Interview with Gillian McAllister - WRONG PLACE WRONG TIME

Interview with Gillian McAllister - WRONG PLACE WRONG TIME

In this interview, Gillian and I discuss Wrong Place Wrong Time, plotting this one out, creating the right pacing for the story, finding the right title, the difficulty of building in twists, her podcast, not feeling constrained by the thriller genre, ruminating on how much time changes people, and much more.

In this interview, Gillian and I discuss Wrong Place Wrong Time, plotting this one out, creating the right pacing for the story, finding the right title, the difficulty of building in twists, her podcast, not feeling constrained by the thriller genre, ruminating on how much time changes people, and much more.

Gillian’s recommended reads are:

  1. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  2. The It Girl by Ruth Ware
  3. The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell

Check out my Summer 2022 Reading List, my August Buzz Reads, and my Most Anticipated Mysteries/Thrillers of 2022 blog post.

Support the podcast by becoming a Page Turner on Patreon.  Other ways to support the podcast can be found here.    

If you enjoyed this episode and want to listen to more episodes, try Peng Shepherd, Lucy Clarke, Katherine St. John, Joey Hartstone, and Julie Clark.

Wrong Place Wrong Time can be purchased at my Bookshop storefront.       

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[00:10] Cindy: You are listening to the Thoughts From a Page podcast, which is a member of the Evergreen Podcast Network. My name is Cindy Burnett, and I love to talk about books with anyone and everyone. While listening to my podcast, you will hear author interviews, youth, behind the scenes conversations about various aspects of the publishing world, theme discussions with other book lovers and more. For more book recommendations and a complete list of all of my interviews, check out my website,, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram at Thoughts from a Page. Before we dive into today's episode, I wanted to let you know that I'm going to be taking a break starting August 5 through Friday, August 26, when I will return with an interview with Chris Cander, author of A Gracious Neighbor. This is a great time to get caught up on any past episodes that you haven't had time to listen to yet, and if there's one that you particularly enjoy, please share it on social media. It really helps me find new listeners when that happens, so thank you in advance. In addition, if you're caught up on all of my episodes, I would love for you to join my Patreon group. If you're looking for more fun book conversations, I have all sorts of bonus episodes there, plus a newsletter and a Facebook group. I'd love to have you. Today I'm chatting with Gillian McAllister about Wrong Place Wrong Time. Gillian is the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of Everything but the Truth, The Good Sister, The Choice, The Evidence Against You, How to Disappear and the Richard and Judy Book Club pick That Night. I absolutely loved Wrong Place Wrong Time. It will be my top thriller of the year. I selected it as one of my August Buzz Reads picks and I just can't speak highly enough about it. It's a fabulous read. I hope you enjoy our conversation. Welcome, Gillian. How are you today?

[01:54] Gillian: I'm fine. I'm fine, thank you. How are you?

[01:57] Cindy: I am fine as well. And I have been so excited to speak with you because I just absolutely loved Wrong Place Wrong Time and I have so many questions, so I can't wait to dive in and ask you all about the book.

[02:10] Gillian: Oh, thank you. It's my favorite topic, so go ahead. Perfect.

[02:16] Cindy: Well, what I usually do for those that won't have read the book yet, I asked the author to give me a quick synopsis. So can you just give your elevator pitch for Wrong Place Wrong Time really quickly?

[02:25] Gillian: Yes, I definitely do. So it tells the story of Jen and Todd. Jen is Todd's mother. She's waiting up for him late one night in October. He's past his curfew and eventually he ambles up the road. And in front of her, he murders a complete stranger. So then Todd confesses to murder on the street. He refuses a lawyer, he's remanded in custody and charged with murder. And Jen heads home to her house, which is now a crime scene, and falls asleep in despair. And the next morning she wakes up ready to fight, ready to find a lawyer to defend him, ready to find out why he did it. And she realizes it's the day before the crime and Todd is in his room and has no idea what she's talking about. And then the next time she sleeps, she wakes up and it's the day before that. And it asks the question, how do you stop a murder when it's already happened?

[03:21] Cindy: I just thought this was the most clever premise. I love time travel, I like stories that go back in time like this. So I was so excited to dive in and it just met every expectation and more. I have literally been telling everyone I know preorder this book, you must read it, it comes out August 2 because I just think it's going to be the biggest hit.

[03:41] Gillian: Oh, thank you. That is so kind. That is music to my ears.

[03:44] Cindy: Well, how did you land on the idea for it? I know you have a little bit of this in your author's note, but I'd love for you to expand on that and explain where the idea came from and then how you implemented it.

