The Worried Writer Ep#44: Gillian McAllister ‘Uncertainty Is My Kryptonite’

Gillian McAllister
My guest today is Gillian McAllister, Sunday Times Bestselling author of psychological legal thrillers Everything But The Truth, Anything You Do Say, and No Further Questions.

This is Gillian’s second time of the podcast (I first spoke to her about pre-publication nerves, before her debut was released in March 2017) and this time we discuss her stratospheric success and the unexpected psychological cost.

To find out more about Gillian and her books, head to

Or find her on Twitter or Instagram

Gillian also runs a podcast – The Honest Authors Podcast – with Holly Seddon.


As Gillian and I both suffer with capital ‘A’ anxiety, there is frank discussion of mental health (along with a bit of joking on the subject). If this is something which is likely to offend or upset you in some way, please proceed with caution. Also, if you have any concerns about your own mental health, please do seek help from your local medical service. There is help available and you are most definitely not alone.

Finally, although I usually keep this podcast family friendly, there are a couple of mild swear words used in this interview. I have marked it as ‘explicit’ on iTunes, just in case that is something you would prefer not to hear.


I give an update on my writing. My month has been largely filled with publishing tasks for The Night Raven. It’s going up for pre-order this week on Kobo and iBooks, and will be released everywhere (including Amazon) on Tuesday 23rd October in both paperback and ebook.

I also read out the blurb (meep!):

Meet Lydia Crow…

Lydia has always known she has no power, especially next to her infamous and more-than-slightly dodgy family. Which is why she carved her own life as a private investigator far away from London.

When a professional snafu forces her home, the head of the family calls in a favour, and Lydia finds herself investigating the disappearance of her cousin, Maddie.

Soon, Lydia is neck-deep in problems: her new flatmate is a homicidal ghost, the intriguing, but forbidden, DCI Fleet is acting in a distinctly unprofessional manner, and tensions between the old magical families are rising.

The Crows used to rule the roost and rumours claim they are still the strongest.

The Silvers have a facility for lying and they run the finest law firm in London.

The Pearl family were costermongers and everybody knows that a Pearlie can sell feathers to a bird.

The Fox family… Well. The less said about the Fox family the better.

For seventy-five years, a truce between the four families has held strong, but could the disappearance of Maddie Crow be the thing to break it?

If you would like to be notified when it’s available (and be entered into my publication celebration giveaway) sign up for the Sarah Painter Books newsletter HERE.

In other news, I was delighted to be included in this round-up of podcasts. Thanks, Nate!

The Digital Reader: Nate’s Big List of Writing, Marketing and Publishing Podcasts

And I give a shout-out to new patrons supporting me via Patreon. Thank you so much!

The seventh exclusive audio extra went up in September and I answered patron questions about NaNoWriMo and surviving the editing process.

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If you want instant access to the audio and to become an insider member of the podcast, you can sign up for just $2 a month via the link above. (You can support me for as long or a short a time as you like – cancel any time).


The Night Raven is a new direction for me and I’m very happy to discuss any aspect, including my launch strategy (including whether it worked!) in a future episode. Please feel free to ask me any questions (on that, or anything else about writing, publishing or productivity) and I will do my best to answer.

Get in touch via email or Twitter or leave a comment on this post.


On being a publishing success story:

‘It does change your life forever… You become somebody in the public eye.’

‘When your novel does so publicly well it changes your identity… It’s definitely changed me as a person.’

On hearing that her debut was a top ten Sunday Times Bestseller:

‘It was bizarre, like an out of body experience.’

Downsides to success:

‘I like to hear from readers, but it’s quite confronting the amount of contact you can have with people that you didn’t contact yourself… It’s all unilateral and, you know, sometimes abusive and sexual and strange. So, that’s maybe a downside or certainly something I was unprepared for.’

‘I do have troublesome worries about what I owe readers. Do I owe everyone a response?’

‘I wanted to be published so badly, I was not aware of collateral associated with it. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it does send you a bit bonkers.’

‘The things I worry about are reception and sales and ability to continue doing the same thing.’


On anxiety:

‘I literally started to worry about why I was feeling worried and I would have non specific feelings of dread… And then I would have feelings of panic and not know how to dispel them… Basically I felt unsettled for four straight months.’

‘I don’t know what really caused it… I have noticed a pattern with my anxiety where if I’m really worried about one thing and then it resolves itself, ie. My book sells well, I then have a lot of non specific anxiety with nowhere to go.’

