Q: What was the first story that you wrote?
My first full-length novel, Enticement, was published in 2000. It was a mystery involving some old
diaries, with a dual timeline in modern London and Occupied France.
Q: You are well-known for your amazing historical fiction novels. How did you get into this genre?
I love history, and I’ve always read a lot of historical fiction, so it came naturally to me. It’s a genre I feel comfortable in. I’m not good with modern technology – phones, computers, adjusting the central
heating – so maybe I belong in the past.
Q: What time period is your favorite to write i.e., 1920’s?
I jump around, but the 1920s have always been close to my heart because there was such a huge change in society, particularly for women. After the war, they could work to earn their own living, rent their own apartments, drive cars, vote, and even take lovers as men did, with the new availability of
contraceptives. They were rewriting the rulebook, and that makes it a fascinating era for a novelist to
Q: Tell us, readers, about your new release, The Manhattan Girls.
It’s about the friendship between four women in Jazz Age New York City, as they drink in speakeasies,
dance in nightclubs, share taxis and hangover cures, and struggle to establish their careers and find love, all at the same time. It’s also about the vulnerability that came hand in hand with their free-and-easy lifestyles.
Q: Who are the four girls featured in your novel?
Dorothy Parker, writer, renowned wit, and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table. Jane Grant, the first-ever female reporter at the New York Times, who is determined to launch her own magazine. Winifred Lenihan, a leading Broadway actress whose beauty makes her a casting couch target. Peggy Leech, the brainy one, who works on a magazine by day and is writing her first novel by night.
Q: What themes will readers find in The Manhattan Girls?
Women’s friendships, particularly the dynamics in a group of female friends. The struggle to combine a
career and a relationship without compromising either. Men behaving badly. And there are some
difficult topics touched upon, including alcoholism, suicide, rape and abortion, because these were part of women’s lives in the era of Prohibition.
Q: How long did it take you to complete your novel, The Manhattan Girls?
I’m writing a novel a year at the moment, which is tough because I do a lot of research for each one. The research takes maybe three months, the writing nine months.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers in the historical fiction genre? Choose your period and subject with an eye to the market, because eras go in and out of fashion. Use a light brushstroke when establishing the historical setting: a single telling detail is better than a
paragraph of information culled from your research notes.
Q: How would you describe your writing style?
Empathetic. I aim to get deep under the skin of my characters and bring them to life for readers, with all their contradictions and flaws as well as their strengths. My plots are quite pacy, too.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
I’ve delivered a novel that will be published in 2023 but can’t announce the subject yet, sorry! And I’ve
started the research for my 2024 novel.
Q: Using only three words, how would describe each of the protagonists?
Dottie: fragile, chaotic, genius
Jane: gutsy, indomitable, impatient
Winifred: gentle, observant, sensual
Peggy: compassionate, intelligent, brave
Q: Where do you find inspiration for the next book idea?
Readers sometimes send me ideas, which I love. If I choose to write a novel based on an idea from a
reader, I will dedicate it to them! Otherwise, I find ideas when reading history books, sometimes from a
throwaway line or a footnote that starts me wondering…
Q: Where can readers find you and your books online?
To arrange book club visits: https://novelnetwork.com/members/gill-paul/