Adele Parks published her first book, Playing Away in 2000, and has sold two million copies of her work in the UK alone.
The one thing I wish I'd known before I started writing is that at times writing is very exposing and public. Writers need to be sensitive to do their craft well but were also frequently scrutinised (personally and our work), so a thick skin is beneficial. Its a bit of a conundrum. I imagined it to be a private occupation, this was ignorance of course its public.
Not everyone has a book in them' but I do believe that everyone has interesting stories in them but book writing is a skill and a professional discipline. We never say everyone has a symphony in them, why would we assume everyone has a book in them?
I admire many writers including Maggie OFarrell, William Nicholson, Kate Atkinson who are among my favourite contemporary novelist, although I read very widely and enjoy many, many others. Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh will endure forever for me.
If I hadn't been a writer I would have been a portrait photographer. I find people fascinating. My novels are an attempt to capture people in all their glory and difficulties. Being a photographer would allow me to capture human kind in another medium.
My first big tip for writing a novel is get writing. So many people say to me that they want to write a novel but in fact never write anything longer than a shopping list. Try to write something every day, even if its just for ten minutes and even if youre not in the mood.
If youre 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 doesnt matter what you write, or even if you ever use the exercises in your big novel, it simply develops discipline.
If you want to find a book agent youll need a big fat book called The Writers and Artists Yearbook. It's published annually and lists every UK and Irish publisher and agent, it offers some guidance as to which genre the agent is interested in. This book also gives tips on how to present your work to attract agents (or at least how to avoid offending them).
Generally, agents expect to see three chapters of your work, a CV and a synopsis and I think its sensible to send to one agent at a time. The Yearbook tells you all of this and more. Use it as your first reference and then go online to check out agents websites. Its sometimes even worth making a call to a potential agency and asking who you should approach (never send an open To whom it may concern type of note). Another good place for finding agents is to look at the acknowledgements in the published novels of your genre. Often, authors thank their agents and this will give you some idea as to who you should approach.
My Mum in particular is an avid reader and throughout my childhood we were not only encouraged to read ourselves but we saw the adults around us reading vociferously. My Mums tastes definitely leaned towards bestselling, entertaining fiction, such as Catherine Cookson, Jilly Cooper or Jackie Collins. I suppose I valued the fact that a hard working woman as my Mum could find such pleasure and escapism in books.
Trying to choose a favourite out of all my novels would be like choosing between your children. I like all my novels for different reasons. I love Playing Away because it was my debut and it changed my life. The success of that novel and my ensuing career still seems like a miracle to me. I love The Other Womans Shoes because its my most personal; I suppose its semi-autobiographical. I love Whatever It Takes because I honestly think its my best. Its my latest and I have to strive to get better and better, if I can. My readers deserve that and my professional pride demands it.
I dont find it hard to discipline myself to write every day as I simply love doing it so it doesnt seem like a chore in any way, shape or form. Writing soothes me if Im feeling glum and challenges and excites me the rest of the time. Im very appreciative that there are people out there who are open to reading my books and so my lifes passion has become a paid job.
For inspiration I think about other people all the time. I wonder why they are looking delighted or distraught. I listen to what they are saying and what they are hiding. I imagine back stories and projected stories for everyone around me. Besides this I read magazines and newspapers to see if what are the zeitgeist issues.
I think the term 'chick-lit is, in short, sexist. However I do a lot of work with literacy programmes and have come to understand that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who are intimidated by reading; a cheeky chappy name for a genre is at least inviting. For the record, I dont consider my novels as chick-lit, I never have. I write commercial womens fiction.
I do read my reviews in magazines and newspapers and Im lucky that Ive pretty much always had very positive reviews; its very flattering. Its important (and hard) not to take a bad review personally and to remember its only one persons opinion; literature is subjective.