British crime fiction author Paula Hawkins has been a favourite of this blog (and all our readers!) for quite some time now. Upon the release of her crime fiction debut The Girl on the Train, I got to meet Paula through her work, and I even had the chance to interview her a few times, one in 2015 for this blog, and another one earlier this year for the International Crime Fiction Association, which you can read here.
Her latest novel Into the Water – review here – has polarised readers due to Hawkins’ choice of an ensemble narration for a dark and twisted tale born of some hard feminist research about women and how the production of knowledge can be sexist too. But it is difficult to write another fantastic novel when your previous one became an instant best-seller with a success film adaptation featuring Emily Blunt. Despite these differences, Hawkins’ work has remained the same regarding her female – and feminist – characters. If Rachel made us question our views on divorced women and addiction, then Into the Water will make us question what we believe to be true knowledge and why.
If my passion for Paula’s work is not clear yet, I will say that I was both nervous and very excited to have her as part of the She Writes series – especially because I love prying into my favourite writers’ nightstands! Welcome again, Paula:
Currently on your nightstand?
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat and I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O’Farrell.
Favourite book by a woman writer?
I change my mind about this all the time, there are so many contenders. Today, I’ll say Regeneration, by Pat Barker.
Where do you find inspiration to write?
Inspiration is easy – it comes from one’s own life, from family stories, the newspapers, from television and film and the internet… there are amazing stories and characters everywhere. It’s deciding what to do with them that’s difficult.
What is your routine for writing?
My best writing is done in the mornings, so I try to get up early(ish) to make a start. I’ll usually write until mid-afternoon, by which time I run out of steam. Then I’ll read, do research, catch up on emails. Sometimes my routine is dictated by how the book is going – if it’s going well, I can write all day and well into the night.
Name three things you can’t live without when writing:
Books, tea, silence.
What are you reading next?
A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. (yes, I know I’m about five years behind everyone else on this)
What does being ‘a woman writer’ mean to you?
That’s a difficult question. Most of the time, I just feel like a writer. There are times when the designation ‘a woman writer’ feels good, it means you are part of a fortunate and interesting cohort of women who write. There are times when it is irritating, when it comes with the assumption that your books will be for women only, that they will deal only with certain subjects, that they will be lightweight, that they deserve a certain sort of book jacket, etc.
Words of wisdom about writing for your younger self:
Find a reader. I spent years starting novels and then abandoning them without ever sharing them with another living soul. I found it impossible to tell whether I was on the right track or not, whether I was onto something, whether I’d created a character anyone would want to read about. It’s a solitary profession, but writing cannot be done in total isolation.