[03:55] Gillian: Yeah, I think it was a few things. I think as I say, I watched Russian Doll and although it's a completely different conceit really, I suddenly thought this sort of Groundhog Day time loop, Palm Springs type conceit is not really seen very often in literature, particularly in crime fiction. And it felt like a sort of untapped mind to me and it was really then I think I started to think then that I would like to do that and then it was a few months later that I suddenly thought, what about a crime that is committed and that is the trigger for the time loop. And then the whole book basically just fell into place, which I know is a very kind of smug thing to happen and it's the dream process and it definitely isn't always that way with me. This book is a bit of an outlier in that respect, but it just kind of fell into place like snowflakes and then it was really easy to write, which always surprises people. But I've since had a nightmare with my next book. So there's any aspiring authors listening? Take heart.

[05:09] Cindy: Well, I was just fascinated by your writing process with this one and what that was going to look like because it was so much fun to read it as she goes further, further back in time. So what was it like plotting that out? I mean, did you sit down and plot every single bit out or did you try to work through that as you wrote?

[05:29] Gillian: Yeah, I do plan and I did plan this novel and I think the reason why it was sort of relatively easy going to write was because I did have a meticulous timeline. I had one going backwards. So in the order Jen finds out clues in Friday, Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, Monday, and then I had one going forwards, which was called What Happened? And that went from the date the book goes back to to the present day. And that was just what has actually happened here. And how can that tessalate with what Jen finds? And then I wrote it over the multiple lockdowns we have here. And every morning I would just take an index card from each timeline with the same date on and I'd be like, this is the date I'm writing today.

[06:16] Cindy: How did you decide that each day that Jen landed on was going to be something that had relevance to what was going on?

[06:23] Gillian: Yes, so that is something Jen learns relatively early on. It starts with just going yesterday, the day before, the day before that, and then eventually she realizes she's skipping days and she is landing on, like you say, significant days. And I just again with this novel, I feel as though I sort of discovered it rather than made it up myself, because that just made complete sense to me. That I think it can stagnate with. If it took place over a month and it was day minus one, day minus two, day minus three, I think that could get repetitive and I think that is probably the risk with a sort of Groundhog Day book. And when I was planning it, I suddenly just got this feeling that I wanted to write something expansive and with a really deep roots in the past. And that, of course, you can't write you know, I don't think it's too much for spoilers to say it goes back about 8000 days and of course you can't write 8000 chapters. So it became quite logical for me that I had to pinpoint these turning points in her life to land on.

[07:32] Cindy: Well, it was one of the things I was curious about when I started reading, because I thought going back day by day by day, which is what I thought was going to happen originally, would eventually get a little repetitive and you wouldn't have something maybe super relevant or super exciting happening every single day. So you'd have a sentence or two sentences on some days, so I wondered how you would handle that. So then when she started going back in larger chunks of time, it made a lot more sense to me.

[07:57] Gillian: Yeah. And that would have been an interesting way to handle it, actually, and it never really crossed my mind to do that. And I think generally in fiction, some authors, and me included, do have the tendency to if something happens on a Monday in a book, even a totally linear book, I then want to write about all of Monday, all of Tuesday, all of Wednesday, because that's how you experience life. Right. But actually, I think the reader, if you say there's something hidden in an old quarry and we're going to go there tomorrow, the reader wants to turn the page and say the quarry is and then the description and then the characters there, that's what the reader wants. And I think that is actually Pace. And so it seemed quite natural to me to actually start to pinpoint those actual sort of hallmark moments of her life.

[08:45] Cindy: Absolutely. Because then you're just jumping to those days versus just reading a lot of filler. I thought the way you did it was perfect. I just was curious before I picked the book up exactly how it was going to play out.

[08:56] Gillian: Yeah, I mean, there are so many ways. And in an earlier draft, she revisited the crime each night when she slept, and she got to observe the effect of the changes she had made. So she did re witness the crime multiple times. And I got rid of that fairly early on because I found it confusing when she was going back, like 1000 days, and then suddenly in her sleep, she was back at the picture window at night watching the murder again. It was confusing for the reader, like, where have all those days in the middle gone? So I got rid of that. But the structure of this novel is quite fundamental and it did take me a little bit of trial and error to sort of land on, I think, what I hope was the right one.

[09:41] Cindy: I would think it definitely would to kind of keep trying on different things, seeing how they worked. And that's such an interesting premise, that every night she would revisit it. So I'm sure there were lots of different ways to look at it and to try them out and figure out, okay, this is working, this isn't working. It must have just been fascinating and probably a little frustrating sometimes.

[10:00] Gillian: Yeah, I think that is I'm just going through that process with my 9th book. I've just delivered the book after one place on time, and I'm starting to think about my 9th book, and it is just for me, it's like a maze, and you just draw a line to the maze and then you hit a dead end and then you have to go back to the beginning. And I've learned not to put pen to paper too early in this stage because you will take so many wrong turns before you get the right one. And I think it is just the process, as frustrating as that is.

