Thursday, 14 April 2016

20 Questions to Chris Chocopocalypse Callaghan

Today I am delighted to be able to introduce you to the staggeringly handsome, razor sharp brain and amazing sense of humour* of Chris Callaghan, author of The Great Chocoplot.

(*Disclaimer – his words, not mine.) 

Having been aware of Chris's existence on Twitter for some years now, I was very excited to read his debut novel, picked up by Chicken House at their very first Open Coop two years ago. I devoured The Great Chocoplot in one sitting - you can read my review here - and laughed my way to the end. It’s a wonderfully imaginative middle-grade story which I thoroughly recommend to everyone, but in the meantime, here’s a chance to get to know the man who wrote it...

1. When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve recently found lots of old school books and note pads and it seems that I’ve been writing stories since I first learned to write. There are even stories tucked away at the back of French and Maths books – I obviously wasn’t paying too much attention in class! I had various characters that I’d put into lots of different stories and would write my own episodes of Danger Mouse. Why did I write? I don’t know. It’s just something I’ve always done!

Wispa or Blocka Choca?
(Other chocolates are available)
2. What was the inspiration for writing The Great Chocoplot? 
I came up with the word ‘chocapocalypse’ while on twitter as a bit of a joke, but the idea festered away in my brain and I started to write the story. While writing, I remembered a time when I was at school and a new bar of chocolate was released into the shops. It was delicious and quickly became everyone’s favourite. What we didn’t know at the time, was that it was only being tested on Tyneside (where I’m from) to see if people would like it and there were only limited stocks available. It soon started to sell out and the rarer it became the more we wanted it. Until it eventually sold out everywhere! It was the first Chocopocalypse!! Luckily, this trial seemed to go well and a year or so later, the bar of chocolate was released nationwide. You can still get it today – it’s called a Wispa!

3. Who is your favourite character from this book and is he/she based on a real person?
I have a lot of fondness for the Dad. Some people have wondered if he’s based on me. He’s not that bright, but he tries his best – we have a lot in common!

4. What are your best and worst experiences as a writer?
I’m very new to being a published writer and luckily I haven’t had any bad experiences - yet! I had been looking forward to seeing my book on a shelf in a bookshop – I thought that would be the greatest part, but seeing it in the hands of readers is even better.

5. Which chocolate would you most like to be marooned on a dessert island with? (See what I did there?)
Oh yes, very clever! I’m very practical, so my first thoughts would be something I could ration out. Smarties would be easy to divide up and because of their coating might last longer too. My middle name is Bear-Grylls! (It isn’t, by the way.) 

#chocopanicface
6. What if the Chocopocalypse really did happen, what would you do?
I’d panic, obviously. Then I’d collect all the chocolate in the house and keep it safe. I’d even hunt out my wife’s secret chocolate stash. She says she hasn’t got one – but I’m not sure I believe her!

7. Do you write every day?
No. I can go for days without writing anything. But I am ALWAYS thinking about stories. It drives me mad sometimes, I can’t help it! I have a terrible memory for normal things, but I can store characters, scenes and dialogue in my head, no problem. I do most of my editing while doing the dishes and going to the shops. When I finally sit at my laptop, everything is pretty much ready to splurge out.

8. What is your least favourite part of the writing process?
Losing scenes that I’ve worked on and loved for so long. It is a vital part of the editing process, but I never realized until recently how much it hurts!

Clint Eastwood or Chris Callaghan?
9. Who would play you in the film of your life?
Clint Eastwood. I know he’s getting on a bit, but they can do a lot with make-up and CGI these days and I think he is the only actor that would be able to properly portray my cool, tough guy image. Why are you sniggering? 
(How did you know?)

10. What super power would you have, and what would you do with it?
I’d have the power of being able to pick things up off the floor without bending down. I know that might not sound impressive, but I’ve been a Stay at Home Dad for a few years and picking stuff up off the floor is a major part of my job. I’m not getting any younger and my back is getting creakier. I’d happily get stuff off the floor all day long if I didn’t have to bend down!

11. Do you have any unappealing habits?
According to my wife, I ‘snore like a dolphin’! Although, I’m not quite sure what she means by that.

12. What do you want to be when you grow up?
An astronaut. I’d be a bit scared during the taking-off bit, but the rest would be brilliant. Also, due to the micro-gravity in space, everything would float around and I wouldn’t have to pick up anything from the floor – perfect!

