I had the great pleasure to quiz fellow geordie Chris Callaghan author of The Great Chocoplot on life as a writer, and its safe to say his dazzling personality shines through. And check out his choice of biscuit… it’s top notch 👌
First off, tell us a little about yourself…
I’m a great dancer. Although, strangely, no one else agrees with that. Especially my wife and daughter who keep saying I’m a really bad dancer – they obviously don’t know what they are talking about! I like to cheer my daughter up if she’s looking a bit sad by dancing for her. She sometimes looks sad in supermarkets and outside her school. Unfortunately, she always runs away just as I get going, which is missing the point I think!
As a northerner, what are your favourite bookspots that people should check out?
Forum Books of Corbridge in beautiful Northumberland is a fantastic place to go for books and events. They were the first shop to have my book on display so have a special place in my heart.
Drakes the Bookshop in Stockton have been huge Chocoplot supporters from the start and are always fantastically creative with book events and general booky fun.
I am for ever grateful to the amazing staff at Waterstones Durham (especially book selling legend, Fiona), who have really championed my book. They have opened up so many opportunities for me and I’ve always had fun when I’ve visited.
Tell us about your book ’The Great Chocoplot’.
The first line is … “In six days, there will be no more chocolate in the world … ever!”
Sorry about that! It’s the story of the six days that lead up to The Chocopocalypse – the end of chocolate. We watch the world go a little bit crazy through the eyes of a young girl and her wacky family.
You will need chocolate nearby if you read it!!
Here’s a video on my publisher’s YouTube channel of me reading the first chapter:
What was your nickname at school? (If you had one)
I was called, ‘Cali’. I suppose it should be spelled, ‘Cally’, but I’ve always enjoyed playing with words. My surname is Callaghan, so it’s a simple nickname. I’ve been called lots of other names – but some of them are too rude to mention!
Were you good at writing at school?
I LOVED writing stories in school and would often have to read them out to the class. I was incredibly shy so it was awkward, but I was always pleased that they were considered good enough to read out.
Unfortunately, my English lessons moved away from writing stories and I lost interest. I didn’t do very well in English after that, but I ALWAYS wrote stories at home.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I didn’t read many books when I was younger, I’m afraid to admit. I found reading very hard word – and quite often boring. I wrote more stories than I read. But I read lots of comics and loved the Superman and Spiderman ones the most. There’s a lot to learn from comics.
What was it that inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always just written. Always! Things rattle around in my head and I have to write them down. It’s more to keep me sane than anything else!!
I think there are ideas everywhere. Stories, characters, phrases, silly things – it would be a shame to NOT write about them!
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
It depends what you want to achieve with your writing. If you are happy writing for the pure joy of it (like I did for many years) then just write whenever and whatever you want.
If you want someone else to read your writing, you have to FINISH it. Whether it’s a short story or a long story or a poem or whatever – no one wants to read something that isn’t finished. It’s easy to start something, but nothing will really happen until you finish it.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
You are better than you think you are.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Ooooo, that’s deep! I used to try and write stuff in birthday cards that would get a reaction. I loved to see my mam or dad or grandma smile when they had read what I wrote.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Fellow North East author, Dan Smith (who writes amazing action and adventure books) has been a huge help to me, especially in my early days of being an author. I’ve always pestered him with questions and queries, and it was so helpful to find out how a successful author goes about their business. He’s also good fun (but don’t tell him I said that!).
Gabrielle Kent (Alfie Bloom and Knights & Bikes books) was kind enough to regularly mention me during her author appearances. That was extremely useful in getting people to hear about me and my book. I’m very grateful to Gabrielle.
I always love the opportunity to chat with Jennifer Killick, who writes the funniest books I’ve ever read, about humour and what make children laugh. Jennifer is always great fun.
There was a time when I wasn’t going to try and write anymore books, but Sophie Anderson, who I first met a long time ago and has become a HUGE success with her The House with Chicken Legs & The Girl Who Speaks Bear books, has poked and prodded me many times to keep me trying. Sophie has been incredibly supportive.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
I’d be up on a factory roof measuring pollution. It’s what I used to do before I became a Stay at Home Dad after my daughter was born. It was the plan to return to that, but when the opportunity came to write a book I delayed going back. I may still return, and I enjoyed doing it (it was REALLY hard work!) but I hope to be an author for a little while longer!
Has a book ever made you cry? What was it?
Oh yes – lots! I get very emotional and caught up in books (and films). I laugh at funny bits, my heart races during exciting scenes and I get bleary eyed when sad things happen. One book that springs to mind (if you must put me through some emotional torture!) is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I won’t say too much, but for anyone who has read it all I have to say is ‘Manchee’ and tears will flow down their cheeks!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Big bacon sandwiches. With cheese. If I have one of those for lunch, I’ll need a lie down and no writing will get done!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I’m very low cost and don’t need much. But Post-It notes are vital. I use lots of them to scribble things on. I’ll stick them on walls or screens. It’s not the best way to be organised and I do lose some, but it’s how the magic happens!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Penguin. No further comment needed.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Maybe three half-finished long stories (I try not to call them ‘books’ as they aren’t yet books and may never be books!) but gazillions of ‘just about started’ stories.
What does literary success look like to you?
Having a book published was, and still is, HUGE! I’m not greedy and if it’s the only novel I have published, I’d still be a happy guy.
(I do have something else due for publication in January 2021, but it’s not a novel and I’m not allowed to talk about it yet – but I’m very, VERY excited about it!!!)
Do you Google yourself?
Yes. There’s a country and western singer and a lead clinician for pancreatic transplantation called Chris Callaghan. We regularly fight it out for who gets top billing on Google.
And most importantly… What is your favourite biscuit?
A Bourbon Cream dunked in coffee. Yer beauty!
If anyone wants to get my book – please support your local bookshops and libraries. (Your library may offer downloadable versions during these difficult times.)
Thank you and remember to enjoy some chocolate – before The Chocopocalypse comes … !!!!
What amazing answers! Thank you Chris for including so much scrumptious details in there. I need some chocolate after reading this never mind your book ‘The Great Chocoplot’. If you would like to know more about author Chris Callaghan then here you go…
*If you would like to do your own q&a to feature on the blog then send me an email…