[10:30] Cindy: I think that's right. And there are so many twists and turns, and that's one of the things that I just loved about it. I would think I knew exactly where the book was going, and then I was like, oh, something totally different than I expected, which is just the sign of a great thriller. And that must have been so much fun to weave those in.

[10:47] Gillian: Yeah, it was. And they did kind of write themselves, though I never really felt it needed to be very twisty. I thought the conceit was so sort of large that it would have been interesting regardless. But the kind of dual timeline lent itself to those twists, really, with Ryan's narration, and then the misdirects within that were quite easy because of what I decided had happened. But yeah, twists don't really come too easily to me as an author. I've got a huge one in my next one and it really was a bit of a headache for me for the whole time writing, because you kind of have to conceal things from your reader for a really long time, and I tend to play quite straight hand with my reader usually, so yeah, they were. I mean, the readers love them, though. Those misdirects are what I hear about every time someone messages me. It's always those twists, I think that's.

[11:43] Cindy: Become such a thing in thriller literature, is the twists and turns. So for me that sometimes can be really problematic because a lot of times, or not a lot of times, sometimes they seem very forced and very thrown in because the author feels like they need to be. So I'm always kind of like how's that going to work, but yours just melded right into the story, which I think is what they all should do, and probably why readers are really commenting, because they're not even really thinking there's going to be a twist, and then there is.

[12:14] Gillian: Yeah, I always think about this when I plot a twist because I always think it shouldn't be a kind of, oh my God, what? Moment that comes from nowhere. I think it should be more of an explanation, like, oh my God, I finally understand. I think that's what a great twist should do. And then you can't believe that you didn't get it. That's what the best twists do for me. So obviously it's nothing like six cents and I don't think there's ever going to be a better twist ever. But I try to sort of have that in mind. Like it's not really about tricking the reader or just saying all along, you saw X did it, and actually it's Y. For me, it's kind of like you thought this person wasn't erasing and it's actually this person, and I just made you assume. I think that's kind of the clever twists.

[13:06] Cindy: Sixth Sense is a great analogy because I think that's kind of what I was trying to get at, is that it's more that the reader's perspective is not allowing them to understand what's happening, and then all of a sudden they're like, whoa, I was really missing something. And a lot of times it's not something you could have predicted, which I think is better, but it's also not out of left field, so I don't know how to explain that any better other than to say it makes perfect sense when you read it and you look back and think, oh, wow. But it's not something that there are all these little breadcrumbs coming along, and either it's easy to predict or like I said before, it just comes from nowhere.

[13:40] Gillian: Yeah. And I think Sixth Sense, the novel is actually about what the twist is about. If there was no ghosts in it, that would be a twist. But it's literally because I think it's so satisfying because, you know, the protagonist and I hope it's okay to spoil, I feel like the extent is everybody knows the choice, don't they? But, you know, the protagonist can see dead people, and therefore, of course, you should consider other people he's interacting with dead or alive, but you just don't. And I think that's the genius of it.

[14:13] Cindy: I agree. And talking about perspective actually leads me into another question, because that was one of the things that I think resonated with me so much about your book. As a mom of three kids, the going back in time, and Jen is putting herself back into situations she's already lived, but she has so much more knowledge, so her perspective is completely different, and I loved that. I think that's what appeals to me so much about time travel is two things. One, being able to go back in time and live experiences you've already lived from a different perspective, but also to see people that you haven't seen in a long time, like my grandparents or my mother. But I think also that applies to seeing a younger Todd. She's really thrilled to see her son at a younger age again and remember what that was like. It just kind of brought her back. And I loved how well you brought those feelings to the surface.

[15:04] Gillian: Yeah, I hear that a lot. And it's such an honor to hear it from parents because I just think it must be parenting. Todd as a two year old is not the same as Todd as a ten year old. And by the time Todd is ten, the toddler Todd is gone forever. And I find that such a poignant thing. And so, you know, I kind of really like to write about parenthood, and I find it very interesting, and I think that added that kind of loadedness to the narrative of you're going back and you're finding things that you thought were lost forever. And I think that's such a human desire to do that, as you say, to see people that have passed away, but also to see somebody's past self. And there's no more like that  large in childhood because children change so much. I found it so fascinating, I couldn't help but include it.

[16:01] Cindy: Well, you have a great sentence that's towards the end of the book, but will not be a spoiler. You say, perhaps the strangest thing about traveling back through the past is the changes people themselves undergo. So you're realizing, okay, Todd and Kelly are so different now than they were ten years ago, 15 years ago. And I thought that was so interesting because we don't really think about that day to day, and you're only interacting with everybody's present person, of course. And so you sometimes until you see a photo or somebody reminds you of something, you don't always remember, oh, my gosh, this is what we were like ten years ago or 15 years ago. And this is what it was like, parenting a two year old versus parenting an 18 year old. It just really brought a lot of those thoughts to the surface, and that really resonated with me. And as I have recommended it to other people and they've been posting about it, they're all saying the same thing. So I think that's the other aspect of the book. In addition to being a thriller, you really have so much humanity and parenting and being a mother and just all these different topics that a lot of times people aren't thinking as much about when they're reading a thriller.

