Online dating experience inspired Scotland’s latest thriller writer to pen her debut novel


SHE could have done what most people do and trawl their phone or social media sites in their lunch hour, however Scotland’s latest crime fiction author put her’s to good use and managed to pen half her debut novel at her desk.

Paula Johnston then sat down and finished the rest of it in lockdown and now finds herself climbing up the Amazon Top 100 list and has now reached number 63.

The 30-year-old has always had a penchant for a good crime novel, however she always managed to work out the ending so decided that would the number one priority with her novel – keep the reader guessing who did it.

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And she says she would be surprised if anyone picking up her debut novel, The Lies She Told, guessed the ending.

“It was one of those disappointing things about a book,” said Ms Johnston. “I would always get to a point where I knew where it was going to lead or who did it. I think that is one of the reasons why I decided to write a book myself as I wanted the reader to be left in suspense to the end.”

The psychological thriller is loosely based on real life experiences of the online dating world, but Ms Johnston says she has elaborated somewhat on it for the novel.

Paula Johnston pictured at home in East Kilbride. Photo by Colin Mearns.

The plot centres around Karly Winters who has as waited years to have the man of her dreams, Jacob Cruthers.

However, from her Glasgow home she pines for the Londoner who casually keeps her dangling and never with any intention of leaving his wife.

Karly decides to take matters into her hands, but she ends up on a collision course she didn’t expect.

“I had always wanted to write a book and had worked in a variety of jobs from retail to banking and admin and I decided I was just going to do it,” she added. “Before lockdown I was working in an office and in my lunch hour I would be typing away and brining my characters to life. While the characters aren’t based on anyone specific, it is based on real life experiences of the dating world taken to another level for the purposes of fiction.

“I write from two females’ points of view and it was great fun to develop them both. It is interesting how the book shows two opinions of the same thing that is actually happening. One thing I really wanted to do was keep the reader guessing and I really believe people will be kept in suspense until the end.”

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Ms Johnston not only wrote the book, she designed the cover and marketed it herself and without a large publishing house behind her, she has managed to break into Amazon’s Top 100 list and is climbing a few places week in week out.

“I really believed in the book and I think I have done pretty well on my own,” added Ms Johnston, who lives in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, happily with her partner and their three cats. “I worked pretty hard on pre-sale and when it went into the Top 100 I couldn’t believe it.

“It was amazing to see and I think it has been a little surreal as well. It almost feels like someone else’s life to me. My family have been fully behind me as well. I dedicated the book to my grandparents Margaret and George Coyle as when I was little I would write little stories for them. Now I have written and published a book I wanted it to be dedicated to them.”

The Lies She Told, by Paula Johnston, is climbing up the Amazon Top 100 List.

She happily steered clear of online dating for a while and it seems the more traditional route may have paid off in finding love.

Ms Johnston added: “I had just come out of a bad relationship and I took on a new job in a garage. I checked that there were no suitable men working there because I didn’t want a boyfriend but I found out that I was wrong and it went from there.”

As for the future, Ms Johnston, who likes to read books by author JP Delaney who wrote The Girl Before and Karen Slaughter’s Pretty Girls is also a favourite of hers, has enjoyed working with her characters and says there could be a sequel in store.

She added: “People keep asking me will there be another book or a series, so there could be a sequel in the offing. You just never know what will happen next – but I wouldn’t mind if likes of Netflix got in touch to put it on screen.”

The Lies She Told by Paula Johnston is available now from Follow her on social media


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