‘The Image of You’ Interview with Author Adele Parks MBE

The Image of You is a twisty psychological thriller from director Jeff Fisher. It stars Sasha Pieterse as twins Anna and Zoe and Parker Young as Nick. Nestor Carbonell and Mira Sorvino are Anna and Zoe’s parents. In the story, Anna’s head over heels for her new guy, Nick, but her twin sister Zoe’s not so sure. Zoe’s picking up some red flags, and the more she digs, the more trouble they all find themselves in. Turns out, the truth might be deadly. Adele Parks wrote the bestselling book The Image of You is based on, as well as 22 other books. In 2022, she was awarded the Order of the British Empire for her services to literature. So it was a true joy to sit down and chat with her over zoom about the movie.

The conversation with Parks was one of my favorites this year, and her enthusiasm for the project was infectious. Not only did she talk about how the project went from the pages of a book to a screenplay, but she also shared how the big difference between the book and the movie’s ending came to be. Read ahead for the full interview. 

The Interview with The Image of You author Adele Parks MBE

[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Ayla Ruby: Hi, it’s lovely to meet you.

Adele Parks: Lovely to meet you, Ayla. Thank you for your time.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, no problem. I’m very excited to talk. So I’ll just jump right into it I guess. I’d love for you to talk about the process of getting your book to the movie and what that journey was like, because for many authors, that’s a dream.

Adele Parks: It is a dream. It was an overnight success of 19 years. So yeah, I was very lucky that I was introduced to a chap called Brad [Krevoy] from MPCA, and he said to me, “Okay, I hear you write these thrillers and they’re really good.” I said, “Thank you.” He said, “So pitch them to me.” So I picked one and I wasn’t expecting it at all. And I pitched one and he said, “Mm-hmm.” And then he said, “Another one.” I thought, “Oh, what did I do wrong?” So I pitched the second one. He went, “Right, give me another one though.” And this went on four times and I thought, “Wow, I am really missing it here. What am I getting wrong?” And at the end of the fourth one, he went, “They’re all great, you’re great storyteller. I’ll have all four.”

Ayla Ruby: Wow.

Adele Parks: And my mouth dropped, like yours just has. And I almost backed out the room thinking, “Okay, while you’re in that good mood, I’m quitting while I’m ahead.” So he said he wanted four and then horribly for the entire world, COVID hit and everything slowed down. And so we’d been in talks and then it all slowed down and I was becoming frustrated and I didn’t really understand the process at all.

Adele Parks: I can write and I write good books and I can write one a year, and I have done for 23 years, but it was all so new for me, this whole film. And I kept saying to him, “It seems so stop-starty. I don’t know what to do next.” And Brad said to me, “Look, the thing is Adele, no one is ever going to be as passionate about this as you, because it’s your book. So if you want this to happen, go and make it happen. I’m just saying to you.” so I was like, “Okay, how?”

Adele Parks: So he said, “Well, first of all, I will put you in contact with one of my scriptwriters that I’ve worked with before that I really trust and I think you’d get on with.” And that was the first step of this amazing journey that I was paired with Chris Sivertson and he is extraordinary, a very generous, open human being that absolutely understood that I got storytelling, I did not get film writing. And we were working together and I’d be like, “Don’t you think this needs to happen? How would this happen?” And he would show me, “This is how it’s going to happen, I’ll write it.” And off he goes, and he’s just extraordinary.

Adele Parks: And he came up with a script and sent it to me. And I remember the first time I read it, literally getting shivers and just thinking, “Wow, if this is my reaction. And I knew what was going to happen. How is it going to be for everybody else dealing with all these twists and turns?” And it was, I think everybody knows the system, you’ve got to get the money raised, you knock on a lot of doors.

Adele Parks: We were lucky enough to attract Jeff Fisher to the project. He really championed it through after that. And then we got the wonderful Sasha [Pieterse] attached, and every time you get one more brick in building this huge wall or this igloo actually, because it felt like something that. But every time we got that extra brick of someone else committing, it just felt extraordinary. Very collaborative, very… Yeah, I think I’ve had an especially open and positive experience compared to the experience you assume is going to be for the writer. Because I don’t think many writers are as involved as I have been, as I’ve been given the chance to be.

