Today, I am delighted to welcome C.J. Tudor to my blog to answer some questions. Her debut novel The Chalk Man, is set to be one of the biggest releases of the year and you can purchase your copy now, you can also read my review of the book by clicking HERE. And C.J. Tudor will be appearing at next month’s First Monday Crime at City University, all the details about where you can reserve your space can be found at the end of the interview.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C. J. Tudor was born in Salisbury and grew up in Nottingham, where she still lives with her partner and young daughter. Her love of writing, especially the dark and macabre, started young. When her peers were reading Judy Blume, she was devouring Stephen King and James Herbert.
Over the years she has had a variety of jobs, including trainee reporter, waitress, radio scriptwriter, shop assistant, voiceover artist, television presenter, copywriter and now author. The Chalk Man is her first novel.
INTERVIEW WITH C.J. TUDOR
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. Firstly, could you tell us a little bit about what your debut novel, The Chalk Man is about?
The Chalk Man is a creepy, coming-of-age murder mystery set in 2016 and 1986 – that’s when we meet twelve-year-old Eddie and his friends. They invent a game: drawing chalk figures on the ground to pass secret messages. But the game turns sinister when the figures start to appear on their own and lead them to the body of a girl. 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 . . .
I first heard about The Chalk Man a little over a year ago and there has been a huge level of excitement surrounding the book, I was wondering how you feel about the level of attention that your book has received?
It’s bonkers! I was working as a dog-walker when I wrote the book, plotting while I picked up poo! I had no expectations at all when I submitted it apart from more rejection – I’d had over ten years of that. For it to go to auction and sell in so many countries . . . it’s all been surreal but in the most wonderful way!
I thought that the use of the chalk figures in the book was an ingenious idea; could you tell us if there was anything in particular which inspired this idea?
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. . .’
That was the beginning of it all!
The characters in your novel are all very vivid, I particularly liked the main character, Ed. Did you draw inspiration for any of the individuals from people who you knew?
The gang of kids is loosely based upon me and my friends when we were pre-teens in the mid-eighties. Not in terms of individual characters but what we’d do – riding our bikes around town, hanging out in the playground, building dens in the woods. I’m very fond of Eddie too – I think there’s a lot of me in Eddie, which is perhaps a tad worrying!
How long did you spend working on The Chalk Man before you started to look for an agent?
Around 6 months – and, in all honesty, I probably submitted too soon. Fortunately, my wonderful agent, Madeleine Milburn, saw the potential, offered some suggestions and, after another two months working on a second draft, she took me on!
Did you have the story planned out before you put pen to paper or did the plot evolve during the writing process?
It definitely evolved! I’m not someone who sits and plans out the whole story beforehand. I’d be bored before I started. Plus, I like the adventure of seeing where the story and characters take me. It keeps it interesting.
The novel opens with a striking prologue which immediately sets the scene and the tone of the book. In your head, was this always the opening that you had planned or did this change over time?
No! Originally, in the first draft, there wasn’t a prologue! I know some people hate prologues but I realised, when I was writing Draft 2, that it was really necessary. And I’m very glad I added it!
If there was one piece of advice which you could pass on to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Keep at it. Don’t get disillusioned by rejections. We all have them. Failure means you don’t get complacent. You get better. Always remember why you started – because you love writing. Do not try to write what you think people want – write what you love, even if it seems like no one wants it, because trends change. You do not need contacts or expensive courses. The slush pile works. Also, it is never too late. I’m a debut author at 46. It took me over ten years. You’ve got time!
How did you celebrate publication day for The Chalk Man?
I spent most of the day replying to notifications on social media! Then, in the evening I had the book launch at Waterstones in Nottingham with all my friends and family. To see my book in the shop was amazing – they had a wonderful window display. I took my little girl along so it was a fantastic moment. Oh, and afterwards (once Grandma and Grandpa had taken our little one home) a few of us stayed out pretty late drinking!!
And finally, is there anything that you can tell us about what you’re working on next?
Yes. It’s another, dark, creepy mystery set in a former mining village in Nottinghamshire:
When Joe Thorne was fifteen, his little sister, Annie, disappeared. And then she came back.
Twenty-five years later, an eleven-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!
Thank you to C.J. Tudor for answering my questions and to First Monday Crime for arranging the interview. And if you would like come along to First Monday Crime, you can find all the details below.
FIRST MONDAY CRIME
First Monday Crime is back at City University on Monday, 5th February at 6.30 p.m. To reserve your FREE space click on the link below. On the night there will be a brilliant panel of crime writers, featuring: Tammy Cohen, author of They All Fall Down, C.J. Tudor, author of The Chalk Man, Chris Carter, author of The Gallery of the Dead and Craig Robertson author of The Photographer. The panel will be moderated by Joe Haddow. I hope to see you there.
THE CHALK MAN
We all have fears we hide from. But in the end they will find us . . .
None of us ever agreed on the exact beginning.
Was it when we started drawing the chalk figures, or when they started to appear on their own?
Was it the terrible accident?
Or when they found the first body?