C. L. Taylor on becoming a crime writer

C. L. Taylor on becoming a crime writer

There are commonly held preconceptions about genre writers. Romantic comedy writers are frivolous, funny romantics whilst crime writers are hard-bitten, gritty individuals obsessed with the dark side of life. I don’t buy into that. I believe that writers, like everyone else, have multi-faceted personalities and that what you choose to write is dependent on your mind set and where you are in your life.

Back in 2005, when I started my career as a short story writer, I was free to write whatever I chose. I experimented with different styles, different themes and different genres. I wrote a surreal flash fiction piece about a Chinese man on a production line who has a conversation with a tube of toothpaste. I wrote a story for The Lancet about a man whose false eye allowed him to view the innermost thoughts of his ex-girlfriends and a tear-jerking short story about a woman grieving the death of her son for Woman’s Own magazine. Even at that early stage in my career I was aware that there were two sides to my writing personality – the dark and the light – and I had no idea which direction to go in.

I wrote my first novel, a romantic comedy called Heaven Can Wait, because the story popped into my head fully-formed and I needed to write Lucy’s story, a woman so desperate to be with her soulmate that she refuses to let death separate them. The theme mattered to me. I was in my early thirties, living in Brighton and searching for love but I didn’t want to write a dark, depressing novel. I wanted to write something fun and full of hope. I tapped into the lighter side of my personality. I drew on personal experience, the quirky place where I worked and the things that made me laugh and the words flowed. I got a two book deal with Orion and Heaven Can Wait was published in 2009.

And then I fell pregnant and suddenly my life was more different than I ever could have imagined. Home for Christmas, the second book in my two book deal, was published in November 2011, six weeks after my son was born and I had a decision to make. Should I continue to write romantic comedies or try something else? Did I write the much, much darker book that had been niggling at me for the last few months of my pregnancy? My romantic comedies had sold to 14 countries and I had a small but enthusiastic following but I wasn’t so established that a change of genre could destroy my career. Or could it?

t was a risk I had to take. I couldn’t deny that motherhood had changed me, that the darker side of my writing personality was demanding to be heard and so I took all my new emotions – feelings of guilt, worry, fear and protectiveness – and I poured them into The Accident. Instead of writing witty one liners I built suspense. Instead of creating characters that readers would fall in love with I created characters they’d fear. I didn’t want the reader to frantically flick through the pages to find out if the heroine was reunited with the hero - I wanted them to hold their breath as they searched for answers. Why had Charlotte written ‘keeping this secret is killing me’ in her diary and then deliberately stepped in front of a bus?

My risk paid off. The Accident has been published by Avon HarperCollins. It’s in the top 100 on Amazon and my agent has sold it to seven countries, including the US, and I’m writing the second book in my deal. I wrote my romantic comedies as Cally Taylor. Now I’m CL Taylor, psychological thriller writer. It’s a different writing head and I like the way it fits.  

The Accident by C. L. Taylor is out now from Avon.