Sasha Pieterseas “Anna” and Parker Young as “Nick” in the thriller, THE IMAGE OF YOU . Photo courtesy of Republic Pictures (a Paramount Pictures label)
Sasha Pieterse and Parker Young in The Image of You. Image courtesy of Republic Pictures.

On if she was involved in the casting process for The Image of You

Ayla Ruby: Now, so there’s so much to talk about there too. And I’d love to talk a little bit about the leads. Because you mentioned Sasha, and you also have Nestor Carbonell, you have Parker Young and Mira Sorvino. You have these amazing, very talented actors. Were you involved in that process at all in casting?

Adele Parks: I would love to take credit for them because they’re all so awesome. But no, I was not involved in that. We had a lovely casting director [Rick Millikan] and obviously Jeff and I think once the casting director and Jeff were very convinced it would’ve had to be somebody we really didn’t want. But once they came up with their ideas, we were like, “Wow, no, that’s the perfect person.” And I have been asked, does Sasha look like Anna or Zoe when you were writing the book, when you were imagining her? And I was like, “I can’t even remember what I used to think Anna and Zoe look like, because now it’s just 100% Sasha.”

Adele Parks: All of the leads, well, in fact, all the cast were a joy to work with, incredibly hardworking people. We were on a tight budget and a tight timeline, and those guys put in the hours and always were prepared to just do it one more time, get one little bit more juice out of it. Nobody complained, nobody grumbled. I think it was a bit of a dream really. I’ve probably been quite spoilt. I’ve probably been ruined for life with this experience.

Ayla Ruby: Well, you have three more to make after this one. So on to rest of the books.

Adele Parks: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

On collaborating with screenwriter Chris Sivertson

Ayla Ruby: So you talked about collaborating with the screenwriter, Chris. Can you talk about that process a little bit more? Can you talk about what it was like for you? Or maybe was there any bit that you were really excited from the book to be translated onto the screenplay page? Because like you said, they’re very different.

Adele Parks: Yeah, I mean the whole thing was exciting. It’s very difficult. It’s a few years ago now as well. But it’s very difficult to think of one particular moment. We had so many conversations, so we had lots of conversations and I think people were trying to handle me quite carefully and say, “Oh, there’s a lot of internal and it can’t be internal.” And I was like, “Yep, great. I know.”

Adele Parks: I’m very practical and I always approach this as what a learning curve. How exciting to see my creative project being taken on by all these other creative, amazing talents from the talent that are acting in it. And obviously the screenplay writer and obviously Jeff. But everybody, the set designers, the costume designers, everybody had their impact. I was going to say input, but I meant… But both actually.

Adele Parks: And so when I was working with Chris, we would have a lot of conversations and I didn’t know… I’m quite a good girl, I don’t like to get it wrong. So I don’t like to overstep or feel that I’m stepping on someone’s toes or something. So I would say, “Would you like a conversation about this?” And he’d be like, “Yeah, pick up the phone.”

Adele Parks: So it was just so lovely and it was lock down, so I think anybody was happy to have some level of company and have Zooms and have chats. And because of the time difference. I was quite often working till 11, 12, 1, 2 in the morning with him chatting to him about ideas and things. He’s also super quick. Any ideas or notes that you give, he turns things around really quickly and is so responsive, so that was a joy. There wasn’t any point where you thought, “Is he listening? Is he doing anything?” He’s just tremendous. So I can’t sing his praises highly enough.

Adele Parks: Also, it almost surprised me when I went back, because I’d been living with the script for a year, I then went back and read the book again. And it almost surprised me about the differences. I forgot that the differences were even there. I’m so bought into this is the right thing for the movie. I think the book is the perfect book, not the perfect book, but the action that happens in the book is the perfect thing to happen in a book.

