Bestselling Author


A Beautiful Rival by Gill Paul

Bestselling author Gill Paul joins us to talk about her new book, A Beautiful Rival. This stunning new novel reveals the unknown history of cosmetic titans Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein and their infamous rivalry that spanned not only decades, but also broken marriages, personal tragedies, and a world that was changing dramatically for women—perfect for fans of Fiona Davis, Marie Benedict, and Beatriz Williams.

Gill Paul

Gill Paul is the bestselling author of twelve historical novels, many of them describing real women she thinks have been marginalized or misjudged by historians. They include A BEAUTIFUL RIVAL, about the bitter rivalry between cosmetic titans Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein; THE MANHATTAN GIRLS, about Dorothy Parker and three friends navigating life, love and careers in Prohibition-era New York, like a 1920s version of Sex and the City; THE COLLECTOR’S DAUGHTER, about Lady Evelyn Herbert, the first person to enter Tutankhamun’s tomb in modern times; JACKIE AND MARIA (retitled THE SECOND MARRIAGE in the UK) about Maria Callas and Jackie Kennedy’s rivalry over Aristotle Onassis; two bestselling novels about the Romanovs – THE SECRET WIFE and THE LOST DAUGHTER – as well as WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, which was shortlisted for the 2013 RNA Epic Novel of the Year award, NO PLACE FOR A LADY, shortlisted for a Love Stories award, and ANOTHER WOMAN’S HUSBAND, about links you might not have suspected between Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana. Her novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Toronto Globe & Mail and kindle charts, and been translated into twenty-three languages.  Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN 50 OBJECTS, and she speaks at libraries and literary festivals on subjects ranging from Tutankhamun to the Romanovs.  Gill lives in London, where she is working on her fourteenth novel, and she swims daily in an outdoor pond.

In this episode of Historical Happy Hour, Jane Healey engages in an enlightening conversation with author Gill Paul about her latest novel, “A Beautiful Rival.” Set against the fascinating backdrop of the beauty industry’s evolution, the book vividly portrays the rivalry between iconic entrepreneurs Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. Paul dives into the intricacies of their lives, revealing their struggles, achievements, and the fierce competition that defined their relationship. The episode offers a deep dive into the art of blending historical accuracy with fiction, highlighting Paul’s extensive research and creative process.

Key Themes and Timestamps:

  • [00:00:00] Introduction to Gill Paul and her novel “A Beautiful Rival.”
  • [00:01:44] Background of Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.
  • [00:04:10] The personas and myths created by Arden and Rubinstein.
  • [00:06:08] Their rivalry, business strategies, and personal lives.
  • [00:08:14] Research process and surprising discoveries.
  • [00:10:46] Their perspectives during World War II and issues of antisemitism.
  • [00:13:35] Balancing fact and fiction in biographical historical fiction.
  • [00:16:01] Emotional plausibility and character motivation.
  • [00:19:03] Potential film adaptation and casting ideas.
  • [00:20:32] Gill Paul’s writing process and approach.
  • [00:23:11] Advice for aspiring authors.
  • [00:25:29] Engagement with readers and social media presence.
  • [00:27:21] Daily writing routine and work discipline.
  • [00:30:11] Current and upcoming reading recommendations.


[00:00:00] Jane: Okay, we’re good. Hey, everyone, welcome to Historical Happy Hour, the podcast that explores new and exciting historical fiction novels. I’m your host, Jane Healy, and in today’s episode, we welcome Gill Paul about her latest beautiful novel, A Beautiful Rival. Welcome, Gill. She’s joined us, by the way, it’s midnight in the UK and she’s joining us from London and I’m just so, so amazed you took the time and stayed awake.

Thank you for coming tonight.

[00:00:29] Gill: It’s totally my pleasure. I’ve really been looking forward to this and it’s so nice to

[00:00:33] Jane: meet you. You too, exactly. I feel like we have so many people in common, so it’s so nice to meet you. A little bit intro about Jill and then I’m going to jump into questions and again, I’ll take questions from the audience after I interview Jill, so you can put questions in the chat.

or in the Q& A and I will, I’ll be checking it in both places. So Jill Paul is a best selling author of 12 historical fiction novels, many of them about real women from the past whom she thinks have been marginalized or misjudged by historians. Her novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Toronto Globe and Mail charts.

and have been translated into 22 languages. Jill also writes historical nonfiction, including a history of medicine and 50 objects and a series of love stories. Welcome Jill, thank you for coming tonight again, like I said. So, so much. So, A Beautiful Rival was released in September, and it is based, inspired by the lives of Elizabeth Arden and Helena, Helena Rubinstein.

And I only knew kind of a little bit about these women before I read the story. Tell us about these remarkable women and the overall premise of the novel. The overall premise.

[00:01:44] Gill: Well, I mean, they are the ones, if you ever buy a face cream that claims to get rid of wrinkles or, you know, slow down the aging or reverse the aging process, it’s thanks to them.

