The Shadowing is my second Rhiannon Ward gothic thriller with a ghostly element to it. When I was growing up, my first love was crime fiction and I read everything I could get my hands on, usually via my local library. I particularly loved Nordic Noir and it was natural therefore that, when I came to write my first novel, In Bitter Chill, I wanted it to be a contemporary thriller with a strong sense of place. I still read a lot of crime fiction, especially in translation, and it was my first choice for escapism during the 2020 lockdowns.
However, as a child I was also reading a lot of supernatural tales usually contained within anthologies such as the Pan Book of Ghosts. In many respects, ghost stories better reflect my upbringing. My Welsh mother was a great storyteller and often told tales with a slight off-beat element. I also think children are attracted to the chaos inherent in ghost stories and I was no exception. My favourite book was a now out of print coming of age story by Dilys Owen called Leo Possessed which showed how a malignant presence could consume both a house and its inhabitants.
How is a ghost story different from a crime novel? Even if there’s a death and a subsequent investigation as there is in both my gothic novels, the addition of a supernatural element changes the dynamic. We’re no longer in the realm of the rational but open to the possibility of something otherworldly being responsible for the events. You can make the supernatural element realised or unrealised which can have a major impact on how a novel is concluded. But readers of ghost stories are open to innovative and unusual endings which can be fun to write.
Will I write another ghost story? I hope so but for now I’m back in contemporary crime fiction for my work in progress and loving it.