Gilly Macmillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew, The Perfect Girl, Odd Child Out and I Know You Know. She trained as an art historian and worked at The Burlington Magazine and the Hayward Gallery before starting a family. Since then she’s worked as a lecturer in photography, and now writes full-time. She resides in Bristol, England.
Seven-year-old Jocelyn loves her nanny more than her own mother. When her nanny disappears one night, Jo never gets over the loss.
Thirty years later, Jo discovers human remains in the grounds of her childhood house, and begins to question everything.
What secrets is her mother hiding. And can Jo trust what she tells her?
A devilishly devious Mary Poppins, The Nanny captivates and surprises with twists and turns around every corner. This is a fun, addictive mystery thriller with a wonderfully tense relationship between Jo and her mother, and a gloriously evocative setting of Lake Hall. A perfect summer read you’ll certainly want to sink your teeth into.
Author’s Corner – interview with Gilly Macmillan
Can you tell me something quirky about you that your readers might not know?
If I wasn’t a writer, I would love to be making exquisite ceramics in a beautiful studio somewhere warm with a view of the Mediterranean. I have no idea if I’d have the talent to do it – I’ve never tried – but that’s the dream!
How has being a bestselling author changed things for you? Do you still write the same, or is there more/less pressure now?
I have always written in a state of terror, even before I had anything published. It’s just the way I am, and even though I think that should get easier with each book, especially when you’ve had some success, it hasn’t. The bestselling tag has definitely increased pressure in the sense that you hope every book will be as much loved as your most widely read one. You can drive yourself a bit crazy chasing that dragon, though, so I try to concentrate on writing books that I would love to read. I’ve always been a reader first, and then a writer, so it’s a way of checking in with what matters and focusing on the book alone.
What are some of the jobs you had before becoming an author? How have they helped you in your writing career now?
I’ve taught photography and that is something I draw on a lot as a writer. Photography teaches you to look carefully at detail and at how you present something. You make a lot of choices when you create an image and it’s a similar process to writing: what you decide as you create dictates how people experience something.
I’ve also worked in the art world, both on the academic side of things and in galleries. My experiences and art history training taught me how to describe what I see and bring it alive with words. That’s been absolutely core to my fiction writing.
Stranded on a tropical island, what would be the top three books you’d have with you?
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Paula by Isabel Allende and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
If you could recommend any other book(s) that you’ve read and loved recently, what would it be?
Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit. It’s a terrific thriller.
If you were granted one wish, what would it be?
To have more wishes, one of which would be that dogs had longer life spans.
What is your favourite place to write?
My office. I was lucky enough to renovate it last year, after four years of sitting beside the washing machine and staring at a badly painted wall, and now I have a desk with a view of my garden and a wood burner. That’s my idea of heaven.
Who’s your favourite character you’ve ever written and why?
Virginia Holt in The Nanny is my favourite character. When I first thought her up, I was nervous of writing her. She is aristocratic, a grandmother and from a very different world from the one I occupy. She intimidated me. As soon as I started to write her, though, I found I began to love her. She’s fiercely intelligent, feisty, loyal, incredibly tough and always surprising.
Writing The Nanny
Let’s talk about The Nanny. Can you tell my readers a little about it, how you came up with the idea and what inspired you to write it?
My agent and I were chatting about how many books (including my debut) have a missing person at their heart. We wondered if
it would be neat to flip that idea. We asked ourselves two questions: What would happen if someone unexpectedly returned to a family? And, if they left when you were a child, how would you know they were who they said they were? After that, we only had to decide who this person might be. A nanny seemed perfect because it’s such an intimate role, right at the heart of the family.
Describe The Nanny in three words.
Gothic, chilling, emotional.
What scene did you enjoy writing most?
I enjoyed writing so many scenes in this book, but the denouement was my absolute favourite. Unfortunately, I can’t describe it here as it would be a terrible spoiler!
What actress would you cast to play Jo?
Emma Stone would be terrific.
Was the ending planned from the beginning or did it evolve as you wrote it?
The ending was planned in the broadest sense, in that I knew how I wanted things to be for each of my main three characters, but the detail didn’t emerge until I reached it.
What do you think readers will love about The Nanny?
That’s always hard to say, because readers surprise you, but it might be the family relationships. The book centres around Jo, her mother and her daughter. They are very different characters and the relationships between them are complex, intense, and surprising. They form the heart of the book.
What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing The Nanny?
It made me think very hard about the relationships between different generations and how influenced we are by our grandparents – if we’re lucky enough to have met them – as well as our parents. I love the idea that character traits can skip generations and reappear down the line. Ruby, the youngest character in The Nanny, has a close relationship with both her mother and grandmother, even though the two of them can barely be in the same room together. That triangular dynamic intrigued me, and I can see myself returning to it in a future book.
Each of your books has hints of different genres, all joined by the thriller genre, eg The Perfect Girl was domestic drama, What She Knew was crime/detective. Is this a conscious thing you do during plotting, or does it evolve as you write?
I love to challenge myself with each book I write. I don’t plot in advance, but I make a conscious decision at the outset of each novel about the tone and character I’d like to achieve. It helps to keep the writing process compelling, which I hope pays back the reader by making a better book.
What’s next for Gilly?
Are you working on a new book? Can you tell my readers a little about it, a blurb, potential release date, etc? Where did you get the idea?
I’m working on my sixth novel but it’s a little early for me to be able to give you a blurb as I’m still developing it. I work closely with my agent at this stage and we’re very excited about this book. All I can say for now is that it’s going to be a journey into psychological terror and will be narrated by a writer. More soon!
Get in touch
Gilly loves connecting with readers. You can get in touch with her at:
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