They invented this whole idea that women have a duty to be beautiful. And if, you know, not, and you’re not too. try and make yourself look younger is neglect. And Helena actually said, you know, has he told you he loves you lately? If not, you need my endocrine hormone. So they started this whole thing.

And you know that we have, we have a responsibility to be beautiful. And this is not what I admire about them though. They also, both of them didn’t come from rich backgrounds, they didn’t have wealthy husbands, they were completely self made in an era where there was no chance of women getting a bank loan or any kind of help.

And they created, they didn’t just create like a couple of successful little salons, they created vast global empires, you know, so that’s hugely admirable. But that’s also, you know, the thing about their story that intrigued me right from the start was this idea that they had a 50-year feud. And they really did.

They hated each other. They tried to sabotage each other’s business in every way that they could, legal and not entirely legal as well. And that’s what really got me going. You know, the idea that these two women who barely ever met each other just were out there trying to plant spies and copy each other’s products and sabotage each other’s advertising campaigns.

I thought this is a great story. And so that was the attraction. It

[00:03:15] Jane: was a great story and so juicy. Like it was, it was one of those that, you know, at certain points I was Googling, like, did this really happen? And I should also add, you have wonderful Questions for book clubs and a bibliography on your website of sources if you want to dive deeper into their stories, which is, which is awesome.

I love it when I’m when authors have that. I love this quote from the research notes but speaking of them on your website. Both Arden and Rubenstein dealt in illusion. They sold the promise of youthfulness and beauty to their customers while pretending to be something they were not. Talk about the ways they pretended.

I was fascinated that like their, first of all, their ages were like a moving target. Like they both completely lied about their age that like you couldn’t even figure out how old they were when they died. But I’m still not sure. They also like created these personas that weren’t really rooted in how they were brought

[00:04:10] Gill: up.

Yeah, so they were quite different in that respect. Helena came from Krakow in Poland, and when she started her business in Australia, she announced that she’d studied medicine in Poland, that she’d studied dermatology and skin science with the top specialists in Europe, and that she was a scientist, and she is the first cosmetic Titan who combined this, who said, I’m talking about the science of beauty.

So that, you know, she was, and she also pretended that she’d discovered these magical Carpathian herbs, you know, herbs from the Carpathian Mountain, which had anti-aging properties. She never studied medicine. She didn’t study dermatology and. I really don’t think there were any special herbs at all because I can’t figure out how she would get them shipped over to start her business.

I think that was just all myth that she created about herself. Now, Elizabeth came from Woodbridge, Ontario, from a very, very poor background. Her father was a tenant farmer who made some very unwise financial decisions. There were five of them. Their mother died when she was just five years old and she just wanted to reinvent herself.

And she made her way to New York City. She worked in a salon, Eleanor Adair’s salon. And she looked at these wealthy women, upper class women that she was treating in the salon. And she thought, I want, I don’t want to just treat them. I want to be them. I want to be accepted by them as one of them. And so she took elocution lessons.

She studied the way they dressed and. you know, how they looked and the way they behaved towards each other. And she tried to pretend that she was as, as, you know, upper class as they were. Oh, yeah. Both of them have this illusion. They’re trying to pretend that there’s something that they’re not. And of course, they’re terrified that they’re going to be found out.

And they both set private investigators on each other to try and find out the. truth and they never, never quite were able to prove that their, their rival was lying. Yeah,

[00:06:08] Jane: that was fascinating. The fact that they, they were constantly trying to find, dig up dirt about each other and their love lives and, you know, husbands and, and lovers and everything else.

It was amazing. Yeah.

[00:06:21] Gill: So they were very different in that respect, but they did have quite a lot in common as well. And you, you refer to love lives. They both had cheating husbands. No, no. totally successful love lives. Both of them. Yeah. And they were both workaholics. You know, you have to be to create these vast empires that they had and self-made millionaires.

[00:06:41] Jane: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I kept thinking about the parallels between their lives, particularly when it came to their love lives and their husbands. I was like, oh, the men were always on the side, like their love, real loves were their businesses, right? I mean, that was like their true loves. Yeah.

[00:06:56] Gill: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there are slight differences that I think Helena was happy.

I think she really was in love with her first husband, Edward. And they had a very full sex life seemingly, you know, she enjoyed all that side of marriage. Whereas Elizabeth, her sexuality is very opaque. I think she was put off by watching her mother, you know, give birth to five children in very quick succession and then succumb to TB and die.

And, and she just thought. Do you know what? That’s not for me. I don’t want marriage and children. She always just wanted to, you know, have a glamorous, glitzy life. But you know, men weren’t really her thing. The great love of her life, a lot of biographers say, was a man called Tom White, who was already married.

