Author C.J. Tudor On Tumbling Down The Darkest Rabbit Hole
The author of The Chalk Man and The Hiding Place reveals the inspiration behind her latest thriller, The Other People.
Have you always been interested in mystery and thrillers? Why did you decide to write your book based around crime?
I’ve always loved a good mystery. Like a lot of people, my starting point was Agatha Christie. I read her books when I was still pretty young. Then I moved on to Stephen King and James Herbert in my teens (it was the 80s and horror was big). I’m still a big horror fan and I like to try and mix some creepiness in with the crime in my books. I never wanted to write procedural crime. I’m more interested in ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations.
Is your novel inspired by any real criminal cases? How did you first conceive of The Other People?
It’s not inspired by any real-life cases, although the idea was sparked by something that happened in real life. We were driving home late one night and ended up stuck in a big queue of traffic on the motorway. We had been following this one car for ages. A really old, beaten-up car with loads of faded stickers around the rear window. It was the sort of car you could imagine a character from a Stephen King novel driving! I just started thinking – what would happen if a face appeared in the rear window, maybe someone being kidnapped? Then I thought, what if it was someone I knew. Then my mind tumbled down the darkest rabbit hole – what if it was my own daughter, being driven away in a strange car when she should be at home in bed. Most ideas start with a ‘What if?’
What is your writing process like? Do you gather all your research/ plot lines first and write an outline before putting pen to paper, or do you dive right in?
I’m definitely not a plotter. If I had to plan and research and outline, I’d be bored before I even started. I like to dive right in and see where the story and characters take me. It keeps it more interesting that way.
Who is your favourite character in The Other People? Why?
Hmm. I always like characters who exist in that grey area between good and bad. People you shouldn’t necessarily like but still feel drawn to, so probably the Samaritan.
I am always interested in what drives people to kill, because I think the compulsion is in all of us. My particular fascination is what it takes for people to cross that line.
What do you hope readers take away from your writing?
Really, I just hope they’ve had a good ride and enjoyed the story. If they take away anything more, then that’s a bonus. Obviously, I want people to invest in the characters because that’s the key in any story. I write books I want to read – books that (hopefully) grip and also entertain. I’m not really trying to send out a deeper message!
Is there a recent case/person that you are particularly interested in? Why?
Not a specific case or person. However, I am always interested in what drives people to kill, because I think the compulsion is in all of us. My particular fascination is what it takes for people to cross that line. We all have buttons that can be pressed, situations that could turn us into killers. And I’m also interested in redemption – can someone who has done terrible things also be capable of good? If so, can one cancel out the other? Grey areas. That’s what gets my mind ticking!