Friday, 29 June 2018

Chilling on the Beach - Why We Relax with Scary Books

The only problem you face when reading on the beach is that holding the book can make your arm ache. It’s a deliciously stress-free situation – you’ve saved up for it all year! So why choose to enhance it by lapping up fictional stress from the pages of a novel?

Life is hectic and full of challenges – surely the last thing we need is more anxiety? Many people want cheering or soothing reads with just enough drama to keep them interested.

But some of us are wired up differently. We love to spice up our relaxation with a dose of spine-chilling excitement. We need to see characters we care about in terrible jeopardy. We want our hearts thumping, pulses racing, minds tormented with dreadful dilemmas – ideally while getting a tan.

I have always loved books that create strong emotions. I don’t want to be mildly amused, slightly concerned or a tad sad. A good read has me crying with laughter, gripped with tension or wracked with sobs. I made the mistake of reading Birdsong during a bus journey, and had to stop when I became so upset that other passengers were looking.

When it came to writing Unspeakable Things, I thought about what scared me most. Madness, came the answer – and the fear and treatment of madness. And so the gothic setting of an old asylum was born, and the Gatehouse nearby where Sarah moves in, newly pregnant and desperate to learn about the mother she lost when she was four. Her only hope of learning her family history is Uncle John, who runs the Woodlands Clinic. But what he says about her mother terrifies Sarah. As her usually strong grip on friendships, marriage and reality is threatened, can she trust what he’s telling her – or is the truth stranger and darker still?

I love hearing from people who have read the novel. Many have said they couldn’t put it down, read deep into the night, put the children in front of a DVD and wouldn’t rest until they finished it.

We are a particular tribe, we lovers of fictional thrills. We don’t need bungee jumping – we take our adrenaline rush on a sun-lounger, when there’s nothing else to worry about.

Why not grab Unspeakable Things for a beach read and enjoy a chiller while you’re chilling? If you’re local to me, you can get it in Halls Bookshop in Chapel Place or The Cake Shed on the Pantiles, in the Earl Grey Tea Rooms in Southborough, Mr Books in Tonbridge or Sevenoaks Bookshop.

For everyone else, there’s Amazon! The Kindle version cost pennies!