Author Confessions: Mary Paulson-Ellis

Mary Paulson-Ellis
Category: Reading

The author of the Edinburgh-set The Other Mrs Walker, Mary Paulson-Ellis, stopped by to brave our confessional and tell us her deepest, darkest secrets. Or, you know, who would play her in a movie and what TV shows she can't live without. 


What’s your guiltiest reading pleasure?

Lace by Shirley Conran. The goldfish moment! We passed that around a lot at school. Also, Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. Oh, heady days.

Who would play you in a movie?

You’re joking, aren’t you? But if I could choose, how about either Cate Blanchett or an animated cartoon? One would certainly bear more resemblance than the other.

How do you arrange your bookshelf?

At the moment by publisher, which drives my partner absolutely nuts. But I love the colour co-ordinated spines. Orange Penguins. White Picadors. Dark green Viragos. Of course, covers are all different now, so I suppose I should go back to alphabetical - for peace at home if nothing else.

Which book has left the greatest impression on you?

I read and re-read My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin when I was about 16 and dreaming of the brilliant career I might have myself. Then, aged 23, when I had a baby on my hip and all those dreams seemed in ruins I read and re-read The Women’s Room by Marilyn French. It’s all just ‘shit and string beans’ had a particular resonance for me then. But the book that has left the greatest impression over the years has to be Toni Morrison’s Beloved. A classic that still amazes and inspires.

I love the colour co-ordinated spines. Orange Penguins. White Picadors. Dark green Viragos. 

How do you react to bad reviews?

If they are well written, I laugh. If not, I try to pretend they didn’t happen while hearing the words circle inside my head for hours.

Drugs and alcohol: do they help with writing?

I wish.

Which piece of your writing are you most proud of?

The one that sends me home for tea from my writing desk in a really good mood. I usually have to scrap it all the next day, but in that moment it’s glorious.

What’s your most extreme research story?

Not really extreme, but I did once get to peek inside the fridges at the Edinburgh City Mortuary. Nothing better than looking at the contours of a zipped up body bag to make you grasp life by the goolies and run.

What would your dream job be if you weren’t an author?

There are so many parallel lives I wish I had lived, doing all sorts of things. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer, so I can live them vicariously on the page. But if I had to choose I would be an undertaker. Or perhaps a midwife. I’ve got a thing about those crucial life and death moments.

What’s the best TV show of all time?

Six Feet Under (HBO, 2001-05). But then there’s The Legacy (DR, 2014-15). They both start with an unexpected death and go on into darkly comic and tragic territory. I think there’s a pattern emerging here.

Which author do you nominate for Author Confessions?

Poet Theresa Munoz whose debut collection, Settle, is published in April 2016 by Vagabond Voices.



We've got two hardback copies of The Other Mrs Walker to give away, courtesy of Mantle. To win one, simply post the answer to this question in the comments, or email it to  

In which city is The Other Mrs Walker set?

Closing date: 17:00, Friday 29 April 2016. Open to UK entrants only. Full terms and conditions.


If you love to hear it from the horse's mouth, check out our other Author Confessions

Mary Paulson-Ellis

Mary Paulson-Ellis is a writer living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her debut novel, The Other Mrs Walker, was published by Mantle/Pan Macmillan, in March 2016.

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