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We spoke to Chris Whitaker, author of the hotly anticipated, All the Colours of the Dark.


Can you tell us about the original inspiration for the book and how that morphed and changed during the writing process?

I had quite a difficult childhood and sometimes think that the events that happened when I was younger went on to shape my adult life, both in positive and negative ways. I wanted to explore that idea, that there’s a sliding doors moment, an exact point where life diverges. For my characters, this moment comes on a late summer morning in 1975.   

I started out with quite a simple outline – two abducted teenagers fall in love in the pitch black basement they’re being held in, having never seen each other. The boy escapes and can’t find his way back to the girl. The police don’t believe that she’s real, but he knows in his heart she is.

And from there it evolves into a sweeping, epic search over near thirty years, moving from coming-of-age through to first love, obsession and heartbreak.


Patch and Saint are the lead characters of All the Colours of the Dark, but can you talk about the importance of the side characters to Patch and Saint’s story?

I had a strong visual idea of Patch, this boy born with one eye, who wears an eye-patch because his mother tells him he’s a pirate. He’s always smiling, always happy despite having lost his father, and being left with a mother who can’t properly care for him. He does this wonderful, brave thing, and steps in when he sees a local girl being abducted, not realizing this act will shape the rest of his life. What is also interesting is that it doesn’t just shape his life, it affects everyone close to him, from best friend Saint, who is so fiercely loyal to Patch that it’s clear to us that he’s her blind spot, to her grandmother Norma, who tells her that first love is the most terminal of ailments, and so worries that Saint will sacrifice her future for Patch. And from there we follow the ripples out to the rest of the town. Chief Nix, the policeman at the center of the hunt, loses his faith in his abilities, and it’s something quite difficult to witness. And Misty, the intended target of the abduction, appears to have so much, but realizes how little she actually needs. I always think the crime itself is the least interesting part of a story, it’s the aftermath, when people affected have to dust themselves down and find a way to heal, that’s of interest.


You’ve previously said that writing this book 'forced me to look back at the difficult events that shaped my life, and see that sometimes against the longest of odds, something special can come from something bad.' Can you talk about how trauma and maturity and the push and pull of these experiences impacted the characters and their trajectory?  

When I was nineteen I was stabbed. At twenty-four I was in a million dollars of debt. I became a father at twenty-nine. By thirty-eight I was a New York Times bestselling author. At thirty-nine I was arrested for stock market crimes. There’s been periods in my life where I’ve had problems with drugs and alcohol. But it’s only recently that I’ve begun to consider the correlation between the best and worst times in my life, and how, perhaps, they all lead back to my childhood. There was a violent incident, where my arm was broken by someone entrusted to care for me, and I was unable to tell anyone or ask for help. And that’s a trait that has stayed with me throughout my life. I get myself into trouble because I can’t ask for help. I got myself stabbed because I couldn’t let myself feel like a victim again. It’s something I considered when writing Patch. He’s on a path, and then this awful thing happens and he’s locked in a dark basement, and when he emerges he’s someone else entirely. And I think the backbone of this story looks at the question of whether, despite the bad things we endure, our future is ours alone to decide. On the one hand Patch’s world is opened because of this event, he leaves the town he might never have left and sees the most beautiful sights, and meets people and falls in love and finds a talent for art the he almost certainly wouldn’t have discovered had he not been so brave. And his story tracks my own in that I know I wouldn’t be here now, answering your questions, had I not suffered my own trauma, and found my way to writing because of it.


Art played a large part in this book, as did obsession, can you discuss this?

Obsession is a powerful emotion, and it’s certainly something that drives both Patch and Saint throughout the story. For Patch, whilst he’s abducted he’s held in a dark basement, with only the voice of a girl, Grace, for comfort. They form a deep bond, enduring the horror together. And so when he escapes, he makes it his sole purpose to find her. To save her. To prove that she’s real. What follows is three decades of madness, crisscrossing the USA, getting himself into a new world of trouble. But also seeing and experiencing things he otherwise wouldn’t. So in that respect Grace opens his world up, and he leaves the small town he’s spent his life in, and he lives. He truly lives in every sense of the word. And Saint sticks by him, knowing that the only way to set him free is to find the girl, and the man that took them. For both of them it’s the very definition of sacrifice. A selfless act of love. And there’s something entirely beautiful about that. And as Patch begins to paint his memory of Grace, he discovers a talent for art that changes his life and brings him a level of control when his world is falling apart.


You’re touring the US for the first time with All the Colours of the Dark. What are you most looking forward to?

Everything! I’ve only been to the US a couple of times in my life so to actually spend some time travelling around and actually seeing some of the locations where I set my books is going to be incredible. Or I could discover that I’ve got everything totally wrong. So, basically I’ll either be smiling or crying on my Instagram.

I’m also incredibly excited to meet my US readers, who have been unremittingly kind and supportive of me over the past years.

And the food. I am greedy.


 

  • All the Colours of the Dark - Chris Whitaker

    A missing persons mystery, a serial killer thriller, and an epic love story - with a unique twist on each... The gripping, sweeping, new novel from the critically acclaimed #1 international bestseller Chris Whitaker: one of the year's must-read novels.

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Read an exclusive extract from All the Colours of the Dark

Dive into Chris Whitaker's unputdownable, All the Colours of the Dark.

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