Paige Toon on creating her characters: I do A lot of daydreaming followed by a significant amount of research

It is a great pleasure to have the incredible Paige Toon for our ‘Behind the Book’ segment. Paige Toon grew up between England, Australia and America and has been writing books set in sun-drenched locations around the world since 2007. She has released thirteen novels and a three-part spin off series for young adults. Someone I Used to Know is her recent release.

How did you come up with the title Someone I used to know? Did you develop the title first or the story?

Paige- The story came first. We threw around a lot of titles before landing on the right one. Initially I was thinking ‘As You Are’ because it ties into a line from the book, but my editor thought it was a little too abstract and she’s usually right about these things! One of the S&S team who works on my books, Judith Long, suggested Someone I Used to Know – I loved it instantly. 

How long did it take you to write this book? How many re-edits did you have to go through?

Paige- I’ve been thinking about this book for a few years and developing the idea inside my head, but from the time I started typing to the time I delivered my first draft to my editor, it was exactly three months. I do a round of editing with my editor, followed by a round of editing with a copy editor, then we go straight to page proofs. 

What process do you follow to develop characters in your fiction narratives?

Paige- A lot of daydreaming followed by a significant amount of research. In order for a character to feel real to me, I need to understand what they’ve been through and what their passions are.

What drew your attention to the world of writing novels?

Paige- I’ve written stories ever since I was very young. Maybe an adult said to me, you’ll be an author one day – I just remember always thinking that, when I grew up, that’s what I would be.

Was there any particular challenge you had to face while writing Someone I used to know?

Paige- Incredibly, no! There are so many things that could have gone wrong: I might not have connected to the story because my head was so full of everything Covid-related, but instead, missing my family in Australia helped engage me emotionally to the things Leah goes through. The kids were at school for the full three months it took me to write the book so I didn’t have to home-school. And also, none of us got ill! 

What has been your biggest takeaway from writing this book?

Paige- That there are so many things people who don’t want to foster can do to help look after children, whether that’s supporting another foster carer by bringing them a meal when they’re up against it or lending an ear to a stressed social worker, so they have more resilience at work, or letting your own children play with children who are in the care system. I found the research around this – watching YouTube videos of other foster parents and reading dozens of articles – so incredibly inspirational. I really wanted to share some of the things I learnt because they definitely made me feel more compassionate and understanding and I hope readers will feel the same. 

Do you have a writing schedule that you adhere to?

Paige- When my children were babies, I wrote during nap times and now I write when they’re at school. When they’re at home, I’m Mum.

Between Theo, Leah, and George- who is your most favourite character?

Paige- I love them all for various reasons, but I’ve lived inside Leah’s head as she’s fallen in love with George, so it’s got to be him.

When you’re not reading or writing, what do we see you doing?

Paige- When I’m not doing family things, I love going for long walks with my dog while listening to music. I come up with a lot of my story ideas doing this. I also love reading and watching films.

What are you working on next?

Paige- Another impossible love story, of course!

Read our book review for Someone I Used to Know here.

Someone I Used to Know by Paige Toon was published on 16th June 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. You can purchase the book here.