Q&A With Gill Paul

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Q&A With Gill Paul 

Gill Paul with whom I’m doing a Q&A with today is the author of several historical novels and non-fiction books. Gill’s novels have been on the Toronto, Globe & Mail, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller lists. Some of her novels are The Collector’s Daughter and The Manhattan Girls


Q: Gill do you enjoy writing historical fiction more or do you enjoy writing non-fiction more?

A: I like both but I definitely prefer fiction. I love trying to slip inside the skin of a historical character and imagine what it was like to be them, living in their era, with the problems they faced, then invent thoughts, feelings and dialogue for them. I feel very privileged that I get to sit down at my desk every morning and do this for a living.

Q: What fascinates you about writing historical fiction? When in your life did you realize that you wanted to be an author?

A: I always read a lot and as a child I wanted to be the person who sat in a publisher’s office and got paid to read books all day. I always wrote stories, and attempted my first novel in my twenties, but didn’t find a publisher till my thirties. I’ve always been drawn towards historical fiction because that’s what I like to read most. With good historical fiction, you learn a lot effortlessly while enjoying the story.

Q: What advice do you give on how to write great historical fiction? What advice do you give to anyone struggling with writers block?

A: Advice I’d give to any writer is just keep trying, even if there are setbacks, because the more you write, the better you get. If you are stuck for ideas, there are lots of ways to find inspiration. Here’s one I have used in the past. Collect a pile of random newspapers and magazines. Sit down with a pair of scissors. Leaf through and cut out any stories that interest you. Flick through the ones you have chosen. Do any themes spring out? Your next idea will be in there!


Q: If you were to write in a completely different genre which genre would it be and why?

A: I can’t imagine abandoning historical fiction because I love the research and the challenges of writing in a different era, but I might be tempted to write a historical crime story some time if I came across the right subject.

Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to your novels?

A: No, but if any producers are reading this I’d be happy to hear from them!

Q: Which era was fun to write about when it came to your historical fiction novels?


A: I do love the 1920s. You can imagine that sense of relief after the end of the war and the Spanish flu epidemic. Those who had survived wanted to party! The rich were richer than ever, and new inventions such as washing machines and refrigerators gave consumers more leisure time. Women got the vote, and they began to pursue careers, and to have love affairs without necessarily planning to marry the man concerned. It was a time of real generational change, and must have been loads of fun.


Q: Are you writing a new novel now? If so are you allowed to reveal any details?

A: My next novel, A Beautiful Rival, will be published on August 31st in the UK, September 5th in the US. It’s about the rivalry between Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein, two great titans who invented the modern cosmetics industry. It began in 1915 when Helena dared to open a New York salon near Elizabeth’s, and saw them poaching each other’s staff, stealing each other’s skin cream formulae, and undermining everything the other tried to do. It was great fun to write about!

Q: What’s your advice to new authors on how to deal with negative reviews, online trolls and unsupportive friends and family members?

A: Avoid them! Seriously, why would anyone want to read their one-star reviews? I don’t get trolls online because I never post about politics or contentious issues. My social media bubble is for people who like books and are interested in history, and we’re a supportive and happy family. Some of my friends aren’t big readers. I genuinely don’t mind if they don’t read my novels, because I get plenty of support from the friends who do.

Q: What was it like growing up in Scotland going to school here in America for a year and then moving to London to work in publishing? It all sounds wonderful. 

A: Our family moved to the US for a couple of years because of my father’s work. I was nine when I went from a small girls-only school in Scotland to a huge elementary school in West Virginia, where I was put in a class with kids two years older than me. So I was looking for someone to play Barbie dolls with, while they were dating! That was a bit daunting. 

I always wanted to move to London, which sounded incredibly glamorous. It’s a difficult city to find your feet in because it’s expensive and people aren’t as openly friendly as I was used to in Scotland, but I love the variety and the multi-culturalism. I’m a passionate Londoner now!