I first met Sally a number of years ago when we did an event together at Heffers in Cambridge. She writes stories that are very, very creepy. Her most recent novel, Malediction, is a noir thriller set in France. Her new book, How to Write a Chiller Thriller, explains some of the secrets of writing supernatural thrillers. I began by asking her about it. Over to Sally:
I was commissioned to write it by Suzanne Ruthven, formerly co-editor of The New Writer (now of Compass Books) because she’d heard about my writing workshops and liked my work. I was fired up by the need to see more brave, original themes within the genre.
How do you carve out time to write? What’s your writing routine?
A notebook/tablet on the bedside table is useful to re-connect with the work in progress if the day won’t allow time to actually be in my study. Otherwise, I’m in there from midday and re-surface when cabin fever sets in!
What comes first for you: theme, plot, characters, setting?
Setting, always. If a particular place ‘hits me in the chest,’ I have no choice but to deal with it, and then ask ‘who goes there?’
The supernatural is a recurring element in your stories. Have you ever seen a ghost or had a similar experience?
Yes, many times, otherwise I couldn’t use this not-so hidden aspect of life in my work. On one occasion, in a brand new-build house, an overpowering ‘presence’ tried to suffocate me. I later discovered the development was built on a mediaeval graveyard!
Who are your writing heroes? Whose books do you like to read, and why?
Pierre Magnan (The Murdered House) Philippe Claudel (Grey Souls) Christophe Dufosse (School’s Out) and the late Friedrich Durrenmatt (The Pledge) Recently loved Nele Neuhaus’ Snow White Must Die.
A favourite bookshop?
The Hours Café in Brecon.
What are you writing now?
Am finishing Footfall (working title) in longhand (so I can draw the characters in the margins!) First in a series with young, wannabe cop, Delphine Rougier, set in a rural backwater near Le Mans. It’s grim…
I’m looking forward to it. You can find out more about Sally and her novels at www.sallyspedding.com