During the Book Market Fair in Lisbon (2017) it was possible to interview Paula Hawkins. It was a very exciting experience and a privilege to speak with a writer with such a big success in thriller novels. Her answers were very important to us in order to better understand who is a writer and how life influences their work.
What does being a writer mean to you?
Writing is more a vocation than a profession: I’m lucky enough to be able to earn a living by doing it, but I think I would write – just as I always have written – even if I wasn’t published. Since childhood I have relished making up stories: it took until I was in my thirties to find the confidence to show those stories to others, but the urge to create fiction has never left me.
Which season of your life do you think had the most influence on your writing?
Possibly my late teens/early twenties, which was the time at which I left Zimbabwe, where I grew up, and moved to London, where I live now. Those years were turbulent, and often lonely – I wrote a great deal at the time. At nineteen, I moved to Paris and lived there for a year. That was the first time I had lived alone, in a foreign city, speaking a language I struggled to master. It was lonely, again, but exciting too.
Is it possible for a writer to create their work without consideration for the feelings of the people around them?
I think perhaps it is possible, though I’m not sure that it should be. Writing is, for me, an exercise in empathy, in understanding others, in being able to place yourself in the position of another and imagine their thoughts and feelings. It would be strange then if while imagining the thoughts and feelings of fictional characters, one were to ignore the feelings of the real people in the society we live in.