C. J. Tudor is the author of the most eagerly anticipated book of 2018, The Chalk Man. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voiceover and dog-walker.
The Chalk Man was the subject of a bidding war and has now been sold to 39 territories and major film talks are in progress. We are expecting a lot of interest so get your name down early to read it!
1. Who were your literary influences as you were growing up?
When I was very small, Enid Blyton. Then I progressed to Agatha Christie and after that, Stephen King and James Herbert. I kind of skipped the Judy Blume phase!
Stephen King remains a massive influence. Always has been. I would say I’m his number one fan but that might come across as a bit Annie Wilkes!
2. Are you a plotter or do your characters come to life gradually? Without giving anything away, there is the twist to end all twists in the book. Was this planned or did it just occur naturally?
I am definitely not a plotter. If I planned every detail of a book I’d be bored before I even started. For me, writing should be a journey, for the author as well as the reader - it keeps it interesting! My characters tend to evolve naturally. They’re the ones who drive the story, rather than using them to fit some pre-conceived plot.
Having said that, I usually have a pretty good idea of where a book is heading. So yes, I did always know how The Chalk Man would end. I just took a few diversions along the way!
3. Where did you get the idea for The Chalk Man and did the character of Eddie come to life easily?
A friend gave my little girl a tub of coloured chalks for her second birthday. We spent the afternoon drawing stick figures all over the driveway. Then we went inside and forgot about them. Later that night, I opened the back door and was confronted by these weird chalk drawings everywhere. In the darkness, they looked incredibly sinister. I called out to my partner: ‘These chalk men look really creepy in the dark…’
‘Ping’ went a lightbulb in my head!
As for Eddie, I never felt like I was creating Eddie. Without wanting to sound pretentious, sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re creating characters, it feels like you’re discovering them. I heard Eddie’s voice and that was it.
4. There is a tremendous ‘buzz’ around The Chalk Man and it is already starting to appear on the must read lists for 2018. When you were writing it did it feel different to your previous work?
Not really! I thought it was a good idea but I’d thought that about previous manuscripts that had been turned down! I don’t think I’ve really changed what I write. But perhaps what people want to read is different.
I’ve been writing for over ten years. I’ve had many rejections, a lot of ‘close but no cigars’ and I’d pretty much accepted that I might never get that break.
I wrote The Chalk Man while I was working as a dog-walker and looking after my little girl. I had no expectations when I submitted it - apart from rejection!
When it went to auction in the UK and then sold in 38 territories, it really was a dream come true. The response so far has just been amazing. To be a ‘must read’ is a huge compliment and a privilege! I certainly don’t take it for granted. After being a failure for so long, I’m treasuring every moment!
5. Is there anything you can share about your latest work in progress?
Yes! It’s called The Pit and it’s set in a small ex-mining village in Nottinghamshire.
When the protagonist, Joe Thorne, was 15, his little sister disappeared. And then she came back.
Twenty-five years later, a ten-year-old boy is bludgeoned to death by his own mother in the same village. Joe returns, to work as a teacher at the failing school, but also to find answers. However, coming back to the place where he grew up means facing the people he grew up with, the things they did … and what they found…
I think it’s more twisty and definitely more creepy than The Chalk Man. I have turned the creepy up to eleven. You have been warned!
6. Do you have a message for your readers in Suffolk Libraries?
Well, obviously, I hope you enjoy The Chalk Man. Also, embrace your libraries and treasure them. I think it’s heartbreaking how many towns are losing their libraries. I used to go to the library every week when I was a child. It was so exciting picking out books.
We’re lucky that we have a great library where we live in Nottingham and my little girl loves going there, playing with the toys and choosing books. We can while away a good hour or two.
Libraries are a wonderful resource for so many people – especially mums and children - and it’s shameful that we are losing them. Rant over!
7. Can you tell us one thing about yourself that your readers might not know?
In my early twenties, I did some TV presenting. I was a terrible presenter but I got to interview lots of big movie stars.
In one interview, I managed to offend Tim Robbins and in another, Robert Downey Jr. showed me his chest!
So, there you go: ‘Robert Downey Jr. showed me his chest!’ How about that for a headline?!