C.J. Tudor, author of the bestselling and widely acclaimed The Chalk Man, talks to us about her debut!
Tell us a few words about yourself - whatever you want to share about your personal and professional life, but also why you decided to become a writer.
Well, I’m 46. I live in Nottingham with my partner and little girl. I left school at sixteen and I’ve had many, many jobs over the years – from television presenter to dog-walker. But I’ve always loved making up stories. When I was very small I lived in a complete fantasy world. Then, in my teens, my English teacher, Mr Webster, really encouraged me. He once wrote on the bottom of an essay: ‘If you do not become Prime Minister or a best-selling author I will be very disappointed!’
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
It began back in 1986, at the fair, on the day of the accident. That was when twelve-year-old Eddie met Mr Halloran - the Chalk Man. He gave Eddie the idea for the drawings: a way to leave secret messages for his friends and it was fun, until the chalk men led them to a body. Thirty years later, Ed believes the past is far behind him, until an envelope slips through the letterbox. It contains a stick of chalk, and a drawing of a figure. Is history going to repeat itself? Was it ever really over? Will this game only end in the same way?
How did you start writing?
I didn’t properly knuckle down to try and write a book until my mid-thirties. I was too busy having fun in my twenties! The first thing I wrote was rubbish, but at least I’d proved to myself that I could actually finish something. It still took me over ten years to get published. There were many rejections and failed projects along the way!
What are you writing habits? How often do you write, and how long at one time?
Well, now I’m lucky enough to write full time I usually go and sit in a coffee shop for a few hours. I don’t stick to rigid word counts or anything like that. I write for as long as I feel like and then go for a walk or head to the gym. Something to clear my mind. Then, it’s usually time to pick up my little girl from school and chaos descends until she goes to bed! I might squeeze in another hour or two in the evening.
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What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a writer - so, to someone like you the person you were, maybe a year or more ago?
Never give up. It isn’t too late - I’m a debut author at 46. Don’t get disheartened by rejections. We all get them. You don’t need expensive courses – the slush pile works. Don’t try to write what you think publishers want because that changes all the time. Stick to your guns and write what you love. Oh, and a good agent is everything!
Your first book is a mystery-thriller - is this your favorite genre? What do you like to read?
I like anything dark and twisty. Crime, thrillers. I’m partial to a bit of sci-fi. Horror is good too.
Who are your favorite authors and have they inspired you in any way?
Stephen King, Michael Marshall and Harlan Coben. I’ve been reading Stephen King since I was twelve. When he tweeted and recommended The Chalk Man recently it was a dream come true. I’m still grinning!
What would you like to say to your readers? What do they need to know about you and your first book? Is it very, very spooky?
It’s creepy rather the scary. The story is set in 2016 and 1986. That’s when we first meet twelve-year-old Eddie and his friends. They invent a game, drawing chalk figures on the ground to send secret messages between their gang. But the game turns sinister when the chalk men start to appear on their own and lead them to the body of a girl in the woods.
Thirty years later, Ed thinks the past is behind him. Then he receives a letter containing just two things – a drawing of a stick figure and a piece of chalk...
Reviews of The Chalk Man are stunning, I mean among regular readers, not just the press. What do you think makes the book so attractive and unique?
Blimey – I wish I knew! I think it’s different to a lot of recent psychological thrillers. There’s a dash of horror. It’s been compared to Stranger Things and IT, and 80’s nostalgia is big again right now. Not that I could have predicted that when I wrote the book back in 2015!
I heard that you have a two-book deal, is this the case? Are you now writing book number three? Are the books interlinked in any way?
No, they’re all stand-alone but the stories do all exist in the same universe, so readers may spot some subtle references. I haven’t ruled out linking them or returning to some of the characters in the future! Watch this space!
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