Yeah, you know, that’s kind of a safe choice. You can have the thrill of the romance without any, you know, necessity for commitment. So that possibly suited her best of all. Yeah.

[00:07:51] Jane: Yeah. I, I thought that was interesting too. It was like unattainable in a way that maybe she wanted it to be, you know, so, so interesting.

I want to ask you about your research, because it was, the story was meticulously researched and I mentioned your sources on your website. What was your research process like for the novel? And did you come across any facts along the way that totally

[00:08:14] Gill: shocked you? I didn’t know much about them when I started this novel.

I often with the subjects that I write about, it’s something I’ve been passionate about and researching for a long, long time, like the Romanovs I’d been obsessed with since I was a teenager and Jackie Kennedy. And, but this one, I just found the story when I was Googling around. So I was really starting from scratch and I didn’t realize, for example, that Helena Rubinstein was a huge art collector and great friends with the artists of the day.

You know, she could get Picasso to just do a little sketch of her. She could get Salvador Dali to come and do triptych for her. So that was fascinating, and Elizabeth Arden, I had no idea that she was such an important horse racehorse owner. So these different facets of their characters were great. Yeah, I

[00:09:03] Jane: didn’t know.

Yeah, I didn’t know anything about that and the art. Her involvement in the art world was fascinating I mean the Chagalls and, and then she’d have. Chagall over for, you know, and I was like, you know, it was really incredible.

[00:09:15] Gill: I mean, that was partly through her first husband who was he ran a literary publishers in Paris, Black Mannequin Press, and he was very well connected in that whole Paris world.

But no, she, she encouraged a lot of young artists as well, which I love, you know, she bought their work and. and help them. I mean, it was, it was an interesting collection. Somebody said about it after she died when it was auctioned. She had all the top names of the 20th century in her collection. She just didn’t pick the best pieces.

She kind of chose from the heart and it’s what she liked rather than looking at the value. It was very, just an aesthetic judgment for her. Yeah.

[00:09:52] Jane: So interesting. I wanted to ask one aspect of this story you know, it starts in the early 1900s, you know, through through the World Wars and World War II in particular kind of show, you know, kind of shows the differences in their lives and in their views in terms of antisemitism.

Helena grew up Jewish, didn’t really practice, but her, obviously her life and her family were very impacted by World War Two in horrible ways. And Elizabeth Arden was like many people of the time was pretty anti-Semitic and friends with people like Wallace Simpson, who was known to be anti-Semitic and, and.

socialize with Nazis. And, and so you know, you, you said in your notes that you were really thoughtful with how you wrote about this aspect of their lives and this time period. And talk a little bit about that.

[00:10:46] Gill: I hadn’t, you know, when I started, when I agreed the subject, my publishers, it hadn’t quite dawned on me, you know, the name Rubenstein, it should be very obvious.

That I was going to have to deal with this. But, you know, I start the novel in 1915 and it’s true that Helena arrived in Manhattan and found that real estate agents wouldn’t lease certain properties to her because the owners didn’t want Jewish people there. Now, she could have changed her name. So many Jewish people coming to the States did, but she absolutely refused.

She was very fierce about that. She always wanted to just stand up for her rights, keep her own name, and everybody else had to, had to bow down and fit in the way she wanted to do things. I really admire that about her. But yeah, no, I was very cautious about it, particularly because one part of my novel, without doing any spoilers, does touch on the Holocaust.

I had several Jewish readers in the UK for, through friends. I swim in a pond in North London and there’s loads of Jewish friends there. So I through them, I got some real experts to have a look at it. But then when it went to the States the publishers hired a sensitivity reader as well. And I just thought it was, it’s so important when it’s not my story.

I don’t have Jewish blood that I know of. I mean, you know, hey, but, yeah, I wanted to get that bit right. So it is, I don’t, as you said, I don’t think Elizabeth was, she wasn’t vastly political, but she was meeting Nazis in Paris through her sister Gladys’s husband a French count, and that is, you know, that is a part of the novel where the tension between them really ramps up.

In fact, there’s something I couldn’t put in the novel. I came across Elizabeth’s FBI file, which is now available, and in it there’s a letter that somebody has written to the FBI about her. called her Mrs. Elizabeth Lewis, which was her married name, and said that she had Nazi friends and fascist sympathies.

Now, the name of the person that sent this letter to the FBI is redacted, it’s all blacked out, and in the end it’s stamped. that J. Edgar Hoover decided to take no further action. And I thought to myself, do you know, I bet that was Helena.

[00:12:55] Jane: Yeah, ratting her out, trying to exact revenge.

[00:13:03] Gill: Exactly the kind of thing she would

[00:13:04] Jane: do.

Yeah. So you’re a bit of an expert in writing a biographical fiction. We talked about this a little right before we jumped on. And so you know, you’ve written about Jackie Kennedy and Dorothy. Parker, among others. And so this is biographical fiction about two very prominent women in history. And how do you balance, how do you strike the balance between fact and fiction in telling their story and telling stories about real women in history?

