Gilly Macmillan – Q&A

Gilly Macmillan is the author of Burnt Paper Sky (which was also released under the title What She Knew ), Odd Child Out, I know You Know, The Perfect Girl and The Nanny . Her latest novel, To Tell You the Truth, is published by Century on 25 June 2020.

Gilly kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about To Tell You the Truth.

The main character in the book is Lucy Harper, who has a talent for invention… She was nine years old when her brother vanished in the woods near home. As the only witness, Lucy’s story of that night became crucial to the police investigation. Thirty years on, her brother’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Now Lucy is a bestselling thriller writer. Her talent for invention has given her fame, fortune, and an army of adoring fans. But her husband, Dan, has started keeping secrets of his own, and a sudden change of scene forces Lucy to confront some dark, unwelcome memories. Then Dan goes missing and Lucy’s past and present begin to collide. Did she kill her husband? Would she remember if she did?

Finally, Lucy Harper is going to tell us the truth. Cross her heart. And hope to die.

2. What inspired the book?

I love reading books with unreliable narrators and have always wanted to write one. When I was considering who this character might be, it occurred to me that a crime writer might actually be a very unreliable narrator, because we divide our time between real and fictional worlds. And then I asked myself, what if this particular crime writer has a very secretive past, and what if she has become a little too close to her characters? Lucy Harper practically leapt off the page after that, quickly becoming my favourite of all the characters I’ve written.

3. Do you have any writing rituals or processes you have to go through before or during writing?

Nowadays I work in my home office most of the time, staring as early as I can because that’s when I’m most productive, but I started writing when my children were still young, so over the years I’ve had to be very adaptable. I can write almost anywhere, so long as I have a laptop and a good pair of earphones. But wherever I write, one this is non-negotiable: I must have a good cup of coffee before I start.

4. Having been through the publishing process a few times, is there anything about the process of creating a novel that still surprises you?

Every time I write a new book, I encounter something surprising, because each story has unique challenges. Those might relate to building a new character, to a decision to be made about story structure, or to plot problem that needs solving, though there are many more things that can trip you up in the course of writing a novel. I suspect that element of surprise is never going to change, and it’s something I love about my job, because I would hate to feel that I was writing by rote. The surprise keeps you on your toes as a writer, and helps you develop your craft.

5. If you had to choose would you rather give up reading or give up writing?

That is such a painful question to answer! But if I must choose, it would have to be writing. I don’t think I could give up reading.

6. What one thing would you want readers to take away from your books?

My hope is that I’ve written something that keeps a reader turning the pages, because being wholly absorbed in a book is one of the greatest pleasures in my life and it would be amazing to be able to give that experience to someone else.

About the book

Lucy Harper has a talent for invention…

She was nine years old when her brother vanished in the woods near home. As the only witness, Lucy’s story of that night became crucial to the police investigation. Thirty years on, her brother’s whereabouts are still unknown.

Now Lucy is a bestselling thriller writer. Her talent for invention has given her fame, fortune, and an army of adoring fans. But her husband, Dan, has started keeping secrets of his own, and a sudden change of scene forces Lucy to confront some dark, unwelcome memories. Then Dan goes missing and Lucy’s past and present begin to collide. Did she kill her husband? Would she remember if she did?

Finally, Lucy Harper is going to tell us the truth.

Cross her heart.
And hope to die.

About the Author

Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling and Edgar-nominated author of What She Knew, The Perfect Girl and Odd Child Out. She grew up in Swindon and studied at Bristol University and The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She has worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery and has been a lecturer in photography. She now writes full-time and lives in Bristol with her family.

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    I really loved Burnt Paper Sky, was not quite so keen on The Perfect Child, but I really want to get back to reading Gilly Macmillan, because she is a very talented, lyrical writer, almost a poet.

    Like

  2. Kath says:

    Great interview, Janet even if question 5 sent my heart into overdrive at the thought of having to choose between the two! I think Gilly’s choice of unreliable narrator here is inspired and works so incredibly well in the book, especially in the way she handles Lucy’s friendship with Kirsty and how it transitions from their childhood into her adult life.

    Like

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