Whitaker, Chris Name: CHRIS WHITAKER

Author of: TALL OAKS (2016)

On Twitter: @whittyauthor

Tall OaksTo celebrate the launch of Chris Whitaker’s excellent debut novel, Tall Oaks, I’m very pleased to invite him to Reader Dad to talk about his writing influences. Be sure to check the other stops on the blog tour for more great insights into author and novel, and check back here soon for my own thoughts on the book.

When I was a child my favourite books were the Topsy and Tim series by Jean and Gareth Adamson. I had (and still have) about fifteen of them and I remember reading them so often that I’d memorised each and every story. I read them to my children now and it’s funny to see how dated they are. In Topsy and Tim Move House the removal men smoke pipes whilst lifting the sofas! I used to write my own Topsy and Tim books. I wish I still had them but my mum threw them away (sentimental old cow).

Tall Oaks Blog BannerFrom Topsy and Tim I moved on to The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I hated The Famous Five, though my all-knowing parents decided I should love them as much as they did. My brother passed down the entire set to me. Apparently there were only due to be six originally published, but due to their success, and Blyton’s love of money, I had to suffer through twenty one of the things before I was suitably drowned in the wonders of cottages, islands, and the English and Welsh countryside. Looking back now I think I took such a dislike to them because they felt old fashioned even back then, boys don’t want to read about the joys of ‘picnicking’ even as a prelude to a treasure hunt. I yearned for escapism, and still do with the books I like to read now. That’s partly why I invented the town of Tall Oaks and set it 5,000 miles away from home.

I discovered the Point Horror books after getting caught, and banned from, reading Carrie by Stephen King when I was twelve. I think they were aimed at teenage girls (also an interest of mine at that time). I loved the Point Horror books, Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersly Cusick  was my favourite. It was so well written and creepy, definitely an inspiration for the opening chapter of Tall Oaks where Jess sees a clown in her son’s bedroom.

So on to my influences as an adult reader. There really are too many to list but I’ll have a go. Dennis Lehane is one of my all time favourite writers. From Mystic River to Live By Night, I love the detail in the setting for each of his novels. In Mystic River the streets of The Flats, and the neighbourhoods of East Buckingham and The Point almost become their own characters, which was definitely something I aimed for in Tall Oaks. I’m also a huge fan of Kazuo Ishigaro. Never Let Me Go is one of my favourites and I really love the sense of unease he creates throughout the book, and the characterisation is second to none. Cormac McCarthy, John Grisham, Graham Greene, Harper Lee, all masters of their craft and all have influenced me in the biggest way possible, by inspiring me to want to write.

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker is published by Twenty7 and is now available in ebook, priced £4.99. A paperback release is scheduled for September.

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