Interviews

Five minutes with Laline Paull

Meet Laline Paull, author of the Women’s Prize 2023 longlisted novel Pod. A book the Daily Mail called “a cetacean epic, presenting a dolphin’s-eye view of love and sacrifice.”

The premise of this book is powerful and unique, so what was the inspiration behind the novel? We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…

Laline Paull:

Describe your novel in one sentence as if you were telling a friend.

A science-backed dolphin epic of migration, love, loss, family and survival – with many characters of other species all just trying to stay alive in a changing ocean.

What inspired you to write Pod?

Stupid naive tourist contact swimming with wild dolphins then realised my blunder and started to research why one species had driven out another (answer: an oil spill up the coast).

Are there any locations that have a special connection for you or your book?

The Indian Ocean is a place of family heritage for me, a place of such beauty and wonder, but also of rapacious human activity. It seems grandiose to choose such a place, but that is the truth.

Which part of the book was the most fun to write? Which was the most challenging?

I always love the worst characters because I can safely revel in my worst self – so the character of the remora was my favourite bit to write. I’m amazed the remora fish has never had a documentary to itself… And the most challenging bit was unquestionably about human exploitation and cruelty to other creatures: genocidal overfishing, the negligent cruelty on an unthinkable scale of lost and abandoned ‘ghost gear’ in the ocean – and the obscene hunting down of whole pods of dolphins for slaughter and capture for so-called ‘marine parks’.

Which of the characters from the book would you most like to spend a weekend away with and why?

This makes me laugh out loud, but I will go there as it serves me right. I will say the noble Rorqual humpback whale, that knightly soul who chooses a life of loneliness in order to sing warning to his people. I would spend the weekend as a vast and loving female humpback who replies to his song across a thousand miles and tells him she will wait for him to find her. And I would wait. And he would find me.

What first inspired you to write?

Ah… I cannot truthfully say, except that when footballers score a goal and cross themselves, there is something of that. To be the channel, then to do the hard work. Because a fragment of the story comes or glints in the imagination, and then you carefully work to bring out the treasure (you hope).

What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

It’s in a wonderful book called Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande, and to paraphrase, she counsels against blabbing about what you’re working on, because the subconscious mind will think ‘job done’ and then you might not have the same impetus to finish it. I still adhere to that, except with the same two long-trusted creative confidantes.


Have you read the 2023 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist?

Want more book recommendations? Head over to our features section to check out our reading lists.

The Women's Prize Podcast


Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.