Wednesday, 21 June 2017

60 Seconds with Gill Paul

By Gillian Hamer

Gill Paul has had six historical novels published, with the seventh coming out in August. The Secret Wife, published last September, made number 4 in the USA Today bestseller list and topped the kindle charts in the UK and US. It’s a love story about one of the daughters of Tsar Nicholas, of the ill-fated Russian royal family, and a cavalry officer named Dmitri Malama. Dinah Jefferies called it “A cleverly crafted novel and an enthralling story… A triumph.”
Gill lives in London with her artist partner, who has not read any of her novels.

Tell us a little about you and your writing.
I write historical fiction about some of the (to me) most dramatic events and fascinating characters of the last 150 years – among them the sinking of the Titanic, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton meeting on the set of Cleopatra, and the fate of the Romanov royal family. I am Scottish-born but now live and work in North London, where I swim year round in an outdoor pond.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?
There’s a feeling when the writing is going well, when the story is just flowing out of your head and onto the page, that is almost better than sex. And I also love the unstructured hours: being able to slip out to swim at the sunniest part of the day without needing permission from anyone but myself is pretty cool.

And the worst?
The rampant insecurity, the lonely terror of watching your Amazon rankings, and the abject fear after you have written a successful book that you will never be able to pull it off again.

Why did you choose your genre?
I inherited a love of history from my late mum. We watched all the historical dramas on TV together and read Jean Plaidy and Georgette Heyer. I studied History at uni (among other subjects – I was a student for ages) and still love reading historical fiction. It’s a great way to learn about a period without feeling as though you’re back at school. The best historical authors write about ageless human dramas and the setting is incidental.

Do you have a special writing place?
I have an office with bookshelves up to the ceiling and a scary ladder to reach the top ones. There’s a window beside me with a view of trees and overgrown climbing plants and lots of different kinds of birds stop by to distract me.

Which writers do you most admire and why?
I am in awe of literary writers like Maggie O’Farrell, Barbara Kingsolver, Rose Tremain and Paula McLain who conjure up glorious images that take root in my head and create unforgettable characters with a flick of their metaphorical fountain pens. And I love Dinah Jefferies, Lucinda Riley, Iona Grey and Kate Riordan for their great historical page-turners.

If you could choose a different genre to write in for just one book – what would it be?

Contemporary, possibly with a bit of a crime thrown in. But it would be a mystery rather than a police procedural or a gore-fest.

What was your inspiration behind The Secret Wife?
One day I was pootling round on YouTube when I came across a clip of the young James Taylor singing “Fire and Rain” and I was transfixed, because it took me right back to my first love, a seventeen-year-old boy who looked like him and used to play that song for me. Then I heard about the love story between Dmitri Malama and Grand Duchess Tatiana and I decided to try and capture the seismic, all-consuming power of first love that I suspect they felt for each other. And that’s where The Secret Wife came from.

What three tips would you offer up-and-coming authors? 

• Force yourself to keep writing even when you are getting rejections from agents and/or publishers. Don’t give up, because you’ll get better with every single page you write.

• Show your work to a few well-selected readers before sending it out: people who will be constructive but not harsh.

 • Try to pitch your novel idea in one sentence. Is it compelling enough to have readers who don’t know you rushing to buy it? If not, find one that is.

What are your future writing plans?
I’ve got a new novel called Another Woman’s Husband coming out in August (hardback and ebook) then November (paperback) and there’s a contract for another one to come out in 2018 which I have to admit is still in early stages (i.e. still in my head rather than on the page).

See our Bookmuse review of The Secret Wife HERE


Twitter: @GillPaulAuthor

Facebook: gill.paul.16


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