Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Q & A with Penny Parkes

Did you always dream of being a writer?

It has to be said that I have talkedabout being a writer for as long as I can remember, but that didn’t always translate into actually writing. My Convent school didn’t consider making up stories to be a valid career path, so I contented myself with reading everything I could get my hands on instead.

How did your writing career develop?

I started out finding film locations – not the obvious apprenticeship to becoming an author – but, as it turns out, very good training for learning to look behind the scenes, and beyond the superficial.

Beginning that first novel really was a leap of faith and, for that first year I immersed myself in every bookish event, festival and writing workshop I could find. It was the writing life, as much as the writing, that drew me in.

Your newest novel is called Best Practice,what is it about?

Best Practice is really about the things in life that we take for granted, always assuming they will be there for us if we need them.  In this case, it was the Air Ambulance service that really caught my attention.

Not to mention that Holly and Taffy are planning their wedding, with plenty of time for second thoughts and hiccups, despite Elsie Townsend being on hand with some world class meddling – her notion that you should plan life to suit yourself rather than convention certainly proves timely. 

And Alice Walker, with Coco at her side, is about to confront the reality that not all her emotional baggage is metaphorical…

What was your inspiration for the book?

A few years ago there was a riding accident locally – the young girl in question could only be reached by air ambulance, and indeed their skill and timely intervention made all the difference. It had been bubbling away in the back of my mind ever since, apparently, as when I sat down to write, the new character of Chris Virtue simply arrived on the page.

Where and when do you write your stories?

I’m actually making more of an effort to write everywhere, rather than trying to create that perfect moment! Out of preference, I will write on the sofa in my study with The Ginger Ninja beside me, or even in bed. If I can’t find peace and quiet then the noise cancelling headphones are a Godsend. I tend to use time on the train, or driving, swimming or walking the dog to do my plotting and planning.

What do you do and enjoy when you’re not writing?

I love to read – and quite varied genres from comedy to thrillers to domestic noir. I genuinely feel twitchy if I don’t have a book on the go. I’m also a huge movie fan, so I save trips to the cinema as carrots to get the work done.
If I get any proper downtime, then I will always be plotting a trip – more of an adventure than a holiday.

What books have influenced your life most? 

I think it would have to be the books I was reading as a teenager and young adult that made me want to be an author – although that list has grown over the years. Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous by Jilly Cooper were two pivotal reads for me. And then later, Jane Fallon’s wickedly funny Getting Rid Of Matthew. All of them added weight to my dream to create a chunky novel of my very own.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have just this week handed in my copy edits for Private Practice (out 2019) and intend to take a few weeks to plot and plan my next Larkford adventure – something a little different but still with the Larkford soul that my readers know and love.

Pick three authors you want to have dinner with and tell us why.

I have to confess to being incredibly lucky to count some of my very favourite authors amongst my friends, and the Cotswold posse regularly get together to put the world to rights over a roast chicken and a glass of rosé. Likewise the Simon and Schuster dream team make sure their authors are never lonely; we’re all in touch with each other for moral support (and the occasional cocktail) Please don’t make me choose – they’re all gorgeous!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee.  Always coffee. Black – don’t dilute the caffeine!

Paperback or e-reader?

Paperback for choice (I can read in the bath) but Kindle for travelling or there’s no room in my suitcase for clothes!

Mountains or the sea?

Mountains and lakes every time.

Sweet or salty?

When it comes to popcorn – both together!

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