Richard and Judy Interview: Paula Hawkins on The Girl on the Train

Richard and Judy Interview: Paula Hawkins on The Girl on the Train

How thrilled were you when The Girl on the Train became such an amazing record-breaking best-seller?

I never expected it to do as well as it has. I think it’s surpassed everyone’s expectations, including my agent’s and publishers’ – who were really excited about it from the start. But no matter how much great feedback you get early on, you really don’t know how a book is going to perform until it hits the shelves. In the case of The Girl on the Train, it went to number one on the bestsellers’ lists in both the UK and the US just a couple of weeks after publication, so I knew then that it was going to be big. I just didn’t know how big!

Does its success put pressure on you as you write the next one?

There is a weight of expectation now which I’ve never experienced before, and that makes writing a bit trickier. I’m very aware of criticisms that have been made of the last book, and it can be difficult to stop yourself returning to those points and worrying about whether you might be making the same mistakes again. Added to that, over the past year I’ve had to do quite a bit of touring, which has interrupted my writing schedule.

You turned from writing women’s fiction to this much darker genre. Why?

The first women’s fiction novel I wrote was commissioned, so the plot outline and the main characters were given to me to develop. After that, I wrote three further books in a similar vein, although the storylines were getting darker and darker, and the characters finding themselves in ever greater peril . . . It was becoming obvious that psychological suspense was the genre in which I’d feel more comfortable.

Critics have likened The Girl on the Train to Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Was this intentional, and do you admire Hitchcock’s work?

It’s very flattering. I’m a Hitchcock fan – I love the air of paranoia and self-doubt he creates in his characters; it’s something I wanted to instil in Rachel and Anna in particular. Rear Window is one of my favourite films – it sprang to mind immediately when I was thinking about the idea of someone witnessing something from their daily commute.