[17:05] Gillian: Yeah, and I always think with thrillers, like, I feel like, why do one thing when you can do it all? And one place? On time is a love story and it is an homage to parenting, and it's a family drama and it's a wide on it. And I just kind of think, like, I read a lot of Tana French and I think she does that so well. When you don't have to sacrifice character to write a thriller with a great plot, you can kind of do it all. And for me, that poignancy, particularly of parenthood, but of many things. And like you say, the way, why not write a cracking plot? But also, I don't know, sort of rumination on how people change throughout the years. I think that's kind of life, isn't it? And I think fiction should sort of reflect that.

[17:52] Cindy: I think so too. So you've set the bar very high for thriller writers.

[17:57] Gillian: Thank you. Well.

[17:59] Cindy: The other thing we talked tiny bit about a minute ago. And then I think I got off on other aspects of perspective. But the other thing that Jen realizes as she goes back in time. Perspective wise. Is Kelly. Her husband. Would have been doing something that at the time. She read one way. But because she has so much more data and information and understanding of what's happening based on the future. When she goes back. She now totally reinterprets some of the things that he's doing. And I really enjoyed that aspect of the story as well.

[18:29] Gillian: Yeah, I think a lot of it is kind of my experience of life. If I went back five years, I would be a different person and so would my husband. And I find that quite an interesting thing in the long terrain of a marriage, like, when the dynamics set in and why? And would you go back and look at 25 year old you or 30 year old and think that was a bit crass or that was very emotionally unintelligent? Or can you look back with sympathy? And I could sort of pontificate about that for hours, really, because nobody ever gets to do it. Like I never get to rewitness my past and kind of reflect on it.

[19:12] Cindy: I think that's right. And I think that's probably why the book is resonating so much with people is because we'd all love to do that, go back and relive some aspects of our lives, but also go back and witness the way we handled things five years ago, ten years ago, whenever it is.

[19:27] Gillian: Exactly. And I think I do think a lot of time travel fiction and stories have that desire at their heart. Like, I almost can't believe that I won't get to do that, but I know logically that I won't. But you sort of almost think, imagine if you could revisit your own childhood and it's gone forever. And I think that is a very hard thing for humans to accept.

[19:51] Cindy: I think that's right. And that was another question I had for you. Did it really make you reevaluate things in your life or did it make you really think a lot about what it would have been like to go back and revisit earlier stages of your life as you were writing because you were so focused on that topic as you wrote?

[20:08] Gillian: Yeah, it sort of did the lockdowns, I think, for me. And I had a privileged experience with the pandemic because I wasn't ill from it and nobody I know got seriously ill and I worked from home anyway. But I think it was quite a reflective period of my life generally because you weren't seeing the people that usually take up the time and space in your head and I was more able to sort of reevaluate some of those relationships. And definitely writing such a sort of reflective story, I think did make me think about patterns in my own life and relationships.

[20:50] Cindy: I would think it would, because reading it really made me think about some of those things. And so I'm sure writing it over the period of time it took to plot it out right, it edit it, I would think a lot of those things would just be in the forefront of your mind.

[21:04] Gillian: Yeah, exactly. And I think probably I write these things in order to make sense of those things rather than sort of by accident. I can often look back at things I was writing at certain times of my life and see that I was preoccupied with certain events or themes just as I was wanting to leave my job as a lawyer. I wrote a novel where I didn't realize this, but every single character was self-employed and I think it was just my own desires sort of popping up. And I think that happens a lot.

[21:36] Cindy: With fiction that's so thought provoking in and of itself. The idea that you're taking those things that are preoccupying you in regular life and then putting them into your fiction, sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly. So in this instance, the pandemic, which was definitely, I think, life changing for many of us, is now what kind of had you writing about going back and revisiting different things in your life?

[22:00] Gillian: Yeah, exactly. I think it's a form of therapy, I think, for writers. Although whenever I directly try to write about something I've experienced, it never works. But it will pop up. Metaphorically, maybe. Jen felt quite stuck, and I think a lot of people did in the pandemic.

[22:22] Cindy: I think that's right. And I think it made people just reflect on their life and things that maybe they weren't happy with the way they were going. And so when we were all sitting at home, it was a good opportunity to say, you know what? I maybe need to change things up a little bit. And people had a little more time. Most of us not everyone, as you mentioned, but most of us had the time to reevaluate.

