This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
15.10.20 / Suspense / Jo Fletcher / Paperback / 384pp / 978-1787470088
About Neil Spring
About The Haunted Shore
A CHILLING GHOST STORY SET IN THE HAUNTING WILDERNESS OF SUFFOLK
When Lizzy moves to a desolate shore to escape her past, she hopes to find sanctuary. But a mysterious stranger is waiting for her, her father’s carer, and when darkness falls, something roams this wild stretch of beach, urging Lizzy to investigate its past. The longer she stays, the more the shore’s secrets begin to stir. Secrets of a sea that burned, of bodies washed ashore — and a family’s buried past reaching into the present.
And when Lizzy begins to suspect that her father’s carer is a dangerous imposter with sinister motives, a new darkness rises. What happens next is everyone’s living nightmare . . .
From the bestselling author of The Ghost Hunters and The Lost Village, The Haunted Shore is a terrifying tale of suspense that does not let up until the last page is turned.
Q&A With Neil Spring
Thank you Neil for taking some time to answer a few questions about your latest novel, The Haunted Shore. Could you give us your own personal overview of what readers should expect within the book?
The novel follows Lizzy Valentine, a young woman and gambling addict who returns home to care for her father, only to begin envisioning spirits and uncovering secrets in her family’s past. Lizzy’s family lean on the help of a live-in carer – Hazel. A stranger. An outsider, whose arrival coincides with a number of bizarre occurrences leading to Lizzy feeling ever more isolated and doubting her sanity as she strives to protect her father.
What was your initial inspiration for the narrative in The Haunted Shore?
A bumpy narrow track leads to the remotest part of Suffolk. It snakes through a wilderness of mudflats and forests and farmlands, estuaries and heathland. The first time I turned onto that track and felt its eerie isolation, the first time I stood there on the dark stones and listened to the pull and push of the waves, I knew – there was a novel here at Shingle Street, waiting for me.
The plot for The Haunted Shore sounds really eerie and disorientating. I do enjoy a great chilling mystery. What was the most fun and the most challenging aspects of writing this story?
Weaving historical legends with the elements of a modern thriller is always a challenge. It’s long been rumoured that in 1940 the North Sea was set ablaze by the British Government with corpses of German troops apparently washing up on the beach. It’s said the authorities covered the whole thing up. I wanted to explore the provenance of such tales through the eyes of a family enduring more immediate, domestic fears.
Could you give us a few more insights into the setting of The Haunted Shore and what Lizzy faces there?
A family in isolation. A desolate shore. A long-buried secret. Pamela’s father is deteriorating, hearing voices, seeing things that aren’t there; and Lizzy’s family lean on a live-in carer – Hazel –an outsider whose arrival coincides with a number of bizarre occurrences. Lizzy is impressed by Hazel; initially they get on, but Lizzy soon suspects the carer is an interloper with an alternate agenda; a clever liar committing crimes against the elderly, who is gradually winning over the family. Who is Hazel? A dangerous fantasist? A clever swindler? And how is any of this connected to the secrets of the haunted shore?
Which central theme in The Haunted Shore do you hope the reader will connect with the most?
The book addresses themes like the father-daughter bond but also the horrors that can come with old age – dementia, isolation, loneliness. I’ve aimed to write a suspense thriller with a supernatural theme, but this is ultimately an unsettling, emotive story about retribution and deceit; and the guilt we all face when choosing to put a loved one into the care of strangers. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more frightening!
Which aspect(s) of the thriller genre in particular appeals to you the most as an author?
I love to hold readers in suspense; and I thrill to the idea that there are readers out there who feel compelled to keep turning the pages. Thrillers and ghost stories lend themselves very well to that; the challenge for the author is making sure your reader never wants to put the book down.
What also appeals is the challenge of building that sense of the unknowable and extreme possibility. I think all us in our lives at some point encounter this; odd coincides and experiences that touch us in a way that we struggle sometimes to make sense of. Thrillers in the supernatural genre allow us to explore these experiences a little more – and to try to make sense of them. Ghost stories in particular are vehicles for exploring the human condition; for what are ghosts if not memories?
How did your experience writing The Haunted Shore differ from your other novels?
This is the least historical of any of my books. With the exception of The Burning House, the others (The Ghost Hunters, The Watchers, The Lost Village) are concerned more with historical events, like the UFO sightings at Broad Haven in the 1970s, or the life of Harry Price. The Haunted Shore is new territory for me because it’s 100% fiction, loosely inspired by a Suffolk legend. Far from being a challenge, this gave me much more freedom as an author, to tell the story of unique, original characters and their struggles.
Is there a part of The Haunted Shore that you are particularly proud of? Do you have a favourite quote you can share with us?
I’m proud of the whole book; it’s probably my favourite of all of mine, because some parts of it are so deeply personal for me. But I’m particularly fond of the opening, if only because it evokes the sense of place that is so crucial to this novel:
“Have you ever visited somewhere and known, in your core, that there was something terribly wrong about it? Somewhere that felt not just uncomfortable, but which provoked a mental shiver and caused the hairs on the back of your neck to prick up? The sort of place you could quite easily imagine was the scene of an appalling, tragic incident?
The events I’m telling you about, the horrors that I feel compelled to share, happened somewhere very much like that, a loathsome place where the skies seem permanently veiled in gloom, where shells whispered secrets of buried sufferings and dark waves threatened your sanity.
I first saw this isolated stretch of shore when I was twelve years old, clinging fast to my mother’s hand as we watched removal men lumber up the steps to the lonely Martello tower with our furniture. I suppose Shingle Street became my home then, but I never thought of it as that, and never wanted to.”
Did you always have your eye set on being a writer/author and what sort of books did you grow up reading?
Horror was always my genre of choice, but I didn’t know I wanted to write until I found a story that overwhelmed me and demanded to be told. That was the story of the life of ghost hunter Harry Price, which I explore in The Ghost Hunters and its sequel, The Lost Village.
Have you got a hobby/activity you do to wind down from all the writing?
Swimming and walking – two activities guaranteed to help me relax. I also love looking at properties I know I’ll never afford!
Finally, have you read a book/article recently that you would personally recommend to the readers of this post?
I’m very much looking forward to reading The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale. It’s not a novel, but it looks like a terrific true ghost story!
Thank you to Neil Spring for answering all my questions about his latest release The Haunted Shore. It has been ages since I got right into a seriously good chilling suspense novel. I’m from a remote part of Suffolk surrounded by forests and farmland so this hit me harder than most. I can’t wait. The Haunted Shore is released today (15/10/20) so thank you for coming by to check out this awesome Q&A and please support the book anyway you can. I have also shared another Q&A about a new fantasy series from David Hair so feel free to check out that post to.