And are there any strict rules that you adhere?

[00:13:35] Gill: to? Try not to get sued. That’s the main one. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, no, I do have strict rules about especially where there are, you know, one generation on descendants still around. I try to be sensitive. I mean, I don’t write hatchet jobs as we call them. I don’t, you know, I only write about people that I admire and feel a great affection for.

So I’m not in the business of. of criticizing them. I do have to watch out for legal issues that might crop up. I have legal reads on all my books, but no, I just, I’ve always really loved reading biographies and memoirs, but historical fiction, biographical historical fiction can step into the gaps that the.

biographies haven’t got the answer to, and with these two, Elizabeth and Helena, there’s massive gaps. There aren’t really, I mean, the best book about them is Lindy Woodhead’s War Paint, which was published, I think, 2006, and that’s about their rivalry. But she can say that they stole each other’s products that they planted spies.

But she’s telling us rather than showing us, and when I’m writing a novel, I’ve actually got to, to show that, to imagine what might have happened. The other big thing in this novel, and this isn’t really a spoiler because it happens quite early on, is that as far as any of the biographies tell us, they never actually met.

Now, I can’t write a novel about the rivalry between two big figures like this and not have them meet anywhere. It’s like if you did a Spider Man movie and didn’t have him confronting the Green Goblin in the end, you know, you, you need to have them kind of. So any, any places where I have them meeting in the novel was my invention.

But I always try to, I mean, I do, where the facts are known, I will try and stick to them, possibly move a date to make. But. You know, as you know, we’ve got to find that story arc because novels work differently from biographies and memoirs and we’ve got to have it kind of working in, you know, whichever particular arc it’s got to, to flow and make the reader want to turn the page to see what’s going to happen.

And that’s, that’s a completely different skill to have than, than writing biography. So I find the arc and yeah, you might have to move a scene a few years from when it actually happened. And then where there are big gaps, that’s. That’s where I think we’re allowed to make things up. Don’t you?

[00:15:58] Jane: Yes, absolutely.

That’s the hope, right?

[00:16:01] Gill: I’m trying to make it emotionally plausible because what my goal in writing about all of these women is to give some kind of explanation of why they were the way they are. And with these two, I just really wanted to know what drove them, what made, made them so. desperate to become, you know, to throw everything at work, to become these massive global millionaires, you know, with these vast empires.

And were they happy? So I really want to get inside their skin. So going too far away from the facts, I wouldn’t be able to do that, but yeah, absolutely. That’s

[00:16:37] Jane: right. That’s right. I, one of the questions you have for book clubs is, could Elizabeth and Helena ever have been friends? And what do you think, given everything you know about them?

Me neither. No, after reading the book, I’m like, no way. No, I don’t

[00:16:54] Gill: think so. They were just too competitive. Yeah. Yeah. Both of them just were born with this massive competitive gene, much more than any of the rest of us, you know, anybody I’ve ever met. No, they would never. And they were quite different.

And Helena was very exotic and colorful and, and, you know, her big jewelry and her mannerisms and her accent. And Elizabeth was just a completely different type. Yeah. Even in business, they had different interests in the cosmetics business. Helena was really interested in the mixing the creams and trying to find a new herb that she could mix in that smelt really nice and that she could market in a different way.

Whereas Elizabeth wanted it to be really pretty and collectible and have nice sets that her grand ladies could put on their dressing tables.

[00:17:39] Jane: Yeah, more about the aesthetic and less about what was inside. Yeah, I, I agree.

[00:17:44] Gill: Although she had to really up her game in terms of her creams when Helena arrived in the States, she had to really improve her product.

Yeah, yeah. And in fact, in the end, it’s Elizabeth’s creams that have survived. You know, we still buy eight of her cream. We still buy her Bluegrass perfume and red lip linen perfume and Helena’s things haven’t survived quite so well. I mean, they’re still out there. They are still sold

[00:18:07] Jane: Yeah, it is. I mean Elizabeth Arden is still a very prominent brand name where it has Helena’s brand has not survived as well

[00:18:15] Gill: Not survived so well.

Of course, Prince Harry advertised Elizabeth Arden in his memoir spare. Did you hear about that? No it’s a bit rude. Am I allowed to say? No, no He had frostbite on a very sensitive bit of his anatomy doing exercises in the Arctic or wherever, and he used Elizabeth Arden A tarot cream. And then bizarrely he said, oh yes, my mother used to put it on her lips.

Okay. Way too much information.

[00:18:44] Jane: I forgot about that little bit.

[00:18:45] Gill: I bet the Elizabeth Arden people were quite happy about it.

