Christopher Westlake, a proud Welshman setting his stories in Wales. A Paul Collins interview.
Tell us about your background. Who you are, where you are from?
I’m thirty-seven now, although in my first ever newspaper interview they added a year! Now I know how celebrities feel!
I am probably your typical Mr. Average. I work full time in the week as a team leader, helping job seekers look for work. I have been married to Elizabeth for seven years and we live in Birmingham. I was born and brought up in rural South Wales, which is where my stories are set. I’m a proud Welshman and setting my stories in Wales brings me closer to home now that I am living in Birmingham.
I used to write as a young kid, long rambling books with pictures horribly crayoned in. My grammar was terrifying and the story lines were outrageous, but there was no denying my imagination was limitless.
I stopped writing up till three years ago, when I started an online writing course. I entered some competitions and won a few, and I well and truly had the bug. Now I want to make up for lost time and write as many quality books as I possibly can.
What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the readers will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke for the reader?
My local book shop owner said to me that the books he sells should either entertain or educate, and after thinking about this for a while, I’m sure he is right. I hope that my readers will be thoroughly entertained by Just a Bit of banter, Like. I want the reader to relate to the central characters. They are very imperfect, with many glaring faults, but their intentions are good. I hope they are supporting them, turning the pages hoping that things turn out okay. I hope the reader feels sympathy and hope.
The book explores the relationships of the central character, Nick, to his family and friends, and he questions what and who is really important to him. I hope the reader relates this to their own lives.
What prompted you to be an author and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain person, artist, or genre?
For as long as I can remember, I always knew that I’d be a writer. There was nothing I was more certain of. There was no rationale behind this feeling, but it was definitely there. It was just a matter of when. My mum told me that I needed to experience life before writing seriously. A few years ago I thought, this is the time to start. And that is when I embarked on my course. I needed guidance, to start small. It was the best thing I ever did.
The only initial inspiration was to create something I could be proud of, that others could enjoy.
If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why?
I think the style of writing was influenced by authors such as Irvine Welsh, Jon King and Brett Easton Ellis, and there are elements of Trainspotting, Football Factory and American Psycho in evidence. Just a Bit of Banter, Like is essentially a comedy and so you’d be right to question why on earth I’m comparing it to American Psycho! The humour is very dark, though, as I think it is in all of these books.
Tell us about your latest work and what inspired you.
Just a Bit of banter, Like is semi-autobiographical. Nick returns home to rebuild his life in rural Wales after things go horribly wrong in London. Finding a job is only the tip of the iceberg. His best friend, Den, seems to be on a downward spiral but the big question is – why? His childhood friend, Sam, has mysteriously disappeared. And why have his mum and nan not spoke to each other for as long as he can remember?
There were many inspirations for the book. I left Wales for London and I realize now that my outlook on life was pretty superficial. I was a success because I’d moved away and was working in the city. I was too concerned with what other people wanted me to do. As this is my first novel, I was to concentrate on getting the basics right – strong characters, an engaging plot and for the reader to be entertained.