Sunday, 19 February 2012

Author Interview: C. J. Daugherty

Everyone who replies to this topic by 4th March [no matter where you are in the world] will have their name put into a hat. The name pulled out of the hat will win a copy of CJ's fantastic new book 'Night School.' Hurray!

Please remember to leave contact details in your comment so I can get in touch if you win! [your twitter name, email address etc would be great, or if your post will link to your own blog and I'm able to contact you there, then that's fine.]


CJ was 22 years old when she saw her first dead body. Over the next few years she saw many more whilst working as a crime reporter for newspapers in the US, and later for Reuters wire service.

When she was offered a safe, dead-body-free job in London editing travel guidebooks, she jumped at the chance - leaving all of the blood and gore behind.... well, sort of.

She wrote the first draft of Night School in one long, hot summer. When she finished, her husband and friends insisted she send it to a literary agent, and she was signed by Madeleine Buston at the Darley Anderson Agency. The rest, as they say, is history. Or maybe it’s the future.


Hi CJ! Make yourself at home. Grab yourself a cup of tea. The blurb for this book is brilliant [I've copied it in at the bottom of this interview]. I read the synopsis for it months ago and made a note of the title and release date so I could grab a copy. It didn’t disappoint. So, tell us about how you got into writing.

Thank you! Mmm, lovely tea.

Let’s see. My path was pretty straight forward. I always wanted to be a writer. The only problem was that, in my family, writing was not considered a viable career path. In fact, it’s not really considered a career at all. So to bypass strongly expressed parental opposition, I studied journalism at university. That was considered sort-of a career. When I graduated I got a job writing for a newspaper in a mid-size city for so little money that I began to understand my parents’ objections. Nonetheless, I stayed a journalist for quite a long time. My editors taught me how to write in an approachable way. How to convey a lot with as few words as possible. How to explain a murder in 15 column inches (that’s about 700 words). A life lost, and you’ve got to describe the victim, the witnesses and the circumstances of the crime in 700 words. Let’s just say I learned a lot. And, after that experience, how could I ever be anything but a writer?

What was the first idea to spark ‘Night School’?

My husband grew up in a small town in Surrey and a few years ago I suddenly decided that we needed to live there. When we were trying to decide whether or not to move there, we drove around a lot, checking it out. Late one afternoon, we drove up to a boarding school at the edge of town. It’s in a huge, gothic building behind a big, iron gate, at the end of a curving drive. Sound familiar? The sun was setting behind the building; the shadows were long and dramatic. It was an extraordinary place. That drive happened two years before I started Night School. So I guess that view, that school and that moment must have lingered in the back of my mind, waiting for a story to go with it.

Which character in the series do you have a particular soft spot for?

Oh, Allie. Definitely. I love her so much. She absolutely breaks my heart. Her search for truth and for people to believe in – I know all about that. There is a lot of me in her. But Rachel sounds the most like me. She is my stand-in within the book, in terms of her dry sense of humour and her pragmatic attitude.

How many books will there be in the series?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know. If I were a betting woman I’d say four, but I never bet. Because I always lose. Basically, it’s early days, and a lot depends on how my lovely, beautiful, talented and fragrant publisher feels about it in a year or so.

How far ahead did you plan before you started writing?
YEARS. …. Ok, not really. I’m afraid I didn’t plan at all. I just sat down one day and wrote the first chapter. I didn’t even draw up a synopsis until I was 200 pages in. And the first 200 pages have hardly changed after I first wrote them. [Jen: I remember Neil Gaiman saying somewhere that he loved writing because he was excited to read where his own story was going.]

Tell us about your journey from writing to agent to publication.

I was super lucky, I think. I wrote Night School over the course of five months. When it was finished, I didn’t quite know what to do about it. I’d mostly written it for fun. My husband and friends insisted it didn’t suck and really wanted me to send it to an agent. So I spent a few weeks researching agents. I stumbled across Madeleine Buston’s page on the Darley Anderson website and I liked what I read there, so I Googled her. After deciding she was perfect, I sent her three chapters on a Thursday, and by Saturday she’d signed me. She told me from the start she knew just who she wanted to send the book to, but first I had to make some significant changes. I’d initially written it as a paranormal book, but she believed strongly that it would be better as a non-paranormal. So I took six weeks to revise it into a thriller. This was the book she pitched to Samantha Smith at Atom Books, and they signed me on pre-empt. We never showed the book to anybody else – Madeleine always wanted me to work with Sam and I think she was absolutely right. Sam is an amazing editor, and she absolutely gets my writing style and sense of humour. We are like two coffee-addicted peas in the literary pod.

How did you celebrate your book deal?

