Paige Toon: An Exclusive Interview on The One We Fell in Love With

Paige Toon: An Exclusive Interview on The One We Fell in Love With

Hi Paige, thanks for speaking to us! Where did the idea for the story originate from?

I grew up in a small town in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia, where anything out of the ordinary got people’s attention. I went to school with identical triplets, and a couple of years ago I was thinking about them, remembering how everyone knew who they were. They were so rare and special, they must’ve felt a little like celebrities, but at home, they were each just one of three. As a mother myself, I know how hard it is to juggle the needs of two children. What must it be like for the parents of triplets, dealing with three little people, each going through exactly the same stages of childhood at exactly the same time? The idea of writing from the perspectives of triplets intrigued me. And then it got me thinking… Imagine a gorgeous eighteen-year-old boy moving in next door to three beautiful, identical teenage sisters. Would he be attracted to the first girl he meets, but later find he has a deeper connection with another? And would it be too late for him to do anything about it? Ultimately I believed that the sisters’ loyalties would lie with each other, but I knew that could cause some spine-tinglingly good romantic friction.

Did you know how things would play out before you started writing?

Yes. I pretty much always know, but sometimes a plotline might develop which takes things off on a tangent before it returns in time for the ending I’ve more or less imagined. Because I tend to come up with the idea for my next book while I’m working on the one before, I have time to mull things over before I start writing. I’ve usually got a few climactic scenes that I’m really excited about getting to – I never write out of sequence, so I have to be patient if they take place towards the end of the book. When those scenes are finally upon me, I can’t type fast enough. I’ve written 10,000 words in a day a couple of times.

How long did it take to get to know the triplets? Did you know the characters would be triplets from the start or did you meet one sister first?

I knew my characters would be triplets from the start because my plot idea was formed around them, but one triplet’s personality came to me before the others. Phoebe is the most popular, the most personable, the most outgoing and adventurous. She’s the girl that Angus – the boy from next door – meets first, and the other two sisters, Eliza and Rose, pretty much accept that he’s hers from the beginning. Eliza and Rose have come up short against Phoebe all their lives, but they rarely hold it against her because they adore her so much.

Was it a struggle to write with a distinct voice for each sister?

The girls are so different in personality, with different passions, fears and faults, that as soon as I knew who they were and what they were about, they took on lives and voices of their own. It was surprisingly easy to write from their unique points of view. But it did take me a while to connect to Phoebe. She’s so different to me – she rock climbs and works on a cable car in the French Alps, sometimes staying overnight at the top of the mountain. That would absolutely terrify me! I had to do a lot of research about climbing and that helped me to understand what drives a person to do that sort of thing. It was actually kind of thrilling going on her journey with her.

Who was your favourite character to write?

I loved them all for different reasons, but Eliza is so tortured over her feelings for Angus – who for her, is completely off limits – that her character was the most interesting to write at first. She can be quite spiky, and it’s only when you break down her defences that you get to know the troubled soul underneath. But as the story went on, it became more about Rose for me. She quits nursing, moves back home to look after her mother, and gets a job at a bakery. She thinks she’s quite mature, but she’s the total opposite when it comes to love – she’s gone through multiple crushes, and has high expectations of potential love interests. It was so much fun writing about her and Toby, the hot indie skater boy who works with her at the bakery.

Which of the triplets do you think you’re most similar to?

Probably Rose, but I’m similar to all of them in some respects. Rose can be a bit of a martyr, but on the whole she’s kind and caring. She can also be pretty melodramatic at times – yep, me too.

What do you enjoy most about exploring romantic relationships?

It’s so much fun being inside my characters heads, seeing what they’re seeing and feeling what they’re feeling. I’m creating my own little world where I’m allowed to fall in love over and over again. No two relationships are the same – my characters and their circumstances are all diverse so they deal with situations in different ways. It’s exciting to write from their perspectives and go along on their journeys. The One We Fell in Love With has three heroines and three different romantic plotlines with three different men – it was like writing three books in one. It was a bit of a challenge, to be honest!

Why did you choose to set part of your story in the French Alps? Did you get to visit there for research?

