Paige Toon Interview

A Conversation with Paige Toon, author of Chasing Daisy and Lucy in the Sky

Q: What was your favourite childhood book?
PT: A Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. I empathise with the ravenous little grub at the moment because I’m pregnant and would quite happily eat through one apple, two oranges and three chocolate cakes, etc etc. I think I’m more likely to metamorphose into a hippo than a butterfly at this rate.

Q: Which book has made you laugh?
PT:The last book I laughed out loud at was Dan Rhodes’ new one, Gold. He’s a very funny writer. Not a lot actually happens in Gold but his cast of characters are a weird and wonderful bunch.

Q: Which book has made you cry?
PT:I’m very hormonal at the moment so I wouldn’t put it past me to cry at car adverts, but the last book that brought a tear to my eye was The Yummy Mummy’s Survival Guide, by Liz Fraser. I hate that term, ‘yummy mummy’ – I think it sounds really naff – but it’s actually a really good book. Funnily enough, I wasn’t crying with sheer terror at the thought of giving birth, but over the page about how to cheer yourself up when you’re feeling terrified. It lists all the things to remember like, being a mum is the best thing you will ever do, and your baby will grow up to be the best friend you’ll ever know. Oh, and you get balloons when you go to restaurants, and you get to board flights first – cool!

Q: Which book would you give to a friend as a present?
PT: Lorelei’s Secret, by Carolyn Parkhurst. It’s about a man whose wife falls – or jumps – from an apple tree and dies and the only witness is the man’s dog. He tries to teach the dog, Lorelei, to talk so she can tell him what happened. It’s very sad, but beautifully written.

Q: Which other writers do you admire?
PT: Marian Keyes is my all-time favourite author. I’m always anticipating her next book. Actually, JK Rowling, too. Along with most of the population, I can’t wait for the next Harry Potter installment – hers are the only books I have ever actually rushed out to buy the second they’ve hit the shelves.

Q: Which classic have you always meant to read and never got round to it?
PT: I studied Philosophy at university and still have all my books – everything from Plato to Kant. One day I plan to read them and might actually pay attention this time around.

Q: What are your top five books of all time, in order or otherwise?
PT: I’ll do this in order of the age I was when I read them and how much they stood out for me at the time. Watership Down – how can you not love that book? Bryce Courtenay’s The Power Of One. I have a feeling I might think it’s slightly rubbish now but when I was a teenager I loved it. Bridget Jones’s Diary – no explanation needed. Anything by Marian, starting with Watermelon. Arthur Golden’s Memoirs Of A Geisha. God I was angry when I found out it wasn’t real, though. It bothered me for days! And I also really enjoyed Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy – kind of like a more philosophical Harry Potter!

Q: Is there a particular book or author that inspired you to be a writer?
PT: Not really because I’ve written stories, poems and songs since I was about five years old. I’ve always wanted to be an author or a magazine journalist – now I’m both.

Q: What is your favourite time of day to write?
PT: Any time. I wrote Lucy In The Sky in two and a half months because I wanted it to be published in 2007 instead of 2008, which would have been the normal time frame to turn a book around. So I had my full-time job at heat magazine and wrote in the evenings, weekends and occasional lunchtimes. I wrote whenever I could and loved every minute of it.

Q: And favourite place?
PT: At the dining room table in my flat in Highgate, north London. I drove my husband Greg mad because I wouldn’t let him leave keys, post or ANYTHING on that table for two and a half months. I can’t write if there’s clutter around. Or at least, that was my excellent excuse. I shall be using it for the next one.

Q: Longhand or word processor?
PT: White Apple Macbook laptop. But I do always carry a notepad around with me so I can make notes if I think of any ideas.

Q: Which fictional character would you most like to have met?
PT: James Bond, 007. Actually, scrap that. I just want to meet Daniel Craig.

Q: Who, in your opinion, is the greatest writer of all time?
PT: I could say Jane Austen or Shakespeare, but bugger it. I’m going to say Marian Keyes. She’d probably die of embarrassment if she read that but I will honestly devour every one of her books that she ever writes. She’s so funny and brilliant, but she can also pull the rug right out from under you and make you sob like a baby. That’s a rare talent, I think.

Q: Which book have you found yourself unable to finish?
PT: The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt. It’s really well written but it’s just so bloody long and it always sends me to sleep after a few pages. I do want to know what happens though. I’m sure I’ll finish it in the next five years or so. Or a kind stranger could just fill me in on the plot if they wanted to be helpful. Does she find out who killed her brother or not?!

Q: What is your favourite word?
PT: Bollocks has a good ring to it. And I like phwoar as well.

Q: Other than writing, what other jobs or professions have you undertaken or considered?
PT: Aside from being an author and soon to be a mum, I’m also Reviews Editor at heat magazine, where I’ve worked for seven years. I can review (and see or get for free) any film, book, DVD, album or single – why would I ever want to leave?! Before heat I was the editorial assistant at Big, which was a teenage celeb mag. Those readers were brilliantly celeb obsessed, and I had to reply to all their bonkers letters. In my year out and during summer holidays I’ve also waitressed and worked in customer services and telesales, so I know to always leave a tip and to be nice to people on the phone no matter how pissed off you are.

Q: What was the first piece you ever had in print?
PT: Apart from the drawing of a piggy bank that got published in my local paper in the Adelaide Hills, Down Under? I think it might have been a film review for Big magazine.

Q: Can you think of a question that we didn’t ask you?
PT: Do you judge a book by its cover?

Q: What would the answer be?
PT: Yes. Terrible but true. You can certainly judge Lucy In The Sky by its cover: chick-lit, London, Sydney, plane, someone called Lucy – if none of that appeals, then it probably won’t be the book for you!