[22:44] Gillian: Yeah, I definitely did. I'm not sure I would have written Wrong Place Wrong Time without the pandemic because I had so much time to really take a big swing at a complicated plot. And I just worked like I worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week because I had nothing else to do. And I think that's obviously, again, a privileged experience as a pandemic. I have no trauma from it. But I think, yeah, I do think those things pop up in fiction. Like, I don't yet know is the novel I've just delivered what I was experiencing, that I was processing. But I will know in a couple of years, I think, why I chose to write about certain things.

[23:32] Cindy: That's so interesting. So now I have to read the next one when it comes out and then we can talk again and you can tell me what it is you think you have now decided you were processing.

[23:40] Gillian: Yeah, I will I'll let you know.

[23:43] Cindy: I love that. Well, what was the highlight of writing? Wrong place, wrong time.

[23:47] Gillian: It was the moment when Jen is reparenting twelve, when he's three and she calls his name and he looks over his shoulder at her. And it's a complete turning point in the novel. And I can't say why for spoilers, but it's the moment Jen realizes something profound. And it's not as plotty as you might imagine. It's not a huge reveal, but it is for Jen. So it was that. And I sort of wrote it and read it and thought, I know that that will be in the printed book because it's authentic. And that's when writing is going well, that is the feeling. You get it.

[24:28] Cindy: Well, I was also wondering as I was reading how the book would end, and obviously we're not going to talk about the ending in terms of spoiling it, but did you always know how it was going to end, or was that something that you had to work through as you wrote?

[24:42] Gillian: I did always know, but some of the machinations of feeding what Jen has learned through surprised me because it's a bit of a head spinner when you sort of line it all up, like everything that she's changed, it changes her life fairly significantly. And I had to sort of work that through quite carefully. But I did always know if you've read my fiction. You would know what to expect from an ending. And this one delivers that because that.

[25:16] Cindy: Is always a difficult thing in these type of stories. I think. When there's a lot going on and there is some twists and turns and there's a slightly different format. Or a greatly different format in this instance. That the ending. The risk that the ending is going to kind of ruin it all. At least as a reader. And so I was like, oh, I hope the ending is going to be good. And I got to the end and I was like, okay, that is so well done. And so I was kind of curious if you always knew that was where it was going to go, how it would all wrap up, or whether that was something that you had to work through as you were going, but it sounds like you had that from the beginning.

[25:49] Gillian: Yeah, I do often know the ending. I think I'm also quite fussy for the reader with endings, and it's hard because I don't like it when they get crazy and everybody starts killing everybody and tying each other up in basements and all of that. But I also don't really like a damp squib. And there's the whole sort of check off gun theory about if there's a gun on the chair in the first act, you have to fire it by the third act. And I do live by that in fiction, and I really wanted the reveal to deliver, and I hope it did. But then after that, you have to have the redemption, and people have to lose things and gain things, I think, to have a satisfying ending. And I'm quite fussy with it. So it's the ending I would want to read. And you can only hope that my readers also like the things I like.

[26:39] Cindy: I think they definitely do. When I was going back through it this morning, preparing for this interview, I was flipping through the whole book, but then I reread the end just to kind of have it back with me, and I was getting chills all over again. So that's, to me, the sign of a really great ending.

[26:53] Gillian: Wow. Is it the epilogue that you liked?

[26:56] Cindy: It's the part before that.

[26:59] Gillian: Okay, I.

[26:59] Cindy: Mean, I liked that part as well, but how Jen's part of the story wrapped up? Because I kept thinking the whole time, how is that going to work with the whole time traveling and everything that happened? How is she going to wrap this up? And so I just got to the end and I thought, okay, hurrah, that was really well done. And then I liked the epilogue as well, but I really liked the way Jen's story wrapped up.

[27:23] Gillian: Oh, I'm glad it needed to wrap up. If you ask, why on earth would someone do this on page one, you really have to have a great answer on the final page. So I'm glad it delivered for you.

[27:38] Cindy: I guess that's what I was trying to say, and you said it much more succinctly and clearly is if you start out with this really great premise, you have to have a really great ending. And so it's always stressful as you're reading and loving the premise, to think, I hope the ending is going to match up. So I was just very glad it did.

[27:55] Gillian: Yeah, I think it's like an hourglass, isn't it? And I think it will fall over if the bottom is thin on the page and we've all been thrillers that do that. I definitely have some drafts where the ending just didn't live up to that promise. I don't know. I think you just have to have a great reason for why he did it. And it did take me a long time to come up with one, but I'm very glad I did.

[28:24] Cindy: But I think that's exactly it. You have to have a great reason that readers are going to be like yes. Versus some reason that you're like, well, I don't know if that was worth all of that, or that came out of nowhere. I think you have to just really have it be something solid that readers are going to be like, ah, yes, that totally makes sense to me.

