I’m pleased as punch to welcome Gill Paul to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today to talk about her favourite books and what has influenced her as an author…
Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
As a child it’s nice to find series you like so you can start a book knowing in advance it’s going to be great. I progressed from Enid Blyton to the Nancy Drew mysteries to Agatha Christie and Jean Plaidy and I think I probably read everything they ever wrote. In my teens, I devoured historical biographies, alongside Jackie magazine then Cosmopolitan!
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Confession time: I was a bit of a swot at school and did well at most things, but I never thought I was particularly good at English until my very last year. A new teacher arrived, a sharp-tongued, grey-haired woman called Mrs Drew, who was married to the Professor of English Lit at Glasgow University. Straight away she seemed to think my essays were interesting and sometimes she’d invite me to stay behind after class to discuss them. It was because of her I went on to study Literature.
What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read a mix of literary and commercial fiction and am drawn towards historical novels set in countries or eras I want to learn about. It has to have a strong story, though. I’m sure I’ve been influenced by loads of the books I’ve read. Maybe all those mystery stories in childhood helped to develop my story sense.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I have written a couple of time-lapse novels with contemporary plots and I might try a novel that’s purely contemporary some time, if the right idea comes along.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I loved Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and when I wrote my first novel, I decided to try using a modern and historical plot to weave the story, as he did so successfully. I’d made several false starts before but this time I finally got a publishing deal so huge thanks to Mr Faulks!
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Anne Tyler, Rose Tremain, Maggie O’Farrell, Barbara Kingsolver, Sarah Waters, Kate Atkinson, Colm Toibin, Louise Beech, Marnie Riches, Kerry Fisher, Claudia Carroll, Lulu Taylor… and loads more. Mostly women.
Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Jane Thynne’s series of Clara Vine books about an English actress working in the UFA Studios in Berlin in the 1930s and becoming friendly with the Nazi leaders wives is a brilliant idea and I would love to have come up with it myself! And I adore Dinah Jefferies’ books, for their combination of exotic historical settings with a great story. She knows the Far East intimately, and that comes across in her descriptions of the lush plants, the cooking smells in the markets, the humidity – I love her writing.
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
I use real historical characters in all my novels, but you can’t libel someone once they’re dead so I’m not worried about the Romanovs’ lawyers turning up at my door. Usually I try to keep the biographical facts accurate when using a real character but in The Secret Wife I took a few liberties. In my Crimean novel, No Place for a Lady, it would have been nice to have Florence Nightingale fall madly in love with a cavalry officer but the idea was just too implausible. In The Affair, I wrote about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Rome in 1962 and I was delighted to get a message from the director’s wife telling me my descriptions were spot on! All these people were famous, of course. But in my Titanic novel Women and Children First I wrote about a good-looking first-class steward called Reg Jones, whose picture I had seen in a book. He was only twenty-one and he died in the sinking, but in my novel he lives and is the main character. I hope he would have been pleased.
About Gill Paul
Gill Paul is a Scottish-born, London-based writer of historical fiction and non-fiction. Her novels include The Secret Wife (2016), a tragic love story about the Russian royal family, Women and Children First (2012), set on the Titanic, The Affair (2013), set in Rome during the making of Cleopatra, and No Place for a Lady (2015), about the women who accompanied the soldiers to the Crimean War. Her non-fiction includes A History of Medicine in 50 Objects (2016), World War I Love Stories (2014) and Royal Love Stories (2015). Gill has written about relationships for a number of newspapers and magazines, and has an occasionally successful sideline in matchmaking. She swims year-round in an outdoor pond.
Gill Paul’s latest book The Secret Wife is out now. You can read an excerpt and my review HERE.
A huge thank you to Gill for taking in part in Author Influences.