Born in Cardiff and bred in a small coastal village just outside Bridgend, Chris Westlake now lives in Birmingham with his wife and two children. As a young child, Chris wrote books about monsters, roller coasters and winning the FA Cup. As an adult, Chris’ short story, Welsh Lessons, was awarded first place in the Global Short Stories Award. Chris aims to write a novel a year, learn from constructive feedback and continue to get better. At some point he wants to write a novel he is totally proud of, one that leaves a mark.
Born in Cardiff and bred in a small coastal village just outside Bridgend, Chris Westlake now lives in Birmingham with his wife and two children.
Chris says: In my mid-twenties, I lived in London for three years. I worked in Monument, just the other side of London Bridge, and I loved the fast-paced, high-octane city life. In retrospect, I wished I stayed for a few more years, progressed the career ladder and got some money behind me. Outside of work, though, London felt too big and cumbersome for a country boy like me, and I didn’t like how long it took to travel, to do anything. My wife, Elizabeth, is from east London; she didn’t want to move to Wales, and I didn’t want to stay in London, and so we made a compromise to move to Birmingham, where we could both be unhappy together. We love Birmingham now, though, and the kids love their holidays at Nanny and Grampy’s back in Wales. My books have a strong Welsh theme, and London tends to crop up quite a bit, too!
As a young child, Chris wrote books about monsters, roller coasters and winning the FA Cup. He still has one book he wrote when he was seven stored away in a dusty drawer. School, University and work took over and Chris didn’t put pen to paper (or fingers to laptop) again until he was thirty-three. He completed an online creative writing course, and the tutor suggested he enter some writing competitions, just to dip his toes in the water. Chris’s short story, Welsh Lessons, was awarded first place in the Global Short Stories Award, one of the first competitions he entered (not bad when there were approximately 600 entrants). Shortly after, Heatwave of 76 was awarded first place in the Stringybark Erotic Stories Award. Riding high on success, Chris decided to write his first novel, Just a Bit of Banter, Like.
Chris says: I always knew I was going to write; I think I delayed it for so long because I was terrified I’d realise I couldn’t. Finally, I decided I’d run out of excuses, concluded that it was now or never. It was the best thing I ever did: it gave me real focus, a genuine creative outlook. The tutor commented on my first assignment that I was already a very good writer. Winning the competitions came early, without much effort, and I thought: this is easy. On reflection, I was the fisherman who caught a whopper on his first outing. I quickly realised that writing wasn’t easy at all, that most of it is down to perspiration, not inspiration. But then, where is the challenge if it was easy?
Just a Bit of Banter, Like is an adult coming-of-age novel about a twenty-something high-flyer who returns home to Bridgend and re-evaluates his life.
At Least the Pink Elephants are Laughing at Us tells the story of three hopeful comedians who take on the Edinburgh Festival.
30 DAYS IN JUNE is Chris’s first crime thriller.
Chris says: Just a Bit of Banter, Like is only 70,000 words in length, who equates to about 200 pages. It was my first novel, and so I didn’t want to take on Everest; I kept it simple and focussed on telling an enjoyable, endearing story. On the whole, readers love this book because it is breezy and fun. It was a great start.
It took me nearly three years to write At Least the Pink Elephants are Laughing at Us, and I lost my way. This is partly because of the arrival of my beautiful son, AJ; I quickly realised that exhaustion and creativity do not go hand in hand. I endeavoured to make this book bigger and better than the last, for it to be a masterpiece. The result? I ended up rewriting and reediting, again and again and again. At some point I lost my confidence, and writing became a chore and not a passion.
Personally, I think that At Least the Pink Elephants are Laughing at Us is a much better book than Banter because it has so many more layers. Not that many people seemed interested when I released it, however, and after three years that kind of hurt.
I’ve gone back to basics with 30 DAYS IN JUNE. I’ve actually found a popular genre! I’ve taken on board all the constructive feedback from the first two-books and written a book that is snappy, fast-paced and full of suspense. I found this book so much easier to write, and my mojo is back (you can’t keep a good man down).
Chris aims to write a novel a year, learn from constructive feedback and continue to get better. At some point he wants to write a novel he is totally proud of, one that leaves a mark.
Chris says: That is one of the fantastic things about writing: so long as I make sure I don’t get run over by a bus tomorrow (and every other tomorrow) then I could still be writing for another thirty or forty years (and I’m not young even now). Even though I’ve been writing seriously for nearly ten years, I still consider myself a developing author, and I think I always will. I’m forever reading and learning from other authors. At this point, I’m not concerned with sales. I’m looking to build a small network of committed readers to give me honest feedback. I have long-term aspirations; perseverance and patience are the virtues that will win the day.
Watch this space!