Connected with our previous question, where / how do you get your ideas (the nugget for a final piece of work)? Is there a pattern?
The setting provides the ‘nugget,’ but the story’s theme grows once a character connected to that place, appears, whether alive or recalled as alive in someone else’s memory (and there is ‘false memory’) or dead. The one exception to knowing my settings beforehand, occurred accidentally, one November day five years ago, deep in the Sarthe department, en route south, my artist husband insisted on driving down a tiny lane, then parking, before trotting out of sight with his camera and car keys, leaving me with my precious pc. and files, realising no other vehicle could get by.
To pass that anxious time, I looked around and noticed a derelict farm almost hidden by huge, defunct tractors. However, it was a tilting shrine further behind in the hedge which grabbed my attention. Its small figure of Christ gleaming white, and tub of plants clearly looked after, but by whom? Why? All I needed to begin ‘Footfall,’ first in a series featuring young, wannabe gendarme, Delphine Rougier, whose parents each harbour a devastating secret.
Can you briefly describe your writing process?
Photographs of the chosen place are crucial, and more factual research. Then posing and answering the kind of questions I alluded to earlier. If need be, more research (if, for example, I’m dealing with something like the re-wilding of wolves in France). Next, a Tesco re-fill pad to start writing, plus drawings, maps, etc.,on the opposite pages. Long-winded, but…
How did you get into writing? Did you grow up in a bookish home? Were there any notable influences?
Yes, both late parents would read regularly, but visiting my Dutch Oma and Opa in their inspiring house on the Blorenge mountain outside Abergavenny (south-east Wales), was where I began creating illustrated stories up in the attic, while residual tensions from wartime experiences, filtered upwards.
In that formative period was there a stand-out novel or story that affected you profoundly?
As a ten-year-old, it was ‘Street Fair’ by the American writer, Marjorie Fischer, in which a young brother and sister leave their aunt in Paris and set off by train to the south of France with a small, stray dog, ‘Bouillabaissse.’ Such a wonderful adventure inspired me to also write a review.
Who are the writers you most admire and why?
The late Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s ‘The Pledge’ set in claustrophobic Chur in Switzerland is not only visually brilliant but also psychologically, with an obsessive detective losing his mind. Also, Johan Theorin, again for unique settings and grim, believable stories; Sarah Rayne for her well-researched, dark unravellings; Adrian Magson for his 1960’s Picardy-set thrillers, and Christoph Fischer, whose ‘The Luck of the Weissensteiners’ reflects my own and too many other families’ real-life tragedies.
You’re the author of How To Write A Chiller Thriller. What’s the one thing a writer absolutely must get right when writing in that genre. (For all of the other things please buy the book!)
Originality. The hardest part. It’s so easy to follow a perceived ‘trend’ but why bother? In this book, I use the American Mark. Z. Danielewski’s ‘House of Leaves’ and Tim Krabbé’s ‘The Vanishing’ as prime examples of unusual, ambitious horror, as is Anthony Shaffer’s ‘he Wicker Man.’Krabbé’s own story is fascinating…
Away from writing, do you have any hobbies / enthusiasms? What do you do to relax?
Studying the breeding of thoroughbred race-horses from the first three Arabian stallions. Keeping in touch with friends. Controlling a rampant garden, and sometimes, particularly in France, opening a bottle before I should!
What can we expect next from Sally Spedding?
‘Bloodlines,’ set near Poitiers, France, is being published next by Sharpe Books, then ‘Death Knell,’ last in the trilogy, set in Norfolk. After these, the Delphine Rougier quartet.
A STORY by Sally Spedding is to feature in a season of supernatural stories for Christmas here at Horla, also featuring weird winter tales by Matthew G. Rees, Jon Gower and John Ord.
Sally Spedding’s website: sallyspedding.com
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