[28:44] Gillian: Yeah, definitely. And like, it's easy to kind of in a synopsis, say, oh, he killed them from revenge. He was annoyed about something that happened 20 years ago. But as a reader, I'd be like, well, why now? Do people really do that? I wouldn't kill someone. I do like my characters to act largely in the way I would. And so for this 18 year old who was so happy go lucky and so sort of simplistic and transparent for him to do that, the bar was set very high, but I sort of think that's what makes it compelling, because Jen cannot understand it. And so the reader is sort of desperate to know.

[29:23] Cindy: I think that's exactly right. She's so confused and so blindsided that you're thinking, okay, I've got to know what happened here. And I am the exact same way. I like thriller characters to act pretty much like I would act. I can obviously give them a little more latitude, but just these people who are just doing all of this completely crazy stuff. It just drives me crazy because I'm like, no one would do that, and maybe other people do do that, and I just don't know those people. But I prefer reading about people who I feel like are acting pretty rationally.

[29:53] Gillian: Yeah, I'm pretty sure in my books, nobody kills anybody unless they basically have no other option. They're either backed into a corner or they lose their temper for completely understandable reasons that have been breadcrumb throughout or yet they have no other choice. It's very uncommon to murder somebody, and I think especially for it's not like We Need to Talk About Kevin type book. Like, Todd is not that kind of character. It's quite the opposite, actually. So there needed to be an enormous backstory for him to do that, which is kind of why this is a coincidence, really. But I was very glad that I had written it backwards because in the writing of it, I was suddenly like, this needs to go about decades in order for him to do this. And that's kind of made sense of the format almost I had chosen to tell it in.

[30:51] Cindy: But, you know, your point about We Need to Talk about Kevin brings up another really interesting point about your book. Again, why I think it's resonating with readers is that these are genuinely good people who are living their lives, and you do like them. And I think that also makes this such a compelling thriller because a lot of the times the people are unlikable and they're doing despicable things and it's hard to kind of relate to what they're doing and understand exactly what's happening or they're on drugs, or they're drinking too much or whatever all of the other problems are. But these are just regular people living their lives, doing the best they can. And I think that really appeals to people to read about those type of characters, put in situations that are untenable for them. Yeah.

[31:35] Gillian: And it's the situation for me that is usually extraordinary. I am the same as you. Like, there's definitely a genre of thrillers where you're sort of supposed to root for the psychopath, the murderer, and it's kind of a fun romp sometimes or like, people find it really dark and interesting. But I just personally, the books that really I take into my heart are the books where I really do relate to the characters. And they're, like you say, quite ordinary people. But it does make it hard because you have to make the circumstances so extraordinary but not feel like kind of a huge coincidence or just a series of tragedies, like one after the other. Like, you have to kind of get them into a realistic situation where they would act the way you want them to. And that's quite hard, especially sort of seven books in. I do find having to rack my brains more to sort of get people to do what I want them to do, because I've sort of already done some of those things in other books.

[32:36] Cindy: But I think that's what makes the story so much more intriguing, because it is a situation. So you're not having these crazy people who you can just then have do whatever they're going to do because they're already crazy or upset or whatever it is, but instead you've got these kind of everyday people in a good way. I mean, I really liked your characters, but they're put in these situations that make them do things they would ordinarily do. And so I guess for me, that's really what made the story all the more appealing.

[33:04] Gillian: Yeah. And I think it would have been quite easy to make Todd quite sullen and secretive and it be kind of a different kind of vibe with the mother kind of trying to work out why he's become that way. But as I wrote him, I thought it was far more compelling if he's this completely sunny, you know, open, happy go lucky, kind of nerd like Todd sort of wrote himself. And I did wonder, would people not expect this in a thriller? But actually, for me, it just made it more compelling and I just had to kind of trust that instinct.

[33:38] Cindy: Oh, I think you went the exact right direction. Well, what about the title and the cover? I love the cover and I really like the title a lot, too. So tell me how the title came about and then I know you have a different UK cover than US cover and let's talk about both.

[33:53] Gillian: Yeah, so I think it's quite common to have a different US and UK cover because they're different markets, definitely. But the title is the same, actually, for such a kind of hooky book, in my opinion, it was quite hard to title and I had called it The Day Before for a really long time. But then my latest UK release over here was called That Night and it got Richard and Judy and it sold quite well and we wondered if people might think The Day Before was like a prequel and we didn't want them to. So, yeah, it took us a really long time and a lot of brainstorming to sort of settle on something that hints at the time element, but still sounds like a spiller and still sounds interesting in its own right.

[34:38] Cindy: Well, I think it works perfectly for the book and I just love that US cover. Every time I look at it, I'm just like, okay, this is the perfect cover. Did you just love it when they showed it to you?

[34:47] Gillian: Yeah, they literally just sent it and I was like, Perfect, that's the cover. And it isn't always that way. Sometimes you go, there's a lot of back and forth on covers, but yeah, they just nailed it, I think.

