Chris Whitaker was born in London and spent ten years working as a financial trader in the city. He now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three young children. His debut novel, Tall Oaks, won the CWA John Creasey New Blood Dagger, and his third, We Begin at the End, has recently been making waves, including being chosen as Book of the Month at Waterstones.
Chris chatted to us for the #AdventureSociety book series earlier this year and below is an extract on what prompted him to start writing.
WNSF: Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you became a writer?
Chris: Yes, I had a really strange way into writing. I messed up my A-levels, I did English, Economics and Sociology, and then I got really drunk the night before my Economics exam and didn’t go to it. I only went to one of the two exams so I got an ‘N’ which I think is that it’s not even good enough for a mark – my parents were thrilled about that.
I could have retaken it but I didn’t want to go to university, nothing appealed enough. I wasn’t one of those people that knew what they wanted to do. I just thought it would find me – stupidly, I thought you just fall into something that you like doing, but I just bounced from job to job. I did some bar work, I worked in a supermarket, and then I worked as an estate agent.
I was out dropping leaflets through people’s doors and someone mugged me and stabbed me for my phone, because I put up a fight. I was only nineteen at the time and I thought the guy wasn’t that big. I thought, ‘I can take him’ (stupidly), and he stabbed me three times.
I was okay though, I was just like, ‘let’s stitch me back together’ and I was okay. Then afterwards, I had a really difficult time. I couldn’t work out what was wrong with me. I was too young, and didn’t really look into things like depression or post-traumatic stress and things like that. I remember talking to friends and they’d just slap me on the back and say ‘get on with it, you’re fine’, or ‘you did the right thing, you fought him off’. It’s kind of a teenage thing to do, but then I really struggled afterwards and had trouble sleeping, and quit my job, and didn’t do an awful lot for a while.
Then I wrote down what happened and that was the first time I’d written anything since school. I changed the people involved to fictional characters, which sounds strange but it really worked and then I slept for the first time that night after I’d done it.
So I started writing a bit more. It wasn’t a book. It wasn’t even a diary. It was just the way I was feeling, but the people involved were changed. I had this person who was going through this difficult time. And that was probably the first time I wrote anything broadly fictional.
Watch the full #AdventureSociety chat with Chris here or buy a copy of We Begin at the End and see what you think for yourself!