Interview With Author Paige Toon
By James W, Friday 5th June 2015

Ever since her first book, Lucy In The Sky back in 2007 Paige Toon has gained a legion of loyal fans thanks to her engrossing writing style, a keen eye for sumptuous detail and stunning storytelling.

Her latest book, The Sun In her Eyes is so good it’s been made the CBS Drama Book Of The Month so we decided to chat to this talented author about this anticipated title.

To try and win a signed copy of The Sun In Her Eyes click here.

CBSD: What inspired you to write your first book, Lucy In The Sky?

PT: We used to travel a lot as a family because my dad was a racing driver, but Australia was always home for me – and then when I was a teenager, we moved to the UK permanently and I was devastated to leave behind my closest friends. When I was at university, my parents and brother moved back to Australia, but I had met my husband-to-be and he had no interest in living Down Under. I felt very torn between the two countries and two sets of people, so it wasn’t too hard to imagine what it would be like to also be torn between two men: a lawyer and a surfer. At the beginning of the book, Lucy receives a text just before take-off on a 24 hour flight to Australia: ‘Hi Lucy, just sh*gged James in your bed…’ The air hostess tells her to switch off her phone immediately so she has this awful flight, wondering what her boyfriend has been getting up to. I think this idea just popped into my head when I was flying home one year.

CBSD: What did it feel like when you saw it on bookshelves for the first time?

PT: Completely surreal. It still does. It honestly doesn’t feel real. I still can’t get my head around the fact that hundreds of thousands of people buy and read my books.

CBSD: Let’s talk about your latest novel, The Sun In Her Eyes, how long did it take to get from initial idea to finished piece?

PT: The Sun In Her Eyes was two plot ideas combined. I had been toying with the idea of writing about a family being split apart for reasons beyond their control – in this case, Amber has to leave her husband behind in the UK when her father in Australia has a stroke. Away from her husband and surrounded by her oldest friends, Amber finds herself drawn towards the first man she ever fell in love with. Then another idea came out of a conversation with my agent at the end of 2014. A woman comes across a car crash. There’s a little girl in the back seat and her mother is in the front. The woman hears the mother’s last words before she dies. Fast forward to the future and this is the little girl’s story. At some point the stranger gets in contact with her to tell her her mother’s last words. I pondered for months about what these words could be, and when they suddenly hit me – when I was thinking what I would say to my own tiny daughter if I was ever in that unthinkable situation – I got quite emotional and suddenly the two stories clicked into place. I had another book to write before I could start The Sun In Her Eyes and I overran on it by a couple of weeks, so in the end I wrote The Sun In Her Eyes in two and a half months. I thought I’d have to work evenings and weekends to catch up, but didn’t – I loved writing it so much; it flowed very easily.

CBSD: Was it a difficult book to plot?

PT: Not at all. I’d been thinking about it while I was writing another book (I Knew You Were Trouble, the second part of my series for young adults) so by the time I came to writing it, I knew where I was going. There were so many different plot elements to weave in and out of the story, but they all fell remarkably smoothly into place – for once!

CBSD: Did the characters take long to flesh out?

PT: Not really – I pretty much knew who they were when I began writing. Because you already know their journeys, the plot shapes their characters from the beginning. Amber was great fun to write – she’s my baddest heroine yet. I actually had to tone her down a bit in the editing stage!

CBSD: Which character is your favourite and why?

PT: Of all my books, possibly Lily from Pictures Of Lily. Or Lucy from Lucy In The Sky. It’s hard to choose because I spend so much time in their heads, but these two were part English and part Australian so I guess I connected to them more.

CBSD: How do you decide on such things as character names and names of places?

PT: I always write about real places so that’s easy. Our family holidays usually take place in the country where my next book – or part of it – will be set! In The Longest Holiday, I knew the plot but it took me a while to work out where to set it. In the end I decided on Key West. I’d been there before and was keen to go back and it worked to make Leo, the sexy, exotic main love interest, half Cuban. As for names, these have been known to change throughout the book when a character develops and suddenly the name doesn’t really suit them. Daisy from Chasing Daisy was Anna until close to actual publication! That was partly because we renamed the book towards the very end…

CBSD: Do you ever write versions of friends and family into your books?

PT: I don’t think I’ve ever done this – at least not consciously. I wouldn’t want to write about real people because it would be too hard to do them justice. When characters are fictional, your mind can go where it wants to.

CBSD: If The Sun In Her Eyes was to be made into a movie who would be in your dream cast?

PT: I always find this question really hard – readers ask often! Because the characters are so real to me in my mind, I can’t imagine them being played by actual people. My readers have made some great suggestions, though. I’m still waiting to hear what they come up with for The Sun In Her Eyes – check out Twitter @PaigeToonAuthor, Facebook.com/PaigeToonAuthor or sign up to my free book club at www.paigetoon.com because I’ll be sure to share them there!

CBSD: Do you have a strict writing regime or do you just do it when the mood takes you?

PT: Both of my kids are now in school, which is why writing The Sun In Her Eyes was possible in such a short space of time. I force myself to the gym on some mornings, and then always catch up with social media and emails first. This is becoming more and more time consuming! Finally I can start writing and usually only stop for a quick lunch break before school pick-up. Then it’s mummy time!

CBSD: Are you good with deadlines?

PT: I am – it’s something my editor always comments on! I work better under tight deadlines. I always have.

CBSD: As you mentioned at the start you travelled extensively as a child, do you think this experience helped to inspire you as a writer?

PT: Definitely. I love writing about different places and really making the reader feel like they’re there in the story with my characters. Readers often tell me they’ve gone to a place because they read about it in my stories and wanted to see it in person.

CBSD: Do you miss the world of journalism?

PT: Sometimes. Sometimes I miss working in an office surrounded by lots of people in high spirits, but I know that the reality isn’t always like that. I’m very lucky to be able to work from home and still be a full-time mum. I’ll never take that for granted.

CBSD: What tips would you give to budding writers out there?

PT: Write what you love, not what you think you should. As long as you connect to your characters and storylines, other people will too. If you’re ever stuck on a tricky scene, move on as quickly as possible to something you really want to write about – you can always go back to the tricky scene latter. Just don’t get bogged down by it. My agent, Lizzy Kremer from David Higham, writes this fantastic blog which any author hopefuls would find interesting: Publishing For Humans.

CBSD: What are you working on at the moment?

PT: I’m writing a story about triplets who, when they were seventeen, fell in love with the same boy. Now they’re in their late twenties and one of them is marrying him. It’s the first time I’ve written from three different perspectives so I really have to focus to stay connected to each of the three girls. I’m enjoying it so far and there are a few key scenes coming up that I can’t wait to write!

CBSD: Paige Toon, thank you very much.

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