What are you afraid of as adult?
There are many things writers dream of – critical acclaim, perhaps, or an international bestseller – but for some of us, a nod from Stephen King will always be top of the wishlist. Well, C.J. Tudor has all three. “If you like my stuff, you’ll like this,” King said of her debut novel, The Chalk Man. And he’s right. The blend of small town childhood nostalgia and a gradually encroaching creep-factor is reminiscent of King at his finest. But as the story builds to an ending that delivers a shiver you won’t forget in a hurry, her voice is always entirely fresh and original – as her next novel, The Hiding Place, goes on to confirm. Caz has scared audiences worldwide with her books, so what frightens her? Let’s find out.
- Were you scared of the dark as a child? If not, was there anything else you were frightened of?
I was scared of everything as a child. The dark, monsters, ghosts, a teddy bear with odd orange glass eyes that creeped me out. The list was endless. And yet at the same time, I was really attracted to scary stuff. Even before I discovered Stephen King, I used to read a lot of classic ghost stories and give myself terrible nightmares. I had to sleep with the covers over my head every night (because you are obviously safe from the monsters then!) but I still went back for more.
- What scares you as an adult – if anything? Do you notice any lingering fears from childhood?
A lot of the same things to be honest! I still get freaked out by going out in the dark. My mind starts conjuring up monsters and zombies from the shadows – and I’m 47! But now I have other fears, such as losing my daughter, dying before I see her grow up. The fears of mortality that creep up on us as we get older. I genuinely think that in order to write effective horror/thrillers you need to have a healthy amount of fear. I always say that if you ask a crime writer ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ they can always tell you, in great detail!
- What’s the most frightening thing that’s ever happened to you?
When I was in my early twenties, I was living in a third-floor studio flat above some shops in Nottingham. One summer evening, I was at home with the windows open. I’d heard a few banging sounds but didn’t think much of it. The next thing I know, a man is falling through my window, covered in blood. I managed to keep him calm until I could get him out of there and call the police. It turned out he was on drugs and he’d broken into the empty flat next door and then climbed across the roof into my flat because he thought demons were chasing him! It was pretty scary for a while.
- Do you use writing to help deal with your fears and concerns about yourself or the world?
Hmmm. I suppose to an extent. My latest book is about a father searching for his daughter who everyone else believes is dead. That tapped into some of my deepest fears about losing my own daughter. What would I do, how far would I go to find her? The answer is, of course, to the ends of the earth. The greatest fear for any parent is losing their child.
- Why do you think readers enjoy being frightened?
I think it’s a safe way to be scared. To release that fear adrenalin. Scary books allow us to experience the jolts and jumps but to know that there will usually be a happy resolution, and everything will work out okay. Then we can close the book and go to bed.
- Do you personally enjoy frightening fiction? If so, what’s your favourite scary book or film, and why?
I don’t get scared by much fiction these days. The Monkey’s Paw scared me when I was a child. As for films, The Ring freaked me out. A story that gives me chills was actually posted a few years ago on Reddit. The challenge was to tell a scary story in a few lines:
I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”
My final post will be with Alex Michaelides.