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Author Penny Parkes talks writing, rom-coms, and Cotswolds inspiration

All Areas > Entertainment > Literature

Author: Thomas Hadfield, Posted: Thursday, 26th March 2020, 09:00

Penny Parkes Penny Parkes

Writing has always been a passion for Penny Parkes.

Born and raised in the Cotswolds, Penny is the author of The Larkford Series – a collection of romantic comedy novels based around a GP surgery.

So far Penny has written four books in the series – plus a short novella – releasing one a year since 2016 when she published her debut novel, ‘Out of Practice’.

“The premise for ‘Out Of Practice’,” said Penny, “and then ultimately the rest of the series, stemmed from the idea of a Cotswolds community that was appealing and aspirational.

“And then also the idea of the medical practice being the hub of that community – with the doctors’ lives being the pivotal insight into everyone’s comings and goings. It was important to me that it was not only entertaining and funny, but also real and meaningful at the same time.”

Despite her clear prolificacy and talent for writing, Penny admits she took something of a “circuitous route” to the profession.

After studying International Management at Bath University she worked for the BBC, and then as a location agent for film, TV and advertising.

“I had always talked about writing a book ‘one day’, having been a voracious reader since childhood, often using the entire family’s allocation of library cards to get my fix,” continued Penny.

“After my youngest started school there was a small window of opportunity and my ever-tolerant husband encouraged me to either give it a proper go for a year, or possibly stop talking about it! A year later I was signed with an agent and then it felt okay to say to people, ‘I’m an author’.”

It's fair to say the career change has worked out very well for Penny, with ‘Out of Practice’ winning the RNA (Romantic Novelist’s Association) Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year in 2017.

Penny says that the rom-com genre is one she has always enjoyed, and that was a driving force behind creating The Larkford Series.

“I had always wanted to write a series of books,” she explained, “where the reader got to know the characters and felt really invested in how their lives and loves developed.

“I love a good romcom movie and I suppose Richard Curtis was actually a huge inspiration in how to create a world where there’s a cast of characters and you genuinely care about all of them.

“Authors like Milly Johnson, Veronica Henry and Katie Fforde should truly be available on prescription. I also read very widely and eclectically, with my bookshelves stuffed with literary fiction, thrillers and autobiographies. It’s become a family joke that if there’s a book in the house, I’ll read it.”

She also adds that returning to live in the Cotswolds – where she lives with husband Sam and their two children – has provided plenty of inspiration.

“The writing process has really evolved since I started out – and part of that is being out in the world, in our communities.

“Only half the work of crafting a novel takes place on your laptop – the other half could be walking the dog, going for a swim, knitting, or simply people watching from a local café.

“The whole time the characters and plotlines are developing in your head, and then it’s time to sit down and type. I wish I’d known that at the very beginning, when I would sit doggedly typing, even on days when the words weren’t flowing. Although, now, it has to be said, fiction really is a full-time job.”

Reviews for The Larkford Series novels have been incredibly upbeat – all the books, including short story ‘Swept Away’ have a four star or above rating on Amazon, and they have also been praised by critics and fellow authors alike.

“There is really nothing nicer than reading a glowing review or receiving a letter from a reader telling you how much your story meant to them,” said Penny.

“As the series has grown, I’ve been so fortunate that my readers have come along for the ride – launching the last book (‘Snowed In At The Practice’) in November was bittersweet for all of us!

“And of course, we’re very fortunate in the Cotswolds to have so much local support – both from other authors and from local radio and bookshops. It’s incredibly heartwarming to have your words, your characters, welcomed into people’s lives, be it on their holidays, or at bedtime.”

Whilst Penny’s stories of Larkford are over for the time being, she confirms that readers can look forward to a brand-new material soon.

“I’m working on a new project right now, which is due for publication in 2021,” she added.

“It’s a standalone book, and possibly a little more ‘book club’ than The Larkford Series, but still hopefully with my trademark balance of humour and insight that my readers expect.

“It’s exciting and daunting at the same time, to be stepping away from Larkford after four novels and a novella, but it feels like the right time to take on a challenge.”

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