The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 

An Interview with Paula Hawkins

Author of The Girl on the Train: A Novel (Doubleday, 15 January, 2015)

By Columnist Anna Roins

May 2015

The Girl on the Train has taken the world by storm. It debuted on The New York Times Best Seller list at the top spot in January this year, a feat unheard of by any novel in a decade. It has remained number one to date, for Print, E-book fiction and Hardcover, for over 13 weeks.

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins

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It is about a young woman called Rachel who is grieving the end of her marriage. When she catches the same train every morning, she passes a row of terraces and finds herself daydreaming about the people who live in them. One couple, ‘Jess and Jason’, as she names them, seems perfect, as does their life – until one day she sees something shocking before the train moves on.

The character of Rachel has been written well. She is familiar; someone we all know. The dual setting of a train car and a London suburb has a cinematic quality reminiscent of Hitchcock. If you’re on a train right now, there’s probably someone in your carriage reading The Girl on the Train.

The thriller has a copy sold every 20 seconds. Its success in America is even more startling: over a million copies sold, comfortably eclipsing Fifty Shades of Grey. It is now on sale in a further 35 countries, making it a genuine global sensation.

“Really great suspense novel. Kept me up most of the night. The alcoholic narrator is perfect.” Stephen King

“I enjoy creating them. I enjoy reading (and writing) unreliable narrators because it plays with the readers expectations . . .”

AUTHORLINK to MS HAWKINS: Thank you for sharing your time with us to discuss your new novel, The Girl on the Train, during what must be an exhausting book tour.

HAWKINS: Thank you for having me!

AUTHORLINK: How does it feel to have your novel debut to number one on The New York Times Best Seller list and continue to be number one to date?

HAWKINS: The success of the book has been amazing. I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet! It’s beyond all my dreams as a writer.

AUTHORLINK: Well, congratulations. Rachel Watson is the main character of your novel and an unreliable narrator. The reader questions her credibility all throughout the book. At the same time, Rachel questions herself due to her drinking binges and related black-outs. Despite this, you cannot help but cheer her on. The other two characters, Megan and Anna, are also depicted as unreliable narrators, yet one feels less empathy for them. How did you manage to achieve this slightly imbalanced bias? Is the unreliable narrator your favourite type of narrator? What is it about the, ”highly flawed, messed-up female protagonist that people seem to like at the moment,’’ as you said yourself once?

HAWKINS: Flawed characters are generally so much more interesting than ‘good’ ones and as a writer, I enjoy creating them. I enjoy reading (and writing) unreliable narrators because it plays with the readers expectations and we can view the same situation via many different perspectives.

AUTHORLINK: You have written four other ‘women’s fiction’ books under a pseudonym, Amy Silver, which were commissioned by Arrow Publishing of Random House. You used to flesh out plotlines and characters that were assigned to you. Did you feel that it was a way to get your foot in the door?

HAWKINS: Those early books were commissions, then two contemporary novels followed. My writing was getting much darker and that to me felt like my natural voice. The obvious next step was to write a thriller with a central flawed character.

AUTHORLINK: You studied economics, politics and philosophy at The University of Oxford and worked as a financial journalist for at least 15 years. Have you done any creative writing courses in that time, or read any books that helped you hone your fiction writing skills?

HAWKINS: I read all the time and always have. I’ve always loved reading and writing from a very young age, but it took a while for me to develop my own writing voice I think.

“I’ve made a decision not to be involved in the rating of the film – I’ve not written a screenplay, it’s not my natural form.”

AUTHORLINK: The film rights for The Girl on the Train were optioned by Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studio for producer Mark Platt. A bidding war erupted even before it was even published. Will you have any input in the screenplay? We imagine plenty of actresses would love to play one of the three female protagonists.

HAWKINS: It’s very early days. I’ve made a decision not to be involved in the rating of the film – I’ve not written a screenplay, it’s not my natural form. There’s been a lot of speculation about casting! I’m looking forward to seeing what the film team will do.

AUTHORLINK: Do you proofread/edit all your books or did you have someone to do that for you? Who edited The Girl on the Train and how did you select him/her?

HAWKINS: My first reader is always my literary agent, Lizzy Kremer. We’ve worked together for a long time and I really trust her and her judgement. I am published by Transworld in the UK and my editor there is Sarah Adams. Transworld bid for the rights to publish in an auction and I’m very happy with all they have done to support me and the whole publication.

AUTHORLINK: We can imagine! If you could meet the original author (dead or alive) of any book, who would it be and why?

“My next book is about sisters and about how two people can view and interpret a shared history very differently.”

HAWKINS: I’m a big fan of Kate Atkinson. I met her once at an event.

AUTHORLINK: Yes, she’s brilliant. Your next book has been described as a Gothic-tinged psychological thriller about sisters. Is this still the case?

HAWKINS: My next book is about sisters and about how two people can view and interpret a shared history very differently. It’s still very much a work in progress.

AUTHORLINK: It sounds intriguing. Ms Hawkins, thank you so much for your time once again. We wish you continued success for The Girl on the Train and for your next book due to come out this year.

HAWKINS: Thank you so much!

About the Author:

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in London. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller. It is being published all over the world and has been optioned by Dreamworks. If you would like to learn more about Paula Hawkins, please see the following links:,,

About Anna Roins:

Anna Roins was a Senior Lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor in Sydney before she embarked on a career in writing seven years ago. As a freelance journalist, she has contributed to articles on social and community issues and edited a number of books, websites, and dissertations. She has continued her studies in creative literature with The University of Oxford (Continuing Education) and the Faber Academy, London.

Anna is currently writing her first novel and is a regular contributor to AUTHORLINK assigned to conduct interviews with best-selling authors.

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