By Gillian Hamer
Hello! Thanks so much for having me on your blog. My name is Cally Taylor and I write psychological thrillers under the name C.L. Taylor. I live in Bristol with my partner and young son and I’ve been a published author since 2009, although I’ve been making up stories a lot longer than that!
Like a lot of authors I wanted to write for a living from a very young age. When I was eight I sent a book I’d written and illustrated (and bound with wool) to Ladybird publishers. Three years later I received my first rejection. That book sat on the slush pile for a very long time!
I wrote a lot of terrible poetry in my teens and started and abandoned lots of novels in my early twenties. But it wasn’t until my early thirties that I got serious about writing. I saw a programme on BBC2, asking aspiring authors to finish short stories that had been started by published writers. I chose to finish a short story by Joanne Harris. I didn’t win but I was bitten by the short story bug. I went on to write hundreds of short stories and, over the next couple of years, I was published in dozens of literary and women’s magazines and even won a few competitions. In the summer of 2006 one of my best friends from school died suddenly. Her death made me realise that life is too short to procrastinate where your dreams are involved. I started writing a novel and finished the first draft three months and three weeks later.
It’s a popular genre at the moment, but why did you choose to write psychological thrillers?
I’ve always had a bit of split personality when it comes to writing. Back when I wrote a lot of short stories I alternated between light, funny stories (for the women’s magazines) and darker, grittier stories (for the literary magazines and ezines). In the summer of 2010 the Romantic Novelists’ Association ran a competition. It was for the first 1,000 words of a novel on the theme of ‘keeping a secret’. I was heavily pregnant at the time and, as I was doing my food shopping, the voice of a character popped into my head. She told me that her daughter was in a coma and she’d found an entry in her diary saying ‘keeping this secret is killing me’. I waddled home with my groceries and wrote it down. My thousand words went on to win the competition! I didn’t do anything else with the novel until several months later when I was on maternity leave with my son. He woke me up every couple of hours in the night to nurse and, while I fed him, I thought about the girl in the coma and her mother and a plot appeared in my head. I wrote it over five months, while my son napped during the day.
I write about things that I fear. In The Accident (the book that started life as ‘Girl in a Coma’) I wrote about my fear that an abusive ex might turn up and destroy my happiness. In The Lie I wrote about friends turning against each other. And in The Missing, I wrote about a child going missing.
As well as dark thrillers you also write romantic comedy! Quite a combination, how did that come about?
I mentioned earlier that I have a bit of a split personality when it comes to writing. The novel that I wrote in three months and three weeks after my friend died was a supernatural romantic comedy called Heaven Can Wait. It was published by Orion along with another romcom called Home for Christmas. I felt compelled to write Heaven Can Wait, it was an idea I’d had in my head for a while and I was desperate to tell it. The book sold to 14 countries and was won several chick lit review website awards. It was enormous fun to write, as was my second romcom (which was turned into a film in 2014 by an independent film company) but I find it much harder to be funny than I do to write tense, page-turning psychological thrillers.
Any other genres you fancy trying one day?
I’d quite like to write a sci-fi novel. And if I did my partner might actually read it!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a full-time writer now?
I had to write four books before I was able to give up the day job. I used to be the manager of a development team in a university distance learning department.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Choosing my own hours, the buzz of coming up with a new idea, holding a finished book in my hands. And the very best thing about being a writer is receiving emails from people who tell me that one of my books gave them a new love of reading, kept them entertained when they were ill or helped snap them out of a reading slump.
And the worst?
Forcing myself to write day after day when I’m tired or fed up or I’d rather sit on the sofa and watch DVD boxed sets or have a nap! Also, horrible reviewers that take great pleasure in being as mean and spiteful as possible (rather than critiquing the book).
Where do you write?
I’m very lucky that, after years writing at a desk in my bedroom, I finally have my own study at home. Well, I say it’s my study but it also doubles up as the guest bedroom. I also share the space with a treadmill (it’s the only cure for writer’s bum!)
Which 3 books would you take to a desert island?
I’d take the Harry Potter boxed set (is that cheating?), After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
What are your future writing plans?
I am currently writing my fourth psychological thriller (which will be published in April 2017) and the occasional short story. And there’s a top secret project that’s currently with my agent, but I can’t say more about it than that!