Chris Turnbull has always had a passion for reading and writing, and loves the feeling of been drawn into a good book and escaping into another world.
Writing has been something that he has been doing from a young age, and the creation of characters is something he particularly enjoys.
Chris’ writing is almost always set in the past, he loves the research side of his writing that allows him to discover times gone by, and tries to include the knowledge he learns about the era into his books. His first book was published in 2015 with an accompanying launch event to celebrate. Since then Chris’ has published a selection of books that range through a number of genre’s, including children’s books. In 2017 Chris joined the UK Indie Lit Fest annual book and author event as one of the directors.
Chris was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire in England, and spent the majority of his life growing up in Leeds. Chris now lives on the outskirts of York with his husband and their Jack Russell terrier, Olly.
Chris, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have an impressive selection of books, many of which explore elements of our own history. When did your passion for writing and history emerge? Do you have a favorite story you’ve read that aligns with your own style of writing?
I have always loved to write, and I have always found history fascinating; however, I never put them together to begin with. Growing up I would always write stories based around my pets, friends/family or celebrities I liked. They would only be short stories and often involved going on little adventures. The first time I merged my writing with historical events was for my first published book ‘The Vintage Coat’ which is primarily set in 1943. Doing the research for this book to ensure I had the time period elements correct, I found myself enjoying the process so much that it resulted in me continuing the pattern of setting all my published work in the past (minus my children’s books).
The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore was a huge influence on my first novel. I also loved The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, as this book perfectly infuses historical elements with a gripping story.
Your debut novel, The Vintage Coat, released in 2015. What inspired you to write about time travel? What will readers discover in this story that separates it from others of its kind?
The Vintage Coat is often compared, by the readers, to the television series ‘Goodnight Sweetheart.’ It is set in the quiet town of Alston, Cumbria, and the story came naturally to me due to the purchase of an old military coat I purchased in the town.
The book sees our leading man, Joe, putting on the coat (in Alston present day), only for it to take him to Alston 1943. The story sees Joe quite freely moving between the two time zones but discovers that although 1943 is more appealing, his disappearance in his own time becomes noticeable, especially when unexpected family tragedies occur. Finally, when an air raid comes to town everybody is thrown into disarray; and Joe is faced with standing up for the ones he loves, even if it could cost him everything.
Although The Vintage Coat is a time-travel novel, I believe that is only a small part of what the book is about. It focuses on old school romance, family connections, friendship and being happy with one’s self, as well as showing that life is not all storybook perfect.
Writing in alternate time periods can be challenging for any writer. What research did you do to make 1943 feel realistic in your story? What differences do you see in the story between the present setting and 1943?
Researching the 1943 sections of the book I thoroughly enjoyed. As well as looking into the town to see what shops were around back then, I also looked up any old photographs to help with the description. I then focused on researching life in the 1940s in general, and how people lived, communicated, even what they ate and what they did for entertainment. We often take for granted our modern technology and way of life, and so it was important for me to showcase that these things were not available during this time. Even social interaction is completely different, whether it be to a friend or a love interest and this was important for me to show when our lead character Joe becomes romantically involved in 1943.
D: Whitby’s Darkest Secret and the prequel, Darkest Beginnings, plays beautifully with romantic gothic history. Please tell us a bit about the premise of the books. Should we expect more stories with D?
D: Whitby’s Darkest Secret came from my love of the Yorkshire town of Whitby. I really wanted to set a story there and a crime styled book set in Victorian times seemed to be fitting. I call this a crime book with a difference, as it is told from the perspective of D (the murderer), Victoria (his next target) and Detective Matthews. By writing the chapters as though we are reading the characters thoughts it allowed me to delve into their personal thoughts and feelings which you can sometimes not always get if told in the third person. I was able to delve into the psychotic mind of the disturbed D, and the gullible Victoria.
Upon releasing this book I knew there would be a sequel, which was released two years later. Between the release of these two books I released Darkest Beginnings, a prequel that tells the story of our killer in three parts. Part one sees him as a young child, part two sees him as a teenager, and part three sees him as a young man. The events in this short book show the readers how he became the man he was in Whitby.
All my books start with an initial idea. With The Vintage Coat, it was the purchase of my military coat, with Whitby’s Darkest Secret is was purely my love of the town. In 2016 I released another time-travel style book called Carousel, which is mostly set in 1889 Paris. The muse for this was not only my love of the city Paris, but 1889 was the year in which the Eiffel Tower opened and this excited my love of researching world events for my books.
Of all my books the odd ones out are the children’s books I released in 2017, and the second one in 2018. ‘A Home For Emy’ is a watercolor illustrated book that showcases rescue dogs. This story is completely true, as I just to volunteer as a dog shelter during my teenage years. I had had this book written for a number of years before finally finding somebody to do the illustrations. ‘A Home For Emy’ has become one of my most loved books, and the sequel ‘Emy Gets A Sister’ was launched in April 2018 with a huge online event filled with competitions that drew in people of all ages and resulted in over 200 people registering to enter to win prizes.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
In 2019 I will be releasing a new crime book which I am hoping to be the first in a new series. The detective in D: Whitby’s Darkest Secret is the leading character, and this first book will be set nine years before the events of D. I will be holding a competition to win a copy on my social media pages, sometime in May, and the book is expected to be released in late June/early July.
It has been a pleasure, Chris! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
I also regally attend author events around the UK and will be in Chester in June, Blackpool in July and at the UK Indie Lit Fest in July. (details of which can be found on my website).