Five minutes with: Miranda Cowley Heller

Author Miranda Cowley Heller

Meet Miranda Cowley Heller, author of the Women’s Prize 2022 longlisted novel The Paper Palace. This dark family saga is described by The Evening Standard as ‘packed with intrigue and complicated characters that transports you to Cape Cod.’

The location is a key element in the novel, so we wanted to find out more about that special connection. We grabbed a quick five minutes with each of the authors behind the longlisted books to ask that question and more…

Miranda Cowley Heller:

Describe in three words how it feels to be longlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Beyond. Ecstatic. Thrilled.

What inspired you to write The Paper Palace?

The idea that our lives are lived in two ‘zones’ – in our heads and in reality. As John Lennon supposedly said: life is what happens when you are making other plans. In The Paper Palace, there are two equally powerful but completely different experiences of love. But also, the inheritance (and, hopefully, exorcism) of trauma, and the weight of lies. 

Can you describe The Paper Palace in one sentence?

One woman’s life told in 24 hours and 50 years that take you to the precipice of an impossible decision she faces. 

Are there any locations that have a special connection for the book?

The rough and romantic Back Woods of the Outer Cape (Cape Cod), where I spent every summer of my childhood swimming in fresh water ponds and the ice-cold Atlantic.

What was the first thing you ever wrote?

A book of nature poetry for my grandfather’s birthday. I was nine. Some of them are actually pretty good!

Why did you become a writer?

Family inheritance – I come from a family of writers and editors and artists. But also, a powerful need to access the deeper parts of myself and my imagination that, for so long, were only visible to me in my dreams.

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