[34:58] Cindy: I think they did, too. So I haven't read any of your backlist yet. This was my first introduction to your books. I obviously loved this one. Which one would you recommend next for me?

[35:08] Gillian: Well, my second book in the US is called The Choice, and it's not similar, but it has a similar vibe in that it's about a woman called Joanna who is harassed on a night out by a man, and she believes that he's followed her out of the club. She rebuffs him, she leaves the club, she believes that he's followed her. And out of nowhere, out of fear, as a woman hearing footsteps late at night, she pushes him down a flight of stairs and he lies at the bottom, presumed dead. And then the narrative splits. And in one version, she hands herself in and she goes to trial for attempted murder, and in the other, she goes on the run. So, like, it's a sliding doors novel.

[35:53] Cindy: I was just going to say Sliding Doors.

[35:55] Gillian: Yes, it's the same kind of I wrote that many years ago, but it's the same thing of me going sliding doors has never been done in crime. Why is this the case? And then thinking about really the right to walk home alone that women face, and thinking about really we're sort of down if we're doing down if we don't in that situation, because if you defend yourself, what happens to Joanna is unpleasant. But also, what are you supposed to do in that situation? That's what that novel is asking. So, yeah, I think you would enjoy it.

[36:29] Cindy: Well, what about your podcast? You have a podcast called Honest Authors. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

[36:34] Gillian: Yeah, so I co-host it with my friend and colleague, I suppose, Holly Sedan. And the USP really is basically that we're the only traditionally published bestselling authors who are telling all. And it's kind of a behind the scenes look at everything you would kind of want to know about the life we lead. There's nothing really off limits. We talk about foreign rights and what it feels like to be published stateside and in the UK and what it feels like to get option for TV or things like that. And it's really taken off. And we're currently doing a season where we get a different author on every episode and we just ask them how they write a book, but we do it kind of forensically. So we just had Lisa Jewel on and we literally said, okay, day one, you get the idea. What do you do on day two? Who do you email? How do you take that idea into a draft? When do you open your laptop and write chapter one? And we like that kind of granular detail. So, yes, I enjoy it a lot. It's a bit of a passion project.

[37:38] Cindy: Okay, that's fascinating. And I hadn't really thought to ask some of those types of questions I'm going to have to go listen now because it would be interesting to hear the day to day aspects of writing a book in terms of what you're talking about, exactly. What do you do? You get the idea and how do you move forward, exactly?

[37:53] Gillian: And we had a season where we interviewed industry experts, so we interviewed an editor at Publishing House, and she told us exactly what goes on in acquisitions, meeting how they're targeted, what target they have to reach and with how many books and how they decide whether a book will sell in one shop or another. And just fascinating, like stuff that really, I think, ought to be talked about. And people are happy to talk about it. It's just you need to ask them.

[38:23] Cindy: Absolutely. I've launched a series within my podcast that's the first Thursday of every month called behind the Scenes. And it's a little similar to what you're talking about. I've done an audiobook narrator and a scout and an interior book designer and a cover designer and a publicist, and talking about a lot of those things that do happen behind the scenes.

[38:42] Gillian: Wow. Yeah. Scouts as well. They're super interesting and mysterious, aren't they?

[38:46] Cindy: Yeah, I learned a ton. I know. It was fascinating to me.

[38:50] Gillian: I'll have to go listen.

[38:51] Cindy: And the Interior Book Designer, that's the episode that I've had so much feedback about because I think, one, so many people had no idea that was even a job. And then two, there's so much involved in it. And so, yeah, it's been very interesting. I've learned a ton.

[39:04] Gillian: I bet. Wow. I'll go listen.

[39:06] Cindy: Well, before we wrap up on this note of talking about authors and their books, what have you read recently that you really liked?

[39:12] Gillian: So I'm currently reading Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which I think has just hit the New York Times bestseller list, which is about two kids who meet in a hospital and they invent a computer game and they make it big. And I'm just loving it so far. It's got a little bit of a Tailor Jenkins read vibe with the sort of writing about an ascent to fame in a quite a niche industry. Like, I think Taylor Jenkins Reid does that so well. So I'm really enjoying that. And I also just finished The It Girl by Ruth Ware and The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell. Both excellent villas.

[39:50] Cindy: I really liked the It girl. I loved the Oxford setting.

[39:54] Gillian: Yeah, me too. And I think Ruth Ware is such a versatile writer. Like, she can write anything. And I would read it, but some of them are like, a catastrophe likes, some of them are about tech ones, like a smart house. And this one, she's nailed the 90s Oxford scene. I just think she could buy anything.

[40:13] Cindy: I agree. And I love The Death of Mrs. Westaway, which is so different than the rest of her book. So I agree. She really does write a lot of different types of mysteries and thrillers.