[00:18:51] Jane: I’m sure. Yeah. So funny. Yeah. If A Beautiful Rival were to become a movie, do you have anyone in mind for who would play Elizabeth and who would play Helena? It depends

[00:19:03] Gill: what age, doesn’t

[00:19:04] Jane: it?

Yeah, yeah. It’d have to be probably a couple different actors for each part,

[00:19:09] Gill: right? No, you could get some, you know, because in the In the novel, there’s sort of between 30s and 50s. I mean, I love Julianne Moore as an actress, and she’s got the red hair that Elizabeth had. I think she could do Elizabeth brilliantly.

And then somebody, you know, preferably somebody Jewish, because I think for Helena, somebody very dark and dramatic. Yeah, yeah. But I’m really, really not supposed to say this, but we are talking to film people at the moment. They said Jill, whatever you do, don’t say anything, but I, you know, I can’t keep news like that to myself.

No, no,

[00:19:47] Jane: no, no, no. You’re going to celebrate it while you, while you got it. Oh, that’s exciting. Oh, keep us, keep you posted on that. I love that. I will. And if I think of anyone who can play Helen, I’ll let you know. If

[00:19:58] Gill: anybody, if anybody watching has got any suggestions of who could play Helena Rubinstein, do let us know.

Thank you. Yes. I mean, not that I’m going to get to choose. I’d have no illusions about that. You just hand your book over and they Make whatever they want out of it. It’s a completely different

[00:20:13] Jane: product. Right, right. It’s fun to dream about though. Fun to think about it. Yeah, yeah. I always ask some questions about process.

And the first one I always ask is are you a plotter? Do you plot out your novels or do you, are you a pantser where you like write by the seat of your pants or are you somewhere in between?

[00:20:32] Gill: Well, I think I’m somewhere in between because what I do is I, you know, Do all the research, background research that we do, and then I write an incredibly long outline.

I mean, my outlines can be as much as 50, 000 words. Oh, wow. That, yeah, I know. And, but in that I’ve worked out chapter by chapter what’s happening in the plot and how I’m getting the character development to work. I’m not stopping. I mean, I write it quite quickly. I’m not stopping to choose beautiful words at all, or to describe the scenes, you know, I’ll just put, you know, needs to describe.

the wherever it was, but I’m getting the story down. And once I’ve got that, I’ll probably show that to my agent, my editor, a couple of friends just for a check, but it’s, it’s quite difficult to read because they come back to me and they say, no, but I want to see more about this. You’ll get that when I write the real thing.

This is just where I get the story plan. So I suppose I’m pants are in that bit, but then when I come back to write line one, page one of the actual manuscript, I’ve got a complete roadmap that I usually stick quite closely to. Yeah. Yeah. Excellent. I write it more nicely the next time. Right. Choose nicer words.

[00:21:47] Jane: Very cool. And so what the whole process, the whole writing process from, you know, drafting, revising everything, like what’s your What is your favorite part and what is the part that you dread?

[00:21:59] Gill: I mean, I have to say that the research is my favorite part because I try to plan it. I’m writing a book a year at the moment, which is a lot.

I don’t know how long I’ll carry on doing that. But I deliver at the end of June, deliberately, because then the plan is, I mean, I’ve usually got a book to promote coming out the end of August, September. Most of the summer, I just take a pile of books, and my sister’s got a house on the coast, and I can just sit in the garden and read and call it work for the summer.

So that’s why I plan it that way. And then, so I’m researching the next one, promoting the one that’s just coming out, and then I’ll start writing September, October, and then deliver the next one end of June. That’s the kind of

[00:22:40] Jane: routine. That’s an impressive schedule. That is, a book a year is aggressive.

That’s amazing. It’s

[00:22:45] Gill: quite a lot. I don’t know if I’ll carry on with that, but we’ll see.

[00:22:49] Jane: Yeah, amazing. So to that, and this question kind of ties into that. So you have proven staying power in this industry, which we were discussing is not easy at all. And and I know we have aspiring authors in the audience.

What’s the best advice you can give them about writing and getting published, which are two different things I know. So

[00:23:11] Gill: writing and getting published. At the beginning, my agent said to me, write the book that you want to write, but actually, I think in this world, you have to be much more commercially minded.

I think you have to really look at, well, in historical fiction, periods go in and out of fashion. So really look at what books are working and, and read them and figure out why they’re working and get your elevator pitch and just, I mean, I write books that I would want to read if I saw the description of it, I think.

I don’t know. I mean, if you desperately want to write about, you know, a 14th century peasant who had a journey down the road, you know, there’s different kinds of fiction. I’m trying to be quite commercial and to reach as wide an audience as I possibly can. Yeah. So I want to have. An idea behind my books that will catch the attention and hopefully get some media coverage and, and I can chat to people about, you know, that’s the great thing about doing biographical fiction is that I’ve got, I’ve got subjects to talk about and hopefully people that are already interested in those characters will come in and try my books and.

