Interview With an Author: Gillian McAllister

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Gillian McAllister and her latest book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Author Gillian McAllister and her latest book, Wrong Place, Wrong Time. Photo by Bill Waters

Gillian McAllister has been writing for as long as she can remember. She graduated with an English degree before working as a lawyer. She lives in Birmingham, England, where she now writes full-time. She is the Sunday Times bestselling author of Everything But the Truth, The Choice, The Good Sister, The Evidence Against You, How To Disappear and the Richard & Judy Book Club pick, That Night. She is also the creator and co-host of the popular Honest Authors podcast. Her latest book is Wrong Place, Wrong Time and she recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What was your inspiration for Wrong Place, Wrong Time?

It was inspired by Russian Doll, and me thinking how I'd love to write a time-loop thriller. I quickly realised a Groundhog Day style book might get repetitive, and suddenly the idea that the days move backward was born.

Are Jen, Kelly, Todd, or any of the other characters in the novel inspired by or based on specific individuals?

Ha, no, I think most authors get that out of their system in their first few novels…!

Did you do some research about time travel before writing the novel? If so, how long did it take you to do the necessary research and then write the novel? What was the most interesting or surprising thing that you learned during your research?

Some—I interviewed a physicist about his ‘best’ theory for whether a time-loop might be possible, but actually, he became a character in the novel (Andy), so he was actually most useful in terms of character!

Do you have a favorite time travel story (novel, television show, or motion picture? A least favorite? (I realize that you may not want to address this one, and if that is the case, please don’t. But I also realize it might be so bad that it could be fun to answer.)

Weirdly, I actually haven’t seen many! I remember loving the Time Traveler’s Wife, but I’m actually pretty poorly informed about TV and movies because I’ve always been such a big reader. So I sort of went into this huge canon of time travel work totally blind!

Same question, but regarding mysteries. Do you have a favorite mystery novel or series? A favorite author?

I love Lisa Jewell, Ruth Ware, Louise Doughty, Renee Knight, and Tana French...

If you were able to travel back in time and make a change (although not necessarily using the same method Jen uses), what would it be?

Probably only to tell my past self that, one day, I would be published.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

A Jacqueline Mitchard backlist book!

Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?

Jodi Picoult
Lisa Jewell
Marian Keyes
Jojo Moyes
And I feel I cannot leave Francine Pascal off this list! I spent many, many a happy hour reading Sweet Valley High...

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Ha, see above!

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

Oh, definitely Forever by Judy Blume!

Is there a book you've faked reading?

Well, I have an English degree, so quite a lot of those...!

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

Is there a book that changed your life?

Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty. I read it and thought: this is the sort of thing I want to write. Nobody before that had, to my knowledge, blended relationships and crime.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I went to see the Anthony Gormley exhibition that appears in Wrong Place Wrong Time and felt so moved by it.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

Writing, walking my dog, chatting to my husband, bath, dinner out, home, and bed with a book!

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked but never have been? What is your answer?

Ha! It’s actually the question below—all authors love to talk about their current WIP...

What are you working on now?

My next novel is called Just Another Missing Person. It tells the story of Julia, a police officer who is forced to take a bribe. And it has the best twist I've ever written—right in the middle!

Book cover for Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
McAllister, Gillian

In Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Gillian McAllister tells a traditional mystery story but from a decidedly different angle: can someone prevent a murder from happening? McAllister forces her amateur detective to travel backward in time, gathering information and clues, to determine why the murder in the present took place. It is an intriguing concept. And McAllister has populated her novel with compelling and complex characters. The result is a novel that operates on several different levels: mystery novel, time travel novel, relationship novel, a meditation on motherhood, and a reminder of the importance of priorities when struggling to maintain work/life balance. The novel excels on all levels while deftly sidestepping the possibility of becoming maudlin or overly sentimental. McAllister also reminds readers of the importance of what is happening now and how even the smallest occurrences may begin ripples that will reach far into the future.