Sally Spedding was born in Wales to a Dutch father and Welsh mother. She studied sculpture at Manchester and at St. Martin’s, London, and when still a practicing and exhibiting artist, won an international short story competition. She was approached by an agent who encouraged her to write a novel.
Spedding continued writing while teaching full-time, until Wringland, her supernatural crime novel, was published by Macmillan in 2001. Her sixth chiller, Cold Remains, was published by Sparkling Books this year. Sally is also an award-winning short story writer and poet, and is married to the painter Jeffrey Spedding. They have kept a bolt-hole in the Pyrenees for many years, which, like Wales, continues to inspire her. Several of her novels are set in France, but Cold Remains is rooted firmly in the Welsh county of Carmarthenshire.
Cold Remains is one of your most chilling thrillers. You have said in the past about your books, “I want to give people a fright.” Certainly you frightened me with this one! But I cannot believe that this is your only motive as a writer. You write extremely well, you plot brilliantly, you conjure up scenes with great skill—why, really, do you put your talents as a writer in the service of what some might call “horror?”
An interesting question which I usually shirk, not because to answer it honestly might lead some readers to think I carry too much ‘baggage,’ but because I have always possessed a heightened sense of the darkness in those people surrounding me and in the world at large, past, present and future.
I totally agree with the statement by one of Anne Enright’s characters in The Gathering, that ’people don’t change, they just reveal themselves.’ And it’s these revelations which have incrementally shifted the tectonic plates of trust and naivety that once—optimistically—underpinned my existence. So my characters, such as Jason and Helen in Cold Remains will also have had their perceptions altered for ever.
Tennyson’s ‘little lacerations of the spirit’ are, to me, just as lasting as more obvious aberrations. They are the destroyers of dreams.
So I hope the ‘horror’ element in my work is rather more subtle than bloodied slash-fests.
One aspect of the ‘horror’ element in your work is the presence of ghosts. There are certainly ghosts in Cold Remains. One in particular might be called a main character, a mainspring of the plot. Heron House, the setting of the novel, is haunted in a terrifying and ugly way. This is perhaps a naïve question, but do you actually believe in ghosts? And if not, isn’t it in a way cheating to let a ghost so strongly affect the action of what is in many ways a realistic novel?