I went to Chamonix with my family in the summer of 2014 and was so inspired by the mountain setting that I decided to set Phoebe’s part of the story there. When I got home, I contacted the company that ran the cable car up the Aiguille du Midi mountain from Chamonix – they put me in touch with one of their employees, a girl called Melanie Fowler, who gave me loads of information about what goes on behind the scenes. Every month or so, two of the employees have to stay at the top of the mountain to turn off the cable car, charge it up, clear the pathways of snow and be on hand for any emergencies – ie any climbers who have got hurt or lost their way and arrived back too late for the last cable car. The more info I got from Mel, the more Phoebe’s story formed in my mind. When I first went to the top of the Aiguille du Midi in 2014, I felt very nervous and on edge. You’re up so high – well above the clouds – with Mont Blanc in the not-too-far distance. I couldn’t imagine being a rock climber, stepping out of the ice cave onto this narrow ridge and walking down the mountain with steep drops on either side. I felt faint and dizzy and wanted to go back down to Chamonix as soon as possible. Over the course of writing this book, though, I connected more to Phoebe and her character. In August of 2016, my family and I returned to the Alps on holiday and went back up to the top of the Aiguille du Midi. Mel was working at the top that day – it was so good to finally meet her in person – and this time, it wasn’t scary. I’d been inside Phoebe’s head for so long that I actually felt excited to be up there.

What attracted you to write about the relationship between sisters? Do you have siblings yourself?

I have an older brother, and even though friends, teachers, family – even our parents – have compared us at times, we’ve always been set apart from each other in age and sex, so it’s never been too hard to handle. To have a sibling – or two siblings – who are identical in age, sex and looks… People would notice and comment if one fell short while another succeeded. Until I started to research triplets, I didn’t appreciate how hard it must be to be constantly compared to your siblings, and to have to share everything from birthday parties to knickers and sometimes even best friends. It seemed like an interesting premise to explore.

What’s your favourite quote/scene from the book?

I love romantic tension, so it’s probably either the treehouse scenes with Angus and Eliza or the nightclub scene with Rose and Toby. Both boys are forbidden fruits for one reason or another, so the chemistry crackles between them. There’s also a scene right in the middle of the book – I’ve just been skimming through the pages in order to answer this question and it still hits me hard, even now! In terms of a quote, I think I’d choose something Eliza says to Angus: ‘It’s Phoebe or no one for you. Do you understand? If you don’t want her, you can’t have any of us.’ And a few sentences later she says, I would have preferred it if he’d chosen not to have any of us…

What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

The twist, otherwise known as ‘that bit’. I don’t like telling people there’s a twist because, if I know there’s one coming in a book, then I’m always looking out for it. So I apologise to the readers who haven’t read the book yet and who will now be doing that – try to put this answer out of your mind! It was really difficult to get the build up to the twist right – partly because everyone who had read the first draft of the book had also read the synopsis, so it wasn’t clear if it was working. It was only when Mel, the girl who helped me with my mountain cable car research, read the first draft to check for mistakes that I knew I’d pulled it off. She had exactly the response I’d wanted my readers to have. There were definitely a few kinks to iron out because some parts of the timeline were really confusing to start with, but thanks to my editors, we got there in the end! The most amazing thing was when Marian Keyes and Giovanna Fletcher – two authors I absolutely adore – read the book and both had the same reactions as Mel. When I got their emails, I cried – partly with happiness, the rest with relief! After that I just couldn’t wait for my readers to read it, too.

What books would you recommend to someone who enjoyed this book?

Anything by Colleen Hoover. I can’t get enough of her books at the moment. She writes the most heartwrenching unrequited love stories. Like me, she doesn’t write laugh out loud funny books, but she does write from the heart, and you feel like you’re living the story and falling in love along with the heroine. Maybe Someday is probably my favourite book of hers, but Slammed was the one that got me hooked.

Which authors inspire you to write?

Marian Keyes – she’s so clever. She’s the best at being able to pull off hilarious, heartwarming and heartbreaking, all in the same book. Some of my very favourite authors write Young Adult fantasy – Cassandra Clare and Stephanie Meyer, for example. Their forbidden love stories are torturously good, and with fantasy, there’s more scope for keeping your characters apart. It’s not simply a case of, ‘you can’t have that boy because he has a girlfriend’. Rather it’s, ‘you can’t have that boy because he’s a blood-sucking vampire or he’s possessed by a demon’.

What’s next for you? Do you have another book underway?

I’m currently writing The Last Piece of My Heart, which will come out in May 2017. It’s about a woman who is drafted in to ghost write the unfinished sequel of a bestselling book after the previous author dies. Then I plan to write something a little bit different – a love story set in the future. I’ve been mulling it over for almost four years now, but I’ve been writing two books a year as it is, so it’s only now that I’ve finally finished the third and final book in the Jessie Jefferson series that I can make a start on it. There are so many scenes that I’m looking forward to writing, I’m not sure my fingers will be able to type fast enough!