Books: Telling Stories with Cambridge author Paige Toon
Inspiration for a book can come from anywhere. My debut novel Lucy in the Sky was based on my personal experiences of feeling torn between two countries – Australia and England.
Chasing Daisy was inspired by my dad’s career as a racing driver and a particular crash he had when I was young in which he ‘knew he was going to die’. He didn’t, thankfully, but the idea of a tortured heroine falling for someone who puts his life at risk every time he goes to work intrigued me.
One Perfect Summer was inspired by a song: Someone Like You by Adele, in which Adele sings about an old love who’s now married. I flipped this and imagined what it would be like to be the former flame of a very famous person.
I was in the middle of writing The Sun in Her Eyes and gearing up to a really climactic scene that I couldn’t wait to write. A friend was driving us to a book event and a couple of near misses in the car had me morbidly musing, ‘If I died in a car crash, would my publisher commission a ghost writer to finish this book?’ I thought, I’d be so peeved if they didn’t do justice to the love story that I’d come back and haunt them from the grave! I don’t write supernatural romances (not yet, anyway!), but the ghost-writing idea found its way into The Last Piece of My Heart.
The idea for my new novel, If You Could Go Anywhere, was inspired by – and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this – a children’s movie I had gone to watch with my daughter. It was Moana, the Disney flick, and I was sitting there next to my 7-year-old, tears rolling down my cheeks, thinking about how this character had finally broken free in order to see the world. I was experiencing some serious wanderlust myself at the time, so the idea of writing about a character who had never been anywhere but who had dreamed of travelling her whole life appealed to me. The next thing I knew, a brand new story had unfolded in my mind.
Angie grew up in a tiny opal mining town in the middle of the Australian outback. She spent her childhood dreaming of fleeing the nest, but when her grandmother – the only mother she’d ever known – was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Angie became her full-time carer. For the next decade was hardly able to leave her side.
We meet Angie at the age of 27 on the day of her grandmother’s passing. Upon the discovery of a letter, Angie realises she has family on the other side of the world in Italy and sets off on a journey that takes her from the flat, barren landscape of the Australian desert where the residents live in caves underground, to the bustling, ancient city of Rome, and later to the glittering fjords of Norway with its lush verticality and sky-scraping cliffs. I could not have written about three more different landscapes and it was a joy to visit both Italy and Norway on research trips last summer. My family came too and my daughter giggled her head off when she found out my book was inspired by Moana. . .
If You Could Go Anywhere by Paige Toon is out now in paperback, published by Simon & Schuster and priced £7.99