Meet Paula Hawkins Author Of A Slow Fire Burning

Her previous two thrillers The Girl On The Train and Into The Water were huge bestsellers and we're delighted to welcome Paula Hawkins as our Thriller Women interviewee this week to celebrate her latest novel A Slow Fire Burning

Download the ebook of A Slow Fire Burning from Amazon or buy the paperback from Thriller Women's list at NB: if you buy books through this link we may earn a commission from, whose fees support independent bookshops.

We ask Paula what the book's title means, what inspired the plot and who her favourite authors are, plus much more! Over to Paula...

Front cover of A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

TW; Congratulations Paula on the launch of A Slow Fire Burning. Your fans have waited four years for this book (your last book, Into The Water, was published in 2017). What have you been up to in those years as well as writing?

PH: Thank you! I spent most of 2017 travelling and touring for Into the Water. Towards the end of the year I started writing a new novel but I abandoned it about a third of the way in. I loved the character at its heart, but I found it too bleak! So I had to start over in 2018, which was when I started writing A Slow Fire Burning. I knew I wanted to write about the character of Laura, but it took me a while to find the right story for her.

TW: Tell us about the title A Slow Fire Burning and what it means.

PH: ‘Slow fire’ refers to the process by which the acid within paper very gradually causes it to become brittle and to decay. If you’ve ever picked up a very old book, you might find that the corners of the pages are starting to break away – that’s the result of slow fire. It struck me that this was the perect metaphor for what was happening to the characters in the novel: all of them are carrying something within them – shame or guilt, the desire for vengeance, even love – which is slowly eating away at them from the inside, something which has the potential to destroy them.

TW: The book opens with a a brutal murder of Daniel Sutherland in London. What inspired the plot for you?

PH: Back in 2018, I was spending a lot of time walking along the towpath of the Regent’s Canal, which is just north of where I live in London, and as I went, I would look at the house boats and imagine the lives of their occupants, wondering what sort of people might choose to live there. Every so often I would come across a boat which appeared neglected, even abandoned, half-sinking into murky water, its windows filthy, piled high with junk... and I wondered what might be inside. What might be hidden? The key to some mystery? Human remains? That was the jumping off point, just the germ of the idea – a body on a boat. I started building from there.

TW: How did you weave all the different characters and voices together so skilfully?

PH: With difficulty! It took a long time to get the balance right, to find the right way to tell the story, to develop the right relationships between the characters. That’s not something that develops overnight – it’s one of the reasons I write quite slowly. I really need to get under the skin of my characters in order to develop their voices and to imagine how they would react in any given situation.

TW: What do you hope the reader will take away from reading this book?

PH: I don’t really write with a takeway in mind – there is no moral to the story! Mostly, I hope that the reader will be compelled by the mystery and moved by the characters. I believe that one of fiction’s great strengths lies in its ability to help us understand the lives and the suffering of others, so I hope that this novel might provoke reflection on how we become the people we are, or on what sort of people we might have become had we been born somewhere different, or to different parents, or had suffered some bad luck along the way...

TW: Emily Blunt played Rachel in the film version of The Girl On The Train.  Who would you like to play the main characters in A Slow Fire Burning

PH: I never fantasy cast! I think that’s best left to fans (and film directors).

TW: Which books do you read to relax?

PH: I love the novels of Kate Atkinson, Pat Barker, Sigrid Nunez, Miriam Toews, Megan Abbott, Tana French, Attica Locke, Cormac McCarthy... and many, many more. If I’m struggling to concentrate I might re-read an old favourite such as When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson.

TW: Where did your desire to be an author come from and what was your 'journey' to publication?

PH: I’ve always loved making up stories. As a child I had an extremely overactive imagination and adored creative writing – and that never really went away. However, because I’m a practical person and I didn’t see fiction writing as a particularly practical career choice I went into journalism first. I wrote a non-fiction book (about money!) while I was still a journalist and then was commissioned to write a romantic comedy under the pseudonym Amy Silver. I wrote four rom-coms, with varying degrees of success, before I wrote my first thriller, which was The Girl on the Train.

TW: What's next for you career-wise? 

PH: Another book, hopefully! I haven’t started writing yet, but I have some characters wandering around in my head and I hope to put pen to paper very soon.

Quick fire questions:

TW: Favourite holiday destination?

PH: The Dolomites, Italy.

TW: Favourite song?

PH: More Than This by Roxy Music

TW: Favourite food?

PH: A perfectly cooked steak.

TW: Favourite book as a child?

PH: The Three Royal Monkeys by Walter de la Mare

TW: If I wasn't an author I'd be...

PH: A journalist, probably. I don’t really know how to do anything other than write.

Thanks Paula!
Photo of author Paula Hawkins c/o David Higham Associates

More about A Slow Fire Burning:

‘What is wrong with you?’

Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

Look what you started.


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