Adele Parks: And the action that happens in a movie is the perfect action to happen in a movie. Because it is a very different experience. In a book, you have 19 hours to privately dwell with your thoughts and the words on the page. It’s a very intimate experience. In a film, ideally you are in a cinema, you are definitely going to be watching your friends and family and all of that and it’s a very communal experience. And I think that demands something very, very different. And I saw that all the way along. So yeah, it was a pleasure, a learning pleasure.

Parker Youngas “Nick” and Sasha Pieterse as “Zoe” in the thriller , THE IMAGE OF YOU . Photo courtesy of Republic Pictures (a Paramount Pictures label
Parker Young and Sasha Pieterse in The Image of You. Image courtesy of Republic Pictures.

Ayla Ruby: I won’t spoil it because this is going to be out before the movie, but I think there are some definite moments where the communal experience will have people gasping in this. So that should be very fun.

Adele Parks: Yeah, I hope so. I’m really looking forward to the screenings and sitting there with Sasha and with an audience and seeing how people react to it. She’s been texting me about it. I said, “I’ll hold your hand, but people are going to love you.”

On the differences between the book and the movie for The Image of You

Ayla Ruby: So you mentioned differences between the book and the movie and how they’re very different. There’s more internal stuff with the book because you have that time luxury. Was there a big difference that you want to talk about besides London and

Adele Parks: Okay, there’s a massive one that I think will really surprise people. When I originally pitched the book, I didn’t pitch the exact story that happened in the book, because the book is actually a hybrid between two genres. The book, a little like the film, starts and you think you’re reading a romance. It’s about online dating. It’s about an overly trusting girl meeting a really hot guy, and can he be trusted? And you think you’re getting that. And then it turns dark exactly like the movie. But at the time in my career, I had been writing romances and I wanted to be writing psychological thrillers.

Ayla Ruby: Oh.

Adele Parks: Yeah. And my publisher was a bit like, “Maybe we just don’t take it really dark.” And I had written quite a dark end and. In fact the end you see…

Ayla Ruby: In the movie?

Adele Parks: Uh-huh.

Ayla Ruby: Ah.

Adele Parks: But in the book, we went softer. The book ending is different. And so when I pitched it, I pitched the ending I wanted, because also I understood that if a film was to be made, it would need to be very clearly within one genre. It’s very hard to say, “Oh, I’m doing a hybrid film.” Nobody’s interested. You need to say it’s a psychological thriller. Bang.

Adele Parks: And then it was so funny because Chris read the book and he went, “Yeah, it didn’t end like you told me.” I was like, “Mm-hmm.” It didn’t, but what could you do with the ending? So right from the beginning we started playing. And I think because I did have that open mind, I hope he would say, if you talk to Chris, I hope he would say, “Adele was also easy to work with because we were both just looking for the best movie and so the most action.” Yeah, so the ending is different.

On the family bond that is so important to the story of The Image of You

Ayla Ruby: That’s lovely. And I know we’re getting close on time, but is there anything else you want people to know about the movie or even about the book or this process?

Adele Parks:I think what’s interesting about it is that it’s very much about these relationships, this ultimate love triangle. But it’s also about familial relationships that the mother and father are really important in this, which is obviously Nestor [Carbonell] and Mira [Sorvino]. And their performances were outstanding. That family bond is incredibly important to me too. And I want people to know that there’s that in it as well, yeah.

Ayla Ruby: That’s awesome.

Adele Parks: I mean, it’s coming out on Mother’s Day or near enough, take your mom.

Ayla Ruby: Oh, I didn’t even make that connection. That’s amazing.

Adele Parks: Although, it’s quite spicy for your mom. It depends on how your moms are. But yeah, it is also a very sexy film, which I think is to its credit. It’s fun.

Ayla Ruby: Yeah, no, it totally works. Well, thank you so much. 

Adele Parks: Thank you so much.

The Image of You is now playing in select theaters and is also available to buy on digital.

You can find out more about Adele Parks and her books at her website. 

You might also like…

The Fall Guy Interview with Composer Dominic Lewis banner

The Fall Guy’ Interview with Composer Dominic Lewis

Silver Haze Movie Review - BFI Flare

Silver Haze’ Review: A Bold Story of Self-Discovery