Women At The Top Awards: Meet Paula Hawkins, The Literary Record-Breaker

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  • We've scoured the UK to find the most inspirational innovators for Marie Claire's Women At The Top Awards, in association with Windows 10 and Freixenet. Meet Paula Hawkins, Windows 10 Woman At The Top and one of the ten game-changers who have shaped 2015.

    Since its publication in January 2015, The Girl On The Train has broken records across the globe. The thriller has sat at the number-one spot of the UK best-sellers chart more times than any other hardback novel and, in the early weeks of publication, shifted copies faster than any other novel, ever (including those by Dan Brown). The book is now being adapted into a Hollywood film starring Emily Blunt. Meanwhile, Paula Hawkins is now working on a second thriller, due out next year.

    ‘If I understood why The Girl On The Train has done so well, I would do exactly the same thing again – but I don’t! Lots of movies get optioned but never adapted, but this is actually happening. I’m going to LA soon, so hopefully I can visit the set.

    My agent got very excited when she first read it. While I was writing, I knew straight away that it felt different to anything I’d done before. It was more me. I’d previously written four chick-lit novels [under the pseudonym Amy Silver], but always knew a crime thriller – something darker – is what I would be good at.

    The sales figures were shocking. And now, nine months on, it’s still selling. My new book is set in the north of England; it’s dark, gothic and creepy. I’m going to rent a cottage in the winter and write there, and not communicate with anyone.

    Success is surreal. There’s no real way of connecting with it. I don’t think of myself in the same league as Dan Brown – he’s a superstar author and I’m not that!

    The financial security has been lovely, but apart from that, nothing has changed. Of course, I’m much busier now and have all sorts of pressures in the way of publicity and writing the second book. But I still live in the same house. Maybe next year I’ll start spending.

    I’m proudest of the connection I have with readers on social media. Some have said this has reinvigorated their joy for reading. That’s a wonderful thing. If I see someone reading my book, I find myself trying to decipher their expression.

    My fourth chick-lit book barely sold any copies. It was heartbreaking. At one point I thought, “I can’t carry on like this.” I suppose I just pressed on, and decided to write what I really wanted to write. I think that’s a lesson I learned; you can’t really write to order.’

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