I’m delighted to be hosting Chris Whitaker in my hot seat today chatting about debut Tall Oaks.
Chris 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 his first novel (published by Twenty7) and is available to purchase in digital format now. Paperback format will be available in September 2016.
Connect with Chris
Welcome to JJ.
Please summarise Tall Oaks in 20 words or less.
Tall Oaks follows the residents of a small town in America three months after the abduction of a child.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel?
I was checking my son on our video monitor and thought I saw someone in his bedroom. It was really frightening and gave me the idea for the opening chapter in Tall Oaks. It took me a while to work out that it was one of his (giant) cuddly toys!
Please tell us about the characters in your novel.
The story is centred around police officer Jim’s investigation into missing three-year-old Harry Monroe. He’s also trying his best to keep Jess (Harry’s mother) from falling apart. Alongside them the story follows the other residents in the town, from teenage wannabe gangster Manny and his love interest Furat, to unhappily married couple Roger and Hen, to photographer Jerry and his controlling mother, to ladies man Jared. Everyone has a secret, everyone is a suspect.
… and if you could choose to be one of those characters, which would you be Chris?
Manny. He says exactly what’s on his mind, is fiercely loyal, has a great imagination, and is completely fearless.
If you could have given your characters one piece of advice before the opening pages of the book, what would it be …
Be honest. The truth shall set you free!
Who would you cast in the role of your characters if your novel were optioned for a movie?
I’d have a good old go at playing all of them. And I’d also like to write the theme tune, sing the theme tune.
What scene did you enjoy writing the most?
Can I pick three of them? Manny trying to shakedown Pizza Hut, Abe at the carnival, and the prom scene at the end. I definitely enjoyed writing the funny scenes most of all, especially after writing some of the darker ones.
… and what scene was the hardest to write?
Jess going to the bar in Despair. She’s just so sad and vulnerable and the men surround her like a pack of hyenas. Also some of the final chapters were quite tough. I felt like the characters were family by that point and wanted them all to have a happy ending.
Did you travel to any places? Undergo any new experiences?
I really wanted to travel to California to fine tune some of the details but my publisher refused to pay. I even offered to fly commercial (business class, I’m not an animal).
Do you have a book trailer Chris?
What do you think book trailers achieve?
I don’t have one, and wouldn’t really know where to begin. I’ve seen David Young’s trailer for the brilliant Stasi Child, but it was just him dancing naked holding a copy of the book over his privates. At least, the version he sent me was. Stasi Child is now a bestseller so I may have to give it a go.
What inspired you to write?
A lifetime of reading. I remember feeling totally bereft after finishing a good book. I also remember wanting to rewrite the endings sometimes!
What are you reading now? Opinion?
The Year of the Runaways. It was short-listed for the Booker and is a masterpiece (though Tall Oaks shits on it from a great height, obvs.)
Panster or a plotter?
A definite panster (though I had to Google the term!) I try so hard to be a plotter but am horribly impatient and just can’t wait to get into it. With Tall Oaks I sketched the town on the back of a napkin, wrote a note on how I thought it might end, then sat down and wrote some Manny without giving a thought to how he might relate to the rest of the story.
What are you thoughts on movie adaptations.
Do you think they do the novel justice?
Do you have a favourite?
Sometimes. Though it’s rarely as good because there’s no constraints when you sit down and write something. I do like the fact that an author’s story can reach people that it otherwise wouldn’t, the non-readers out there. Though I really hate it when they change a cover after the movie has come out. I like to imagine what the characters look like, I don’t want to be reading a book and see Leo’s face on every page (as pretty as it is).
My fave is probably Stand By Me.
Finally Chris, what has been the best part of your writing journey so far?
To be honest this is right up there. Sitting here answering questions about my book(!) is pretty amazing. And having a team behind me that believe in Tall Oaks. Everyone at WME and Bonnier have been so supportive.
And meeting Team Twenty7 (my fellow debut authors). They’re now my close friends and I share absolutely everything with them.
Thank you for such an entertaining interview Chris.
Wishing you success with Tall Oaks and all your writing projects.
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 761 KB
Print Length: 295 pages
Publisher: twenty7 (7 April 2016)
For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, gripping and ultimately heartbreaking.
Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .
When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.
Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.
Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.
Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.
Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.
And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .
In Chris Whitaker’s brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants.