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Girl on the Train author on the lightbulb moment that sparked her smash hit book

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They say life imitates art, but does the influence ever go in the opposite direction?

In the case of Paula Hawkins, the answer is a resounding yes.

The bestselling author of The Girl on the Train, which follows the story of a woman who sees something unthinkable happen in a house she passes while on her train, has revealed her inspiration for the book came from a very specific - and rather mundane - part of her daily routine: a long-winded commute on the District Line.

Bestselling author Paula Hawkins

Bestselling author Paula Hawkins

"I used to commute a lot around London and I had one particular route, which took the District Line overground. It used to break down all the time and I would sit there and stare into the houses right by the track and hope something interesting would happen," the author said while speaking at an AOL Build Series event in London yesterday.

"Nothing interesting ever happened but I did start wondering what you would do if you saw something that shocked you."


Read more: The best teen reads to guide you through all adult moments in life


Describing these moments as forming the "germ" of her inspiration behind the story, Hawkins added, "what sort of witness would you be?"

girl

In the novel the protagonist, Rachel, becomes an alarmingly involved witness, taking the reader on a thrilling journey as she battles depression and alcoholism to try and get to the bottom of what she saw from her train.

"Rachel was someone who had been in my head for a while," said Hawkins about the character. "I was interested in writing about this woman who was broken and damaged and suffering from memory loss, as it makes her uniquely vulnerable. She just doesn't know how to respond to her own actions."


Read more: From J.K Rowling to Paula Hawkins: 2016’s highest paid authors have been revealed


The novel, which gripped the world, spent 15 weeks at the top of the The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list following its publication in January 2015. It has now been adapted into a film, starring Emily Blunt as Rachel, and is set to hit UK cinemas on 7 October.

Paula Hawkins and Emily Blunt at The Girl on the Train premiere

Paula Hawkins and Emily Blunt at The Girl on the Train premiere

Speaking at the event, Blunt described Rachel as a "dangerous" character and described how she had spent hours watching documentaries about alcoholics to help her get into character.

"I needed to get into this headspace which felt like an alien skin to wear," she explained. "I've witnessed the world of an addict firsthand but had no personal experience."

She also added that she believes we all have a bit of Rachel inside of us. "I think her voyeuristic tendencies are universal," she said. "I used to imagine the lives of people on the trains I was on all the time.

"We just have an interest in what goes on behind closed doors."

Emily Blunt as Rachel in the film

Emily Blunt as Rachel in the film

And Hawkins is not the only one to have had her lightbulb moment while going about her daily business. JK Rowling also came up with the idea for Harry Potter while travelling on a train, while the concept behind Twilight came to Stephanie Meyer in a dream.

It seems art does imitate life after all...

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