Writer’s Block With C.L. Taylor

SOPHIE GRENHAM talks to C.L. TAYLOR about growing up in ARMY CAMPS, how she moved from ROMCOM TO CRIME and why she loves WRITING RETREATS …

Jim Ross

C.L. Taylor was born in Worcester, England, and spent most of her childhood living in a number of army camps in the UK and Germany. Also known as Cally Taylor, she has enjoyed a thriving writing career that has worked its magic on both the romantic and crime fiction markets. Cally holds a degree in Psychology from the University of Northumbria and had built a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving in 2014 to become a full-time author.

In 2005 Cally first dipped her toe into the craft by penning short fiction. Her work has since been published in many magazines and has won several short story competitions. Her romantic comedy novels have been translated into fourteen languages. Heaven Can Wait (2009, Orion) was a bestseller in Hungary and China and Home for Christmas (2011, Orion) was made into a feature film by JumpStart Productions. It was while Cally was on maternity leave that darker material entered her imagination and prompted a transition into the crime genre.

As C.L. Taylor, she is the Sunday Times bestselling author of four compulsive psychological thrillers: The Accident (2014), The Lie (2015), The Missing (2016) and this year, The Escape, all published by HarperCollins. The books have collectively sold over a million copies internationally, with over twenty foreign language translations. The Lie has been optioned for television by The Forge, who produced National Treasure featuring Robbie Coltrane.

The Escape (€8.99) is available now from all good bookshops. C.L. Taylor has written a Young Adult thriller, The Treatment, which will be published by HarperCollins in October 2017.

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and her young son.

On home

I live in Knowle in South Bristol. It’s quite a suburban part of Bristol, just twenty minutes walk from the train station, with three leafy parks nearby and a shopping centre almost round the corner from our house. There’s a very friendly vibe to the neighbourhood – lots of families with young children and retired older people – always someone to say hello to in the street. Daily life involves walking my son to school via the park then returning home to take out our one year old Cockapoo, Lily. Once Lily has been walked it’s time for me to work on a book. I get about four hours to write then it’s time to pick up my son again.

On roots

My dad was in the army so I spent the majority of my childhood living in army camps in the UK and Germany. When I think of my childhood I think of the rumble of trucks, the colours brown, green and tan, the NAAFI shopping centre and blocks of two floor flats arranged in a square with a grassy play area in the middle. The army base in Hohne, Germany where I lived as a teenager had a lake in the centre. I’d walk there with friends at night and we’d lie on the tiny pier beside the lake, stare up at the stars and smoke illicit cigarettes as we put the world to rights.

On Brighton

I lived in Brighton for thirteen years and left to move in with my partner in Bristol. Brighton is an amazing place and I made the most wonderful memories there. If you visit I recommend heading down to the seafront. Spend some time on the pier playing the penny arcades and then head for my favourite pub – The Fortune of War. If it’s a sunny day sit outside with your drink and stare out to sea. If it’s rainy sit in the upstairs picture window and do the same. It’s a gorgeous view and there’s something very calming about watching the waves and the sunlight bouncing off the water.

On creating

After years of writing at a desk in my bedroom or in the utility room with the washing machine rumbling beside me I finally have a ‘room of my own’. I write in my study, which is next to our living room. It also doubles up as our guest bedroom and a home to my treadmill so it’s a very cluttered room. I am surrounded on three sides by book cases and I’ve got so many books most of the shelves are double stacked. I’ve got a lot of artwork on the walls – a framed photo of my son swimming underwater as a baby, two paintings of the sea, a huge reproduction of the cover of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and a framed film poster of Home for Christmas – the independent feature film of my second romantic comedy. I also have three framed prints of my book covers that were sent to me by my publisher.

On memorable bookshops

I lived in Tooting Broadway in London when I was in my twenties and, at the weekend, I’d often get a bus to a lovely little shop in Earlsfield that sold second hand paperbacks and CDs. The shop had two walls filled with books and another wall filled with music. It was like a treasure trove of undiscovered pleasures. I’d run my finger over the spines of the books, inhale their aged scent (I love that smell) and my heart would leap when I’d discover a book I hadn’t read by one of my favourite authors. I didn’t have a computer at home back then and only a very basic mobile phone so I’d happily spend the rest of my weekend reading uninterrupted.

On her nightstand

My nightstand contains books I’ve read but haven’t yet moved to the shelves in my study, books I want to read and books I’m currently reading. There’s Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty which I read and hugely enjoyed. It actually helped break me out of a bit of a reading slump. Then there’s the script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. I haven’t actually opened that yet but I do want to read it. The last two books are The Child by Fiona Barton and An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth. They’re both advanced copies, sent to me by the authors’ editors. I hugely enjoyed Fiona Barton’s first book The Widow and I’m looking forward to The Child. Colette McBeth is a new author to me and I’m halfway through An Act of Silence. It’s a very intelligent psychological thriller with a new twist on the genre – the main character is an ex Home Secretary whose son has been accused of murder. It’s a thrilling read so far.

On escapes

I’m a big fan of writing retreats – whether that’s staying in a hotel for a weekend, ordering room service and generally hiding away from the world for a couple of days or joining other writers at an organized writing retreat. Retreats for You in Devon is one of my favourites. There’s a wonderful sense of calm mixed with homeliness within the walls of the whitewashed building and I felt immediately at home when I visited last year. Another of my favourite writing retreats is Anam Cara near Castletownbere in Ireland. Sue is the most wonderful host – her meals are to die for – and the view of the sea from the rooms is nothing short of inspiring. There’s also a sauna, a hot tub and a waterfall and maze of pathways in the garden. Visiting Anam Cara is like a salve for your soul.

On Ireland

In The Escape, Jo, who lives in Bristol, fears that her daughter is in danger and decides that the only way to keep her safe is to go on the run. I needed to get Jo out of the UK to make it harder for the police to track her down and considered several different countries for her destination. I chose Ireland primarily because I didn’t want there to be a language barrier but also because I liked the idea that Jo’s mum came from Ireland. I wanted her to have kept a secret from Jo that meant that, when she fled there, she’d be in even more danger. I travelled over to Ireland to research potential locations and drove up the east coast with a friend. We spent a night in a B&B in Wexford (like Jo and her daughter) and then journeyed up to Clogherhead. Our favourite places to explore were the beach at Clogherhead, the Hills of Tara, St Peter’s church in Drogheda (where there’s a shrine containing the preserved head of Saint Oliver Plunkett) and the Newgrange stone age passage tomb.

On what’s next

I’ve got another book out this year. It’s my first young adult thriller – The Treatment (published on October 19) – and it’s about a girl who travels to a remote reform school in Northumberland to stop her brother from being brainwashed. I’ve just completed the copy edits so now I’m freed up to start the first draft of my fifth adult psychological thriller. I don’t really like talking about my books before I’ve written them but safe to say it’ll be another gripping, claustrophobic, heart-in-the-mouth read.


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