[00:24:22] Jane: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:24:23] Gill: Yeah. No, I do think you have to think quite commercially.

[00:24:26] Jane: I don’t know. I agree. I think more and more you have to think about both sides of the business. I mean, it would be nice if you could just write what you felt you wanted to write and not think about anything outside of that.

But I think that’s true. You have to be, you have to be savvy at the same time. Yeah, I completely agree. All right. Do you want to share a little bit about what you’re working on now? Just. Or not really. Just, I know you talked about, just about the era maybe, or and nothing more than that. Or, and if you don’t want to, we can, I have many more, I have more questions and there’s

[00:24:55] Gill: audience questions.

I’ve got a novel coming out next, I think it’s August, September and it’s called Scandalous Women. And it’s set in the 1960s, and I love writing in the 60s, I actually, I think my two favorite decades are the 20s and the 60s, because both of them were very pivotal, there was a lot of change going on, there was a big generational divide, so the, the adults didn’t approve of what their kids were doing, I love that, you know, you’ve got built in tension from the start, so that’s very much the case with the 1960s.

[00:25:23] Jane: Excellent. What, what’s the best way for readers to stay in touch with you?

[00:25:29] Gill: I’m everywhere. I

[00:25:30] Jane: you, you are? Yeah. , I’m, yeah. So

[00:25:33] Gill: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. I’ve got a TikTok account. Do you do TikTok, Jane? Kind of.

[00:25:39] Jane: I don’t, yeah. . I started it and then I’m like, what am I doing? I, I don’t know. Like, but the nice thing about TikTok is I’ve taken, and I’ll do this for, for this podcast and webinar, I’ve taken some like shortened clips of, of like questions that you answer and then I can post that.

So I like posting that kind of content. Yeah. Yeah, I need to do better with TikTok.

[00:26:00] Gill: And I’ve just gone on to threads. I think a lot of people are moving across from Twitter or X to threads. Have you

[00:26:06] Jane: done that? I noticed that, it’s so funny, I downloaded it today because I noticed a lot of authors are moving to threads, it seems like, because Twitter used to be really good for publishing industry gossip and what was going on and, and that’s, I, I feel like a lot of the agents, editors, writers are moving to threads now.

Well, except

[00:26:24] Gill: it seems to me that the British ones are still on Twitter or X. We’re just behind, we’re just behind the Americans and the American, my American author friends that have gone onto threads. So I’m on both. Yeah. And if anybody, by the way, if anybody is interested in reading A Beautiful Rival, I’m not, I think I’m not supposed to say this as well, but it’s going to be on an ebook special deal from the 15th to the 26th of December.

So that’s a week on Friday. Oh, that’s good. Okay. 1. 99. Yeah. Oh, treat yourself for

[00:26:55] Jane: Christmas. Absolutely. Absolutely. I loved the story. I don’t know if I’ve said that enough. I loved it. And I love you brought these women to life and you know, gave so much context for who they are and who they became, you know and so now I’m looking in the Q and a and the chat for, there’s a few questions here.

Donna Ferron What are your writing routine? Do you write every day or at certain times or a certain number of words a day? How do you set your schedule?

[00:27:21] Gill: I do write every day. I sort of come to my desk at nine o’clock in the morning, but then I kind of potter around doing social media and my Spanish lesson and various things, you know, procrastination basically.

But then I’ll write a bit. I swim every lunchtime. I’m a, I’m a wild swimmer and year round. So I kind of go out about one o’clock to two o’clock. I’m off in the pond up the road, having a splash around or breaking the ice in winter. And then I come back and work till about

[00:27:50] Jane: six. That’s amazing. Do you wear a bodysuit, like a wetsuit in the winter or you just swim?

[00:27:55] Gill: Swimsuit. Yeah, that’s it. Wow. You know, don’t always stay in that long when it’s, when we’ve broken the ice, you just literally, you know, five minutes maximum. Very cool. It’s very addictive.

[00:28:08] Jane: Yeah. How fun. Sharon Person asks, what do you think was the big break for each of these women and who had their big break first?

without giving any big spoilers away.

[00:28:20] Gill: Hi Sharon. Helena started first in Australia and Yes. No, originally she was importing a cream from Poland that her mother always used to use on her and her sisters at home. And the way she funded her business, I think she borrowed a little bit of money from a friend there.

But she got women to pay up front and then wait five weeks while the cream was being shipped across. And she just managed to create a buzz about this cream. And she had beautiful skin herself, really gorgeous, like porcelain complexion. And you know, Australian women had. you know, often were quite lined before their times because of the sun out there.

So that was, that was how she did it. But she, right from the start, she was getting celebrities to endorse her product. She was befriending magazine journalists, giving them free samples and presents. And oh, you, you like my ring here, have my ring, that kind of thing.

[00:29:13] Jane: And they were like, I was amazed by that.