‘I felt like I was in a completely dangerous situation one hundred percent of the time… I was always risk assessing things.’


Gillian’s work schedule:

‘For me, the luxury of being able to waste time is quite healthy.’

‘I really like having a day job… I like my job but also the socialisation and getting you out the house and when you’re worried about your plot it’s great to go just somewhere else and do something that will pay you a wage and you know I went to law school for a really long time.’


On writing:

‘Do prioritise the writing. It’s very easy to get swept up in other things… But writing the novel is the most important part.’

‘It’s difficult in the world of instant gratification that we live in. It’s far easier to stick a blog post up and get immediate likes, but I would say, bum in chair most days and just write it. It will feel crappy and difficult but that’s because it is difficult, rather than a reflection on your own talent.’

‘I’m existing in a tradition of people before me who have done it… I am a writer and I’m doing that for a living and it’s all I’ve ever wanted, really. It is the most important thing in my life; it’s the core of my identity’

‘The worst thing is the uncertainty of it and uncertainty is my Kyrptonite, really, like any anxiety sufferer.’


Thanks for listening!

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The Worried Writer Episode #24: Gillian McAllister ‘I write everything down’

Gillian McAllister My guest in this episode is Gillian McAllister. Gillian’s debut thriller Everything But The Truth is out on 9 March 2017 from Penguin and she is represented by Clare Wallace at the Darley Anderson Agency. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Everything But The Truth and it is an absolutely cracking read. It’s a twisty, compelling, domestic thriller and I highly recommend it.

I spoke to Gillian last year and it was really interesting to talk about the post-deal, pre-publication phase.

For more on Gillian and her writing, head to her website, or find her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

In the introduction, I give a quick personal update: I finished the Worried Writer book! Last month I put out a call for beta readers and was bowled over by the response. Thank you so much to all of you who offered, the list is now full. I’m sending out the manuscript this week (eep!).

One of the really positive things about doing a project like this is that it’s given my brain a break from writing fiction. I felt empty after finishing the latest draft of Beneath The Water and it was nice to change gears for a while. Predictably, I’m missing fiction again, now, and am looking forward to diving into a new novel.

Also, I mention that I have (finally!) set up a page on Facebook for the podcast. Please head over and give it a quick ‘like’ if you are so inclined… I would really appreciate it!

Let me know the kind of content you’d like to see there, too. I’m considering recording some Q&A videos or perhaps a wee tour of my latest planner system. Let me know on the FB page or in the comments section below. Or, of course, drop me an email.

As always, I welcome your feedback and questions!

In the interview:

On always writing:

‘I’ve had reams of diaries and lists and I write everything down it’s the way I organise my thoughts.’

On the road to publication:

‘I think when you get an agent you think ‘that’s it’ and I was quite emotionally unprepared for rejection… It was just awful.’


And on the adjustment post-deal:

‘I still sometimes wake up and I’m in the old mindset of ‘is my book ever going to sell?’ and then I remember and I’m like, my God, that happened … I’m actually just really relieved because it was such a cause of anxiety and strife for me as I had never wanted anything as badly as I wanted a publishing deal.’

Advice on submission hell:

‘I think somewhere deep in my brain I felt as though if I checked email enough I would get a publishing deal and that is an incorrect thought!’

Gillian is a full-time lawyer. On fitting writing into a busy life:

‘One of the biggest things was getting a MacBook and being able to write in moments where I’m not so busy. Like if I’m on the train and there is a delayed train for twenty minutes I don’t lose the time, I can open the MacBook and write and I’ve kind of taught myself to do that.’


On the difficulties of writing:

‘I do a first draft and I’m quite gung ho about it and then at the end of it I think… Oh, okay, this should have happened or it’s actually about this…’

On the psychology of getting published:

‘My mental health for the three months after I sold was very wobbly… It was actually about control and feeling like this was all I ever wanted but it’s hard sometimes… I had been worrying for two years about getting published and I had all these neural pathways… I remember actively worrying that I wasn’t as happy as I should be until my boyfriend said ‘that’s insane’.’


Thanks so much for listening! If you have a moment, please leave a rating on iTunes or share the podcast.

Also, I will be giving out a limited number of review copies of the Worried Writer book in March.

If you want to be first to hear about the book (and be in with a chance of scoring a free copy), please sign up here.

Thank you!