peo­ple who dis­miss it have never read it. That’s the ir­ri­ta­tion.”

She writes about one book a year, hav­ing pub­lished 13 nov­els in 13 years, work­ing from home in Guild­ford, Sur­rey, and fin­ish­ing her work­ing day when Con­rad, now 12, comes home from school.

Her books are less dra­matic than they used to be, she ad­mits, and she wouldn’t dream of em­u­lat­ing some­one to sell more copies.

“You need to be truth­ful to your­self. The worst thing you can do is try to ape some­one else.”

The StateWe’re In is Adele Parks’ 13th novel in 13 years, all hav­ing sold in their mil­lions

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.