[40:23] Gillian: Yes, she does. She does. She's one of the most versatile writers working today, I think.

[40:28] Cindy: Have you read Gabrielle Zevin’s earlier books?

[40:30] Gillian: No, I haven't. She was not on my radar, and then this book was suddenly everywhere. So no, I haven't. But have you are they as good?

[40:40] Cindy: I am. I'm a huge fan of hers. I love AJ Fikry. And she has a YA book called Elsewhere that I really like. And Young Jane Young. So, yes, I'm actually midway through Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow myself. And I just really like the way she writes. And she tackles very different topics each time she writes a book as well.

[40:57] Gillian: Yeah, definitely. Right over the world. She sort of just wants to comment on what the world's like, which that's exactly what I look for in fiction. Really?

[41:06] Cindy: Yeah. And that's such an interesting premise with video games since they're so relevant to today's world.

[41:11] Gillian: I know. And I think we all play them as kids, even if some of us don't anymore as adults. And she's right about sort of when you play a video game with someone is the kind of intimacy there that you can't get in other ways in quite the same way.

[41:28] Cindy: And the other thing I have found about it is with the 16-year-old son, is that something that they do together socially. So he's upstairs in our playroom playing, but he's on headphones and he's talking with six of his friends, and they'll do that for several hours. And it is sometimes the way they are getting together versus especially during the pandemic, I mean, it was a savior for him, but even now, I mean, he goes out plenty, but he also sometimes just really enjoys going upstairs and talking to his friends while he's playing the PlayStation. And it's just interesting to see how that's kind of taken over that generation, I think.

[41:59] Gillian: Yeah, totally. And, you know, I think there's a lot worse they could be doing. Like, that is social, as you say. It's also problem solving, and I sort of feel like there's a bit of snobbery about it, and there need to be.

[42:11] Cindy: That's so interesting that you say that, because early in the pandemic March through June of 2020, when school was shut down and the schools weren't really prepared for I mean, they shouldn't have been prepared for it, but they weren't prepared for it. So everybody was shifting, there wasn't a lot happening, and he was up there so much, and at first I was like, you don't need to be doing that all the time. He's like, mom, that's the only way I'm actually interacting with my friends. And I just hadn't even thought about it. And I think you're exactly right. I think the problem solving aspects, but I'll show the social aspects, it really did save him and gave him a way to interact with his friends that he would not have had.

[42:46] Gillian: No, totally.

[42:47] Cindy: So I had to kind of go back and say I'm sorry. I had to be like, okay, I'm sorry.

[42:51] Gillian: You're right. We've all been there. We've all been there. But yeah, I think why is TV considered a lesser kind of form than reading? For example, when I learn a lot from TV, I find it very educational at times and certainly for novel ideas. So it is interesting why we sort of have these prejudices about why and isn't worthy.

[43:13] Cindy: Well, and that even happens in the book world. There are some people that are pickier about the type of book you're reading and oh, you're going to read a romcom? Or oh, you're, you know what I mean. I just think people should read what they enjoy reading and just because I don't read it doesn't mean that it's less worthy or more worthy or anything else. I think everybody should just find what they like to read and read it. I know.

[43:34] Gillian: And you would never find this with films. People wouldn't say, oh, it's just too gripping the way they do with books. It's almost like people think books shouldn't be read just for entertainment, but actually film and TV is that you would never be like, oh, it's not worthy enough.

[43:50] Cindy: Right. No, I agree with that. Well, Julian, I have so enjoyed chatting with you. This was just wonderful and I'm thrilled we got to talk all about Wrong Place, Wrong Time, and now I've got to go back and find the choice as well. So thank you for taking the time to come on the Thoughts From a Page podcast.

[44:05] Gillian: Thank you. You're so welcome.

[44:09] Cindy: Thank you so much for tuning in today. I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to my podcast. I want to quickly share about this wonderful company I am now partnering with. I am always looking for entities that promote and highlight books and recently came across Bookclubs, a company who provides all sorts of resources for established and new book clubs as well as individual readers. My own personal book club recently signed up on Bookclubs and the group has been impressed with all of the great tools the site and app provide. The book club's website is linked in my Show Notes, and I hope you will check them out soon. Also, if you like my show, I would be so grateful if you would tell everyone you know about it and read it on whichever platform you listen on. It truly makes a huge difference and really helps the show grow. The book discussed in this episode can be purchased at my Bookshop store front, and that link is also in the Show Notes. I hope you will check out some other Thoughts from a Page episodes and have a great day.

Gillian McAllisterProfile Photo

Gillian McAllister


Gillian McAllister is the Sunday Times Top 10 bestselling author of Everything But The Truth, The Good Sister, The Choice, The Evidence Against You, How To Disappear and the Richard and Judy book club pick That Night.

Her latest release is Wrong Place Wrong Time, available now and selected for the Radio 2 book club.