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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > July 2017 > CHANGING TRACKS


How do you follow up one of the biggest books of the decade? Do exactly what you want, Paula Hawkins tells Tina Jackson

Chances are that you’ve read, quite possibly in a page-turning frenzy, The Girl on the Train. Along with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, Paula Hawkins’ global bestseller has defined the contemporary, zeitgeisty, psychological thriller genre, with its domestic noir, unreliable narrators and surprise twists.

The Girl on the Train has sold more than 18 million copies worldwide and was turned into a Hollywood film starring A-lister Emily Blunt, so to say expectations were riding high for its follow up is understating the case. And when Into the Water came out last month, and was a stylistic departure from its predecessor, dark and ambitious and lacking a single central character, not everyone was pleased. But how can you follow up a global smash? Chances are you can’t, so you might as well set out your stall by writing what you want. In Paula’s case, it’s a questioning, complicated story with multiple narrators that leads its readers through some very murky waters as it interrogates the secrets connected to Nel Abbott’s death by drowning in a small town. Writing in the New Statesman, Leo Robson nailed it with the description ‘dark, feminist pulp fiction’.

Paula consciously chose to write a book that was a departure from the Girl on the Train template. ‘I wanted to write something different to the book I’d just written,’ she says. In the wake of her a) runaway success and b) initial critical disappointment in some quarters that Into the Water hasn’t fulfilled the expectations of The Girl on the Train, you might expect her to be a little guarded and wary, but sitting in a Waterstones café on a whistle-stop signing tour, she’s smiley, intense and pleasingly down to earth, using our interview as the chance to grab a cup of tea.

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About Writing Magazine

How do you follow up one of the biggest books of the decade? The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins tells us about changing tracks and writing the book that matters to you in our star interview. What do editors want? There can't be anyone in a better position to tell you than debut novelist Anna Pitoniak, who worked as a Big Five editor before landing her book deal. How is your year's writing plan going? As 2017 hits the halfway mark, we help you stay on target. Look for leads, find the most up-to-date markets for your work and enter the latest writing competitions, with more than £50,000 in writing prizes, in the Writers' News pages, packed with news you can use.

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