That was a detail that, that you talked about. She would give these presents to the members of the press. And it was like, Amethyst, like, like jewels. Not like, you know, a little like perfume or something. It was like real jewels. I couldn’t believe that. Yeah. I mean, I think,

[00:29:31] Gill: I think she bought them in bulk. I don’t think they were spectacularly good jewels, but it, you know, it’s a nice gesture.

Yeah, absolutely. I have to say, by the way have you read Renée Rosen’s book about Estée Lauder, Fifth Avenue Glamour Girls? Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl. She’s written about Estee Lauder and I love the picture that she, she draws of this woman who used to go up to, accost people in the street in Manhattan and say to them, excuse me, I have to tell you that you’re wearing the wrong shade of lipstick for your skin color.

And then she’d find in her handbook, a little trial sample and hand it over. And wonderful. I mean, it’s such a book. I really recommend it.

[00:30:11] Jane: Oh, okay. I’ll have to remember that one. What are you reading now besides research reading? Anything?

[00:30:16] Gill: I’ve just finished today and I’m missing it already. The Trust by Hernan Diaz which won the Pulitzer this year and I knew I was going to love it because it’s set in the 1920s around the, I don’t know how to make it sound interesting but it’s, it’s around the Wall Street crash and what caused it and it’s about finance but it’s told from loads of different points of view and it’s just so clever and it’s not difficult at all.

You know, I, I was completely hooked from the beginning. There was something about it. I knew I was going to love it and I really did. And I finished this afternoon and I, I’m actually sitting. In fact, if anybody’s got a recommendation, I’m thinking, what am I going to read tonight? And then I’m going to train journey tomorrow because I don’t know what’s going to, what’s going to work after that.

Cause it was so good. I

[00:31:06] Jane: am reading and I’m slow because I’ve had a lot going on, but the Heaven and Earth Grocery Store have you heard of this one? It’s getting all buzzed and I’m blanking on the author, but it’s, it’s a beautifully written book. It’s a little bit dark, but the details and the characters it’s, it’s on all the best of end of year lists.

Best of and, and just so brilliant. It’s so, so cool. It’s historical. Yeah. Heaven and earth grocery store. Yeah, it’s about this, like these Jewish and African American families in Pennsylvania that kind of band together over a young boy in their, in the community. And, oh, it’s just so, and so much more than that.

Like I’m not going to describing either James McBride, James McBride. I knew it was James. Thank you. Right. Fabulous. Oh, and the title of the S. J. Lauterberg book. Fifth Avenue Glamour. I’m sorry, what is it? Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl. Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl. I can see the cover. Yeah, that’s a beautiful cover too.

Speaking of, I always ask about covers, and can you hold yours up? I have, I have mine upstairs. Yes, so do you have a say in the cover? Like, design, because I love the design.

[00:32:22] Gill: I’ve got such a long saga about covers of my novels. This one I sent off, I sent the designer a load of images of Elizabeth and Helena and and what came back looks nothing like them at all.

But I do, I do really like this cover. I made very few changes to this. I never get to keep my own titles. I am, I never, get much say on the covers. I’ve got, I’ve got some cover disasters in the past. The funniest one is back in 2012, I wrote a book about the Titanic called Women and Children First.

And the publishers did, you know, the classic thing. It was a woman in the foreground and the ship sinking in the background behind her. And I just became obsessed with the fact that her makeup and her, the earrings she was wearing weren’t right for, for 1912. So I fiddled around and I sent them images and I replaced the earrings and, you know, got the hairstyle slightly different.

And it was at the launch party for the book that my friend brought his 12 year old son and he picked it up and he said, But they’ve got the ship sinking the wrong way around.

[00:33:29] Jane: Oh no! I mean, I

[00:33:31] Gill: should have noticed that, you’d think. I was too hung up on the

[00:33:35] Jane: earring. I, I, I get it though. I probably wouldn’t have noticed either.

It’s more about like the person. Yeah. Oh my gosh. That’s funny.

[00:33:43] Gill: I know. What can

[00:33:44] Jane: you do? What are you going to do? Yeah. And what was the original title of this one?

[00:33:52] Gill: I think I called it lipsticks. Lipsticks at dawn. That’s what I had. That sounds a bit kind of frivolous, doesn’t it? It’s not, it doesn’t really have a rivalry element to it. So yeah, it was lipsticks at dawn for a while.

[00:34:06] Jane: Those are really hard too, though, I feel. I don’t have a.

[00:34:09] Gill: I don’t think I’m very good

[00:34:10] Jane: at them.

Yeah, me neither. Yeah, every time I send it in, I’m always like TK title. You guys can help me figure it out.

[00:34:18] Gill: My UK publishers do focus groups on this kind of thing where they try out different words and they see which words sound commercial. I think beautiful is a very commercial word in a title scene.


