Chris Whitaker’s debut novel Tall Oaks is a suspenseful, sinister and hilarious story of a small town in the full glare of the world’s media after the mysterious disappearance of a young boy. He gives us the inside track on his writing and reading habits, big influences and favourite writers.
Where are you now?
At home in Hertfordshire.
Where and when do you do most of your writing?
I do all of my writing in my office at home. I start writing after my kids go to bed, usually around 7:30pm (earlier if a deadline looms and I drug them). I write until I’ve hit my daily target. It can be a long night.
If you have one, what is your pre-writing ritual?
I have a quick read back over the previous chapter then get straight into it.
Full-time or part-time?
Part-time. I’m a trader in the stock market during the day. It pays the bills in the way I hope writing might one day.
Pen or keyboard?
Quill (or keyboard if I don’t have a goose to hand).
How do you relax when you’re writing?
I often ask my wife to rub my shoulders/cool me with a hand fan whilst the magic is flowing, though she rarely does, she can be very selfish. If I’m really struggling then I’ll head out for a run to clear my head.
How would you pitch your latest book in up to 25 words?
Tall Oaks follows the residents of a small town in America three months after the abduction of a child.
Who do you write for?
That’s a good question. There was a time when it was just for me, but now there’s people that have invested in me (agent, publisher, readers) and I feel the weight of not wanting to let them down. So I’d say all of the above.
Who do you share your work in progress with?
If I can get away with it then I won’t show it to anybody until I’ve completed the first draft.
Which literary character do you wish you created?
Harry Potter – so that I could be my five-year-old son’s hero. And I’d quite like to be a billionaire.
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” – Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close
Which book do you wish you’d written?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
Which book/s have you most recently read and enjoyed?
Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman. It’s seriously good.
What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?
Maestra by L.S. Hilton, some hand lotion and a box of tissues.
Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?
I haven’t read anything by John le Carré or Margaret Atwood, and know that I’m missing out.
Which book/s do you treasure the most?
The Last Child by John Hart. It’s the book that inspired me to leave my job in the city and write Tall Oaks.
What is the last work you read in translation?
The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Jöel Dicker. My editor sent it to me and I really enjoyed it.
I really loved Different Seasons by Stephen King, a collection of novellas that spawned the movies Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption.
What will you read next?
I’m counting the days until Lie in Wait by G.J. Minett comes out.
What are you working on next?
A story about a small town in Bible-Belt USA and the giant cloud above it, and a missing schoolgirl. You can probably tell I’m a master of the elevator pitch.
Imagine you’re the host of a literary supper, who would your dinner guests be (living or dead, real or fictional)?
Tom Ripley, Sofia Khan, John Grisham, Dennis Lehane, Atticus Finch, Kazuo Ishigaro. Oh, and Amy Dunne – because I fancy her (I’m aware of the risks).
If you weren’t writing you’d be…?
Probably still working in the city, dreaming of writing.
Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. When not writing he enjoys football, boxing, and anything else that distracts him from his wife and two young sons. Tall Oaks is published by Twenty7. Read more.