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#BookmarkThis: Paula Hawkins says ‘Emily Blunt did outstanding job’

British author Paula Hawkins seemed to come out of nowhere to wow the world with her mega-selling 2015 psychological thriller, The Girl on the Train. She’s back with a new novel, Into the Water (Riverhead), about a riverside town in England where too many women have died mysteriously in the river’s “Drowning Pool.” Hawkins spoke with USA TODAY’s Jocelyn McClurg and took fan questions on Facebook Live as part of the #BookmarkThis series. Here are highlights:

Q: No Girl title this time! Was that a conscious choice?

A: Yes. I was never going to use “Girl” again, there was never any question of that. It was just not the title of this book. I tend to keep my working titles, and the working title of this was Into the Water.

Q: How did you decide to write this story and where did it come from?

A: I start with the characters and then I ask myself questions about why they are where they are and how they got there. The story starts to build while I’m in the writing. I do tend to know where I’m going. I have to know whodunit and why, but then everything else gets built in between during the writing. I don’t have it all pictured in my head at the beginning …You have to leave some gaps for things to emerge spontaneously; that’s how I like to write. I know a few characters and I know the ending and everything else kind of happens.

Q: Tell us about the fictional town of Beckford in your new novel. It’s isolated, a good place for lots of crimes to happen.

A: It’s a small community, it’s a bit isolated, it has in my book a very dark history. I wanted to build up a kind of Gothic, creepy feeling to this place … it’s a place around which myths have built and stories are told, and I think places like that start to take on their own personality and they start to develop a power of their own. They draw certain sorts of people to them … In some ways it’s reminiscent of Agatha Christie, a small place where everyone has secrets and everyone has a motive to do something.

Q: Could you ever in a thousand years have imagined how big The Girl on the Train ended up becoming?

A: No, to put it bluntly, no. I was optimistic about the book. My agent and my publisher were really excited; they did a great publicity campaign and we were hopeful. But it just took off and had a momentum of its own which I do not understand. You hope it’s got something to do with the book, but it’s quite mysterious how some things just take off and fly on their own.

Q: Were you happy with the movie version?

A: I was very happy with it. I thought they were true to the spirit of the book, they kept all the darkness and the claustrophobia and the paranoia. Emily Blunt did an outstanding job, in my opinion, of getting across Rachel’s self-loathing and her disgust with herself. Also, playing a drunk is not an easy thing to do without making it look really ridiculous and laughable, and she made it sad and pathetic and exactly how Rachel should be.

Q: You’ve sold the film rights to the new book?

A: The same team that made The Girl on the Train bought it and they’re just talking to writers at the moment. It’s very early days. I wasn’t involved last time but I will be consulting a little bit more this time. (Into the Water) is a complex book. There’s a wide cast of characters and a number of different mysteries going on, so it probably will be a trickier one to bring to screen. So I want to be a little bit more involved this time to keep my eye on things.

Q: Are you ever tempted to bring back Rachel?

A: No, because what would I do? Would she she become like a Miss Marple character solving crimes? Is she going to develop a new addiction? I don’t know what I would do with Rachel.

Source: USA Today