CRY OF THE LAKE
Darkstroke Books (2020)
Charlie Tyler signed with Darkstroke in May 2020 and The Cry of the Lake is her debut novel.
Charlie is very much a morning person and likes nothing more than committing a fictional murder before her first coffee of the day. She studied Theology at Worcester College, Oxford and now lives in a Leicestershire village with her husband, three teenagers and golden retriever.
Hi Charlie, welcome to Reader Views! Tell us a bit about The Cry of the Lake.
Hello – it’s great to be here! The Cry of the Lake centres around the relationship between deeply troubled sisters, Grace and Lily, and Grace’s step-daughter, Flo. The sisters have immersed themselves within an idyllic, chocolate-box environment – playing along at happy families whilst harbouring a terrible secret. But when Flo’s father is accused of murdering a schoolgirl, their past starts catching up with them and events begin to spiral out of control. Lily has it within her power to prevent any more deaths, but, to do so, she has to go back into her past to dredge up a memory that she would rather stay hidden in the depths of the lake.
You’ve written a stunning debut novel – what made you decide to become an author and write a book?
Thank you so much. I’ve been writing now for over a decade, but when I came up with the idea for The Cry of the Lake, I knew I had to put all my other projects on hold until I’d finished it – the story just wouldn’t leave me alone.
What was your inspiration behind the storyline?
My inspiration came from seeing a photo of a rickety boathouse, complete with a long, wooden jetty, leading out onto a lake. I remembered being a child and fishing by the edge of a pond, collecting tiny creatures in jam jars and lining them up along the bank. I imagined a small girl lying on the jetty, catching minnows, and being told by her older sister that a mermaid lives beneath the surface of the lake; a mermaid called Myrtle who can only be seen at night when there is a full moon. If that had been me, I would have been out the very same night, searching for the mermaid and that’s what led to me creating the main incident for the book. I envisaged the girl arriving at the water’s edge, but rather than seeing a mermaid, she witnesses a terrible crime. Unable to process what she has seen she buries it within her mind. I built up the rest of the story around the fallout from what happens years later, when this memory is forced to rise to the surface again.
The Cry of the Lake is a deep psychological thriller – what called you to the dark side?
I can happily be writing away, describing a beautiful scene and then something super dark enters my mind – like there’s a little devil sitting on my shoulder saying – oooh! wouldn’t it be awful if that happened? I just can’t help myself. I’m a naturally very cheerful person. I think my literary darkness has surprised some people.
What kind of research was involved in preparing to write your story?
I did some research into the impact of trauma on the juvenile brain and how the reptilian/oldest part is the one which controls the fight or flight instincts – it’s totally fascinating. I loosely based Lily’s therapy on an actual technique which stores a difficult memory within a box inside the brain but is then only unpacked when the person feels strong enough to deal with it.
Did you seek to emulate your style after any particular storyteller?
Not specifically, but I love authors who use unreliable narrators within their novels, for example, Lucy Atkins, Tana French, Claire Fuller and Lisa Jewell. I love all of their books.
Who are some of your favorite influences?
Agatha Christie is such a hero of mine and I wish I’d come up with the plots for ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and ‘Then there were none’ – pure genius. I also adore Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series which I think have a perfect blend of description and mystery all cleverly tied up with two characters I’ve grown to care about.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing The Cry of the Lake?
Making sure all the clues to the mystery were there, but not making them too obvious. My editor made me take some of the markers out because it was beginning to feel like a Scooby Doo mystery!
Our reviewer noted, “an undercurrent of abuse which runs through the entirety of the novel.” How does this drive your characters?
Abuse is the motivation for Grace to take revenge and is the reason she goes on to commit these terrible crimes. She has reached a stage in her life when she realizes she’s a product of something beyond her control, and the only way she can deal with the pain is to pass it onto someone else.
Which character did you have the most fun creating?
Creating the childhood scenes with Grace were the most interesting sections for me to write – I loved creating the mansion within which she grew up. And I had some fun with her at the start of the novel, when she’s still playing the doting girlfriend. It was great to try and relate what is going on in her head compared to what the rest of the community is seeing.
Who was the hardest character to capture?
Lily – she is a selective mute, so I wasn’t able to have her partaking in quick throw-away conversations to impart knowledge to the other characters. Everything she says is planned, but I was anxious it didn’t come across as staged – she’s a teenager so she needed to sound like one.
The number of twists and turns featured in the story seem limitless. Some of the plotlines you never see coming. How do you continually come up with new and engaging twists that keep your readers guessing and glued to the pages?
Ha! Ha! I hope you didn’t think it was too twisty. I’m a daydreamer and I’m always playing out scenarios in my head, over and over again with different permutations – it’s a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. Even if I don’t use all the ideas, I write them down. I’ve had one recurring imagining of an incident involving a fallen tree which I’m only just setting to paper now even though it has been lodged in my head for years.
Talk about your writing routine. What does a day in the life of Charlie Tyler look like?
I get up 5.45am and go on the rowing machine for twenty minutes, then take my dog, Tilly, for a quick walk around the park. After that I make coffee and then head to my study (with Tilly) and then get to work. At midday I’m usually done with the creativity side of things so get on with other jobs. If I’m having a really good day, I might carry on.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
I am both. I plan out a rough draft, but things inevitably change as I write. I also don’t edit anything until I’ve finished the first draft as I know how much the plot will change during the course of that first write.
How long did it take you to write The Cry of the Lake?
Roughly two years from having the idea to submitting it to my publisher.
What is the most challenging part of the process for you?
When I’m writing I just want to stay in my bubble and keep going. Life, however, gets in the way and I have to come up for air. The internet is my biggest distraction especially since a large part of being an author these days involves interacting with social media. I’m not great at getting the balance right – with the research, I can spend hours down a rabbit hole which is interesting, but not relevant.
Writing a psychological thriller in the throes of a global pandemic seems fitting somehow. How has the pandemic affected your writing and/or marketing efforts?
The marketing side has been a bit frustrating but Zoom, IGtv and virtual book tours have been useful, but it’s not the same as going to a festival or being on a live discussion panel. Writing wise, it’s been great as there have been fewer distractions though most of my fellow authors and I have been engaged in conversations about whether our current novels should mention the pandemic. I have to say that writing about social distancing doesn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm!
What does your family think about your book? How do they support your writing career?
They’ve always been super supportive. I live at home in a small English village with my husband and three children (20,18 and 16) and I think they noticed quite a few things in the book which they said was a dead giveaway that I’d written it; it was like they could hear my voice which was also a bit weird because a lot of it isn’t very Mumsy.
What was it like holding your novel in your hands for the first time?
I confess, I did shed a few tears.
So, what’s next? Is there another novel in your future?
I’m at the final stages of another psychological thriller set in a girls’ boarding school. The charred corpse of a nun is found in an oubliette within the grounds of an exclusive sixth-form convent school, run by nuns. Faced with a wall of silence, a female undercover detective has to go in and discover why everyone is closing ranks and whether it is connected to the suicide of a girl there ten years ago. Another jolly tale!
Based on what you’ve learned on your debut journey, what advice would you give to anyone with a desire to write?
It’s a slog, but keep at it. Write a little every day, even if you don’t feel like it, but whatever you do, just keep going.
Charlie, thank you so much for sharing a bit about your self and your work with us today!
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