Questions by Alice Beazer
Adele Park’s latest novel examined the impact of sudden wealth on a group of old friends. Just my Luck is full of surprises, and hard to put down! I was delighted to interview Adele Parks about her book, the writing process, and the darker turn in her recent novels.
1.First and foremost, congratulations on publishing your 20th novel in 20 years- that is a major achievement! Throughout your career as a writer, you have written within many genres, including historical fiction, ‘women’s fiction’, and now domestic noir. Was this a deliberate transition as a writer? What drew you towards this darker genre?
Thank you for the lovely congratulations! I simply feel lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to do what I love for 20 years. When I wrote my two historical novels, I was very aware that I was writing something entirely different. The process required significantly more research to nail the book in the period. However, with all my other novels, I wasn’t really aware of genre. My process is that I just write the story I want to write. Then, when I present the manuscript to my publishers, they start the conversation about how we should communicate what the book is about, and therefore what genre it is. I do see that my work has become darker. I think that happened after I wrote about WW1. Maybe my view on what constitutes a satisfying ending changed. I no longer believed in the conventional happily ever after, I think I was more interested – and willing to investigate – human frailty; the mistakes we make, the cruelty we are prepared to inflict. However, I’m eternally optimistic about the human race so even though my novels have become a shade or two darker, I think I still offer my readers hope.
2. In Just My Luck, we witness the unravelling of Lexi’s seemingly perfect nuclear family after winning the lottery. What was the spark of inspiration which drew you towards this event, which all the action within the novel revolves around?
I have a very good friend who works for the lottery company. He’s one of the most brilliant and kind people I’ve ever met and so I was very interested when he once told me he thinks winning a million pounds is the dream. I surmised from that comment that winning more might be a nightmare. That was the spark of the idea.
3. The novel is narrated mostly by Lexi, but also by her teenage daughter Emily and in third person. Why did you choose to write the novel in this way? Why did you choose to focus on the female perspectives? And how did you switch between such contrasting voices – of a materialistic millennial and her mother?
In 16 of my 20 novels I offer more than one viewpoint, (sometimes there are multiple, I think the most I ever attempted was 8 points of view). Over half of those novels have been written from male and female perspectives, a few have had viewpoints across generations. It’s an utter joy to be able to play with viewpoint. In real life we’re not very practiced at it, naturally we see things from our own perspective, and often we struggle to understand one another because of that. The lottery win happened to the entire family and had a distinct, although equally profound, impact on each of them, it made sense to have more than one voice so the individual impact could be closely explored. It’s a lot of fun writing contrasting voices because they offer up different secrets. It means the author and reader are in cahoots, we know more than the characters do. Although, I always structure my novels so there are some surprises for my readers.
4. Another important topic touched upon in this novel is the criminal behaviour of wealthy landlords, who let their tenants – in this case, Toma – live in terrible conditions. Why did you want to include this within your novel?
The novel is about what money can buy. The truth is we live in a world where there are incredible discrepancies between those who have and those who have not. Some of those chasms are due to geographical factors which are possibly harder to solve; people born into war torn countries, or countries with challenging extreme climates are going to have different experiences to those born in peaceful, temperate climes. However, I find it shocking and unacceptable that in countries rich with resource and opportunity, that some people exploit others for their own personal financial gain. Slum landlords exist and they should not. There is no excuse for that cruelty and exploitation. So, to an extent, I wanted to draw attention to an issue that deeply offends and saddens me however Toma is also a plot device. He’s a beacon of hope, he has an unwavering moral compass. I think we needed him in amongst all the moral ambiguity.
5. What is your approach to the writing process?
Very early on in my career, my agent told me that every word of a book would work harder if I knew where the book was going. I took that literally and so always plan quite carefully. My books are known for being surprising, there’s often a big reveal at the end of the novel, that wouldn’t be convincing if I hadn’t anticipated the shift all the way along. I tend to write scenes in order too.
6. This is our crime special – so I must ask, who are your favourite crime authors?
Ian Rankin, Peter James, Kimberley Chambers and Jane Casey are my fav crime writers. Lisa Jewell, Louise Candlish and Lucy Foley write stonking psychological thrillers.
7. Finally: are you working on your 21st novel at the moment? Is there anything you can tell us at this point?
I am 45,000 words into it. It’s pretty dark. That’s it.
Adele Parks, author of JUST MY LUCK, published May 14th by HQ HarperCollins