When Madeleine called to tell me the deal was done I was on a bus in London on my way home from work. I got off the bus so I could jump up and down and whoop without upsetting anybody. So, first I celebrated by jumping up and down like a crazy person at a bus stop on the South Bank. When I got home, though, there was champagne. [Jen: Yey, champagne!]

Now that you have the deal for the books, do you find that your writing routine has changed? I’m assuming now you must be working to deadlines, which you weren’t doing before. How have you adjusted to that?

What’s been really weird is having time to write. I wrote Night School after work, on weekends and on holidays (and to be perfectly honest, on quiet days in the office when nobody was looking). Suddenly, I can write ALL DAY, and it’s been a strange feeling. It feels almost lazy not to have to squeeze in writing time. It took a couple of months to adjust, but now I find I’ve got a schedule in place and it works well. I do admin and emails first thing in the morning, then I move to editing what I wrote the day before. In the afternoon I write. The deadline doesn’t bother me, but knowing the book has a destination – that people are going to read this and that there are expectations – that was a little intimidating at first.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading The Clockwork Angel and The Clockwork Prince, both by Cassandra Clare, and I am ADDICTED. She is an amazing writer. These stories are brilliant. I’m absolutely hooked.

If you were to give one piece of advice to budding writers, what would that be?

Read all the time. Write all the time. When you’re reading a book you are like a musician practicing. When you’re writing you are like an artist painting. And take your time. Don’t expect to write your first novel at 21. Or even 31. But keep writing until the right story, the right characters and the right time collide.

Do you have any projects on the go bar the Night School series/plans in notepads for different books? What do you hope the future holds?

I have an idea for an adult crime series that I’d love to write someday. I also have an idea for a break-up book that has been floating around in my head for years. I don’t know when I’ll have time to write either of them though. Night School Book two is about 75% done, and then there’s Book THREE to think up. And who knows what will happen after that?

Thanks, CJ!


Sometimes school can be murder...Allie Sheridan's world is falling apart. She hates her school. Her brother has run away from home. And she's just been arrested. Again. This time her parents have finally had enough. They cut her off from her friends and send her away to a boarding school for problem teenagers. But Cimmeria Academy is no ordinary school. It allows no computers or phones. Its students are an odd mixture of the gifted, the tough and the privileged. And then there's the secretive Night School, whose activities other students are forbidden even to watch. When Allie is attacked one night the incident sets off a chain of events leading to the violent death of a girl at the summer ball. As the school begins to seem like a very dangerous place, Allie must learn who she can trust. And what's really going on at Cimmeria Academy.


  1. The book (series) sounds really interesting. I'm hoping that it'll be available over here in Australia

  2. I'd read the blurb for this & thought it sounded really good. Nice to hear not everyone starts writing with the story all planned out as well. Good luck for the rest of the series :-)

  3. Oh my god I totally had one of those moments yesterday! We were walking along the sea front around sunset time and the light was shining along the sea, and over on the little island there's an abandoned fort thingy. And caves and.. oh my god I just have to use it. I took so many phone pictures and conversation alongside the view just sparked ideas. Yay for those moments!

    (on Twitter I'm @jaediasrantpage and my email is jaedia at live dot co dot uk - dying to read this one, thanks so much for the chance)

  4. I was younger than CJ when I saw my first dead body (I worked in a nursing home) given her connection with this, I'm already excited about the possibility of an adult series ;-) I'd love to read this book, I love books set in boarding schools!


  5. How intriguing! Please enter me in the drawing.

  6. I loved reading the interview, thanks! :)
    I am also addicted to Cassandra Clare's books :D
    I've been dying to read Night School!
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. Love the attitude here! Not published officially yet, but love the roller coaster ride my own chars put me through. I also write in scenes, from the middle or anywhere my guys take me. Sort of like watching a movie out of order, or gathering interviews and piecing the truth of the story from there. Found you by accident, but I'll be back!
    dancingcrane7 at

  8. I am reading Clockwork Prince too! I'm really liking it :) I so want this book, love the cover...
    Cassie Deaton

  9. "I got off the bus so I could jump up and down and whoop without upsetting anybody. So, first I celebrated by jumping up and down like a crazy person at a bus stop on the South Bank. When I got home, though, there was champagne."

    That makes inwardly dancing in an office look like a poor attempt at celebrating ;) However. Champagne. Yey.

  10. The book does sound rather good! Might have to hunt down a copy :)

    As for that special call, that must have been amazing - no wondering at the jumping up and down and whooping! haha

  11. this book really does sound good and its caught my eye a few times.

    my twitter is katrinalou1990

  12. I love the mental picture of getting off the bus to jump up and down. Thanks for the tip to the Clockwork books.

  13. Thanks for entering into the prize draw, folks. The name pulled out of the hat was Stephanie [Drew]. Congrats, Stephanie! x