[00:34:30] Jane: it works. So, but no, no, it’s it works. Yeah, it’s great. Let me see if there’s any other questions. Oh, Sharon person writes, did you find out anything in your research that you really wanted to include, but you had to leave out?

[00:34:46] Gill: Absolutely. Well, the FBI file, Elizabeth’s FBI file, definitely. What else?

I, I had to, oh gosh, yes well I had to decide where to finish the novel and, you know, rather than just, I mean, they remained rivals right up till their deathbeds, but there wasn’t much happening between the 1940s and when they died in the mid 60s, so I, that’s why I decided to leave it straight after the Second World War.

But, the year before she died, in 1964, Helena Rubinstein had a break in at her Park Avenue apartment, and three young men, they tied up her staff, and they came into the bedroom where she was in bed, and they demanded the key to her safe. And she had she managed to slip it down her cleavage, because what young man is going to look in a sort of 90 year old woman’s cleavage?

And she said, I’m, you know, I’m an old woman. She said, you can kill, you can kill me, but I’m not going to let you rob me. And they managed to find 200 in a handbag in her bedroom. And, and she said to the other robbers, he’s got 200 of mine, make sure he shares it with you. And then as soon as they left, having got, that’s all they got.

She called the police, she untied her staff and then she I held a press conference, you know, which is just Helena all over, it really is.

[00:36:05] Jane: Amazing. Indomitable.

[00:36:07] Gill: Yeah. But you know, I just couldn’t take the story that far on. There just wasn’t enough material to, to get me there. I can see

[00:36:14] Jane: why you wanted to keep that in there.

That’s pretty fascinating. That’s a good one. That’s a good, good story. Good little story. Amazing. See if there’s any others. But there’s, there’s no other questions, but there’s some really nice comments and I will, I’ll, I’ll send you some of these afterwards. People, Cheryl Hagman says she loved the book.

Sharon says I bet the research was amazing. People are all over Canada and all over the U. S. So this is wonderful. Thank you for coming on in the middle of the night your time. I, you know, I hope you’re not too tired to do your swim tomorrow. Not at all.

[00:36:48] Gill: I’m fine. Thank you. I’ll tell you a story about the research, which is, a reviewer picked up, you know, I mean, you know what it’s like, Jane, where you research so many hundreds of little tiny things for each novel. And, you know, when you’re at a restaurant in Paris, you can actually Google online and find the exact menu that they might’ve been given. And so I was completely gutted when a reviewer said, and I’m not a yoga expert, Elizabeth Arden does yoga in the book.

And a reviewer said that they loved the book, but I’d used yoga positions that weren’t invented till the 1930s or called those names till the 1930s and I’d used them in 1918 and I was like, oh, I was so upset about that. But if anybody is buying the ebook in the deal that’s starting a week on Friday, I have now correct.


[00:37:39] Jane: you

[00:37:41] Gill: know what I mean? You, when you research. So many tiny little facts in that one

[00:37:44] Jane: thing. I know, I know. And it kills me because that has happened to me too. It’s happened, I think, to all writers. But, you know, at the end of the day, this is fiction. Who knows? Maybe she invented those yoga poses and no one else knew about them.

Or, you know, like, you have to give yourself a break a little bit. Ah, well, you know. It is what it is. Well, and that’s nice that they’re able to fix the e books now with the details like that. Correct

[00:38:10] Gill: now. Yeah. And in fact, I found a California yoga historian who went through the whole thing and he sent me pages.

I now know everything about the history of yoga in the early 20th century.

[00:38:23] Jane: Yeah. I’m going to put a book on that. That’s a whole other aspect about her too, Elizabeth, is she was like a health nut before her time. She was. She knew I was doing yoga. Or eating healthy, or thinking about these things the way she was back in the day.

And, and she was all in with all of that, you know, it’s really interesting too. Yeah. So

[00:38:42] Gill: because she broke her hip when she was 18 years old, trying to high kick a chandelier for a dare, and she fell over and broke her hip. And so she, she was very stiff. So she had to do yoga from then on, which is another kind of interesting insight into her character.

[00:38:58] Jane: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Jill, this was delightful and I’m so happy that you were able to do this and, and, and stay up late for us. Thank you for coming on. Please keep in touch. Oh, thank you. And again, everyone should read this book. It would make a great Christmas gift. On that note, I just wanna wish everyone a happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

Thanks for listening tonight and consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, my husband Charlie always says I have to say that. And because the more reviews we have, the more readers will find the podcast or the YouTube. But yes, Jill, good luck with everything. Let us know about the movie.

Thank you. Thank you

[00:39:33] Gill: and happy holidays to everybody there. Thank you so much for coming along. Yeah,

[00:39:37] Jane: this was so fun. Thank you again. Take care. Have a good night. Bye bye.


Hosted by Jane Healey, Historical Happy Hour is a live interview and podcast featuring premiere historical fiction authors and their latest novels.

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