An Interview with Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train Author, at Signature Author Series
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Every year The John Cooper School Fine Arts Council hosts a grand luncheon called the “Signatures Author Series” featuring a keynote author, visiting authors, and promotes literacy in the greater Houston area. The 13th Annual Signatures Author Series held on Friday, December 8 at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center allowed attendees the opportunity to talk to and purchase books by the visiting authors as well as special guest and keynote speaker, Paula Hawkins.
Paula Hawkins is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling suspense thriller, The Girl on the Train, that was also an international #1 bestseller, sold over 18 million copies worldwide, and was adapted into a major motion picture. In May 2017 Hawkins released a subsequent thriller, Into the Water, that was available for purchase and to be signed in-person just prior to the luncheon at the book signing.
Hello Woodlands had the opportunity to talk with Hawkins, who had just arrived from London (where she currently resides) the previous day and graciously gave up her time to speak with us. In the interview, we learned more about her background, experiences, advice for aspiring writers, and what’s to come in the future.
In talking with the Zimbabwe-born British author, Hawkins had always enjoyed creative writing. Eventually she became a journalist and covered topics such as business and finance, but also worked as a freelance writer and wrote fiction on the side. One day the opportunity presented itself to develop a romance comedy under a pseudonym, Amy Silver. After writing the piece she found that thrillers – not romantic comedies – were more her style and afterwards wrote The Girl on the Train with themes of domestic violence, alcohol, and drug abuse.
But, why thrillers after journalism?
“In working as a journalist for 15 years, I found that I enjoyed the story and writing fiction instead – asking and answering what happens next, what brought them there, making up stories, and speculating on the awfulness of it all.”
What is your process in developing a novel?
“It’s not a linear process. I have long sections of characters, then chop them up a bit. I don’t write where it’s cleanly organized – it’s chaos. With thrillers – if it’s well written enough – many people could have “done it.” But, it should all work out where you could easily change the ending and it could be a few people in the story.”
How do you feel about your book(s) being adapted into a movie?
“DreamWorks bought the book (The Girl on the Train) before it was published. It was accepted, but I tried not to get too excited in the beginning – just in case. I really didn’t want to be a part of the whole movie making process and I wasn’t worried about not having creative control. I felt quite confident that they were not going to change the characters or diverge too much from the book. I’m very happy to see someone else’s vision of the story – as a reader who’s loved a book.”
What do you value in life?
“I’m not married and don’t have children, but I have very close friends.Work is what I take refuge in. I’m very lucky to have close friends. It can be quite disabling and scary with social media and it’s very nice to have a group or network you can trust.”
What authors do you enjoy and inspire you?
“I love reading books where you have plotting, suspect everyone, and where everyone has a dark secret. A few favorites are Gillian Flynn (author of Gone Girl), Megan Abbott – all sorts.”
What advice can you give to aspiring authors?
“Don’t make the mistake of not sharing your work. Join a writers group or have someone to share your work with. You need just one reader, someone you trust to give you feedback.”
Does you have a new book in the works?
“Yes, I do have a new one churning and have started writing. After The Girl on the Train I did way too much travel, but this time I am traveling this year (2017) for Into the Water and then 2018 is for writing. As a writer, you need to block out time to write.”
To learn more about Paula Hawkins, purchase her novels, and stay updated about her upcoming book(s), visit paulahawkinsbooks.com.
A special thank you to Paula Hawkins for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions and to Deb Spiess of The John Cooper School for arranging the interview.
In previous years, the Signatures event has hosted best-selling authors as Barbara Bush, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Anthony Bourdain, John Grogan, Nicholas Sparks, Candace Bushnell, Kathryn Stockett, Jodi Picoult, Tyler Florence, Gillian Flynn and Cheryl Strayed.
The 2017 Signatures luncheon also highlighted visiting authors, book signings, drawings, and a portion of the proceeds from the event will be given to support literacy efforts in our community. This year’s designees are the Montgomery County Memorial Library System and the Barbara Bush Library.
For more information about the event, visit www.johncooper.org/specialevents or firstname.lastname@example.org.