13. Do you believe in magic?
I have an engineering and scientific background and am always amazed and in awe of the wonders of the real world. I am a passionate believer in the magic of science. Does that answer your question?

14. Chocolate or wine gums?
Oh no, do I really have to choose? But I love wine gums … and I love chocolate … oh, I love wine gums … can I come back to this one please?

15. Who would you invite to the dinner party of your dreams – and what would you eat? (Ravioli with a slice of cheese?)
Ravioli and a slice of cheese is lovely, but it’s not my favourite. We’d have mince and mash – I ADORE mince and mash. I’d invite Dr. Watson - I’d love to go on an adventure with Sherlock, but I think he’d be an awkward dinner guest! Dr. Watson would be able to tell lots of great stories. Similarly, Arthur Dent from The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (my favourite book), I’d love to hear him talking about where he’d been and who he’d met. Another great guest would be Chewbacca – imagine how much fun that would be! Finally, I’d invite either Ant or Dec (not sure which one) because I’d like to see what they look like when there is only one of them.

Not Chris Callaghan
16. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies? (Dancing obviously.)
Ah, so you’ve heard about my reputation as a dancer. I am very good. I’ve had to think long and hard about this and, to be honest, I’m struggling to come up with an answer. Although, while I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve managed to balance three massive American marshmallows on my chin. So there you go!

17. What are the best and worst jobs you ever had?
Being a Stay at Home Dad and having such an involvement with my daughter’s childhood is the best job I’ve ever had. The worst? While I was in the Royal Air Force in Scotland, we would spend a lot of night-shifts defrosting the taxi-ways ready for the jets. We couldn’t use salt or grit because it damaged the aircraft – so we used frozen pig urea (wee). When you’ve shoveled that all night in the wind and snow, it gets up your nose, in your ears and even in your mouth! Nasty!!

18. Do you have a bucket list? And if so, tell us something that’s on it.
I’m afraid not! I don’t look too far into the future. When I left the Royal Air Force I was given the present of a back seat trip in a jet fighter. I looped-the-loop at 600 miles per hour and I’ve just had a book published – these are the kind of things I suppose people have on their bucket list. I’m happily married and have a wonderful daughter – I know how lucky I am and don’t want to be greedy. Although, I’d like a new mobile phone – mine doesn’t keep its charge anymore.

19. If you could say thank you to someone, who would it be and why?
My mam, who unfortunately isn’t with us anymore. I didn’t say it enough to her.

20. What can we expect from you in the future?
As I’ve said, I don’t look too far ahead. I genuinely don’t know. I’ve got tonnes of ideas, but if this turns out to be my one and only published book, then I’m more than happy with that. I intend to enjoy my time as an author, regardless of how long or short it lasts.

Can I go back to Q.14? I’ve decided on chocolate. Definitely. No, hang on … wine gums are the best … no, chocolate … oh, this is torture!




Okay... you can have one of each.
Thanks very much, Chris. You've been very entertaining. 

If you want to find out more about Chris Callaghan, take a look at his website, or find him on facebook, twitter and instagram.

And if you want to read The Great Chocoplot (you do, you really do) you can buy it from all good book shops!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Chocopocalypse is Nigh...

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
   
The Chocopocalypse is less than a week away and Blocka Choca bars will soon be history...

What would you do if the end of chocolate was announced? Cry? Panic buy? Eat nothing but chocolate until it’s all over?

Yes, me too... but in Chris Callaghan’s wonderfully imaginative and hilarious story, Jelly (aka Jennifer Wellington) refuses to take the news lying down. Not only is chocolate at stake here, her family’s livelihood is threatened, as is the future of her hometown, the famous chocolate producing Chompton-on-de-Lyte.

Jelly starts to question the people around her (notably Mrs Bunstaple, Dodgy Dave, and last but not least the everso villainous Garibaldi Chocolati) and sets up a scientific experiment to prove or disprove the chocolate prophecy.

This is an adventure story with a difference. It’s funny, clever and full of gorgeous characters you care about. I loved Chris Callaghan’s hilarious human observations and the utter lack of seriousness in this book, and I laughed out loud many times. Sadly, my own children are no longer young enough to read to, but I’m going to hang onto it just in case I ever have grandchildren! (Assuming of course, I don’t go down with a-lotta-choca-litis in the meantime.)