HowIgot inside the mindof Jackie O
Author Gill Paul tells Maria Croce about her tale of infamous love triangle
BEST-SELLING author Gill Paul developed a love of swimming outdoors in lochs as a child – and while researching her latest book she evaded security to swim to a private island.
The Scot is known for her historical novels in which she fictionalises the lives of real people in living memory.
For her new book, The Second Marriage, she has created a story around Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas, who were both involved with Greek shipping billionaire Aristotle Onassis.
And while researching her book in Greece, she took the opportunity to swim from a boat to a beach on Skorpios, Onassis’s private island, to see what it was like.
Gil l said: “I ’m a big swimmer and I know Jackie Kennedy was as well.
“I had to get a motor boat and avoid the security guard. I found a quiet cove round the corner and I managed to swim to shore. It was really lovely and beautiful.”
Gill grew up in Milngavie and went to the University of Glasgow but now lives in London with her partner Karel Bata, who is a light artist creating projections on to trees and buildings.
Her dad John was a professor of bio engineering at Strathclyde University and they would challenge each other to swim in cold water.
She still goes swimming every day in ponds – even if she needs to break ice on the surface during winter – having developed her love of outdoor swimming at Loch Lomond.
Gill has been fascinated by history since she was a teenager and specialises in writing about the 20th century and the lives of real women.
Her novels have topped best-seller lists in the US and Canada as well as the UK and have been translated into 20 languages.
The Secret Wife, about the Romanov family, has sold more than half a million copies and is a book club favourite worldwide. She’s just signed a contract for her 10th novel, which is due to come out next year. Biographers report the facts but as a historical novelist Gill goes behind the scenes to try to explain characters’ actions, creating dialogue and thoughts.
She said: “My story is told half from Jackie Kennedy’s point of view and half from Maria Callas’s point of view as their lives started to overlap through their relationship with Aristotle Onassis.
“There’s lots of questions about both their lives that I tried to address. Why did
Jackie marry him? It’s an odd one. Was it just for money? In which case do we perhaps look upon her as the cold-hearted person?
“Her sister Lee (Radziwill) had been having an affair with him beforehand. Surely you would ask your sister if you started going out with her ex, ‘Do you mind?’
“But no, Jackie just went ahead and agreed to marry Aristotle and got him to ring and tell her sister two nights before the wedding.
“When I was writing it, I did meet several people who had met Jackie but mostly I stick to written sources – biographies, letters and library archives.”
But Gill does not feel a responsibility to keep strictly to the facts.
She said: “We’re not writing history textbooks. It’s a creative response to the fact rather than a retelling of the facts. It’s my version of their stories.”