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The Next Big Thing? - Interview: Neil Spring (novelist)

Neil Spring is hoping for a treat this Halloween. His debut novel, "The Ghost Hunters", has finally hit the shelves after three years in the making.

Neil Spring is hoping for a treat this Halloween. His debut novel, "The Ghost Hunters", has finally hit the shelves after three years in the making. The narrative of the book itself is based around Borley Rectory, a Victorian mansion that was built in 1862 and that gained fame as 'the most haunted house in England'. If you've ever watched a horror film, then the accounts at Borley Rectory make the paranormal all too real - think testimonies of windows shattering, botched exorcisms, wall-writing and people being locked in rooms with no key. I'm getting goose bumps writing about it.

The aspiring young novelist has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and unexplained. With positive reviews in The Sunday Times and Daily Mail already, and at Number 1 on Amazon's 'Hot New Horror Releases' list pre-release, "The Ghost Hunters" is getting a fantastic reception.

But what about the person behind this new novel? How does he juggle writing a book and a fulltime job? And has he seen a ghost...?

You must be very excited about the release of your debut novel, The Ghost Hunters. When did you first think to yourself: "You know what, I want to write a novel"?

Probably when I realised I didn't have the talent to write a play, which is how this project began. I was on a beach with my best friend, talking about the true story of the most haunted house in England - Borley Rectory - and how you would go about re-imagining those events from 1929 for a modern audience. I was convinced it could be done, so I set about writing dialogue. Then my mate said, "Why don't you just write a novel, and let someone else worry about adapting it, later?" That sounded sensible to me, so that's what I did!

What have you found to be the most challenging thing about writing The Ghost Hunters?

Apart from giving up any semblance of a social life?! Re-writing, mainly. Constantly revising, editing and polishing the text until it (nearly) shines. I'm one of the most disorganised people you'll ever meet, constantly losing track of papers and thoughts. Which makes writing a coherent novel... well, a little bit tricky.

Do you believe in ghosts? Has anything supernatural ever happened to you?

I do believe in ghosts, but haven't seen one yet! Do I believe that the spirits of the dead can return to haunt the living? Yes - but I would call that conscience.

Are there any characters in the novel that are a little less than fictitious...?

(After a knowing smile) Of course not... but there are a lot of interesting characters, many of whom were indeed living and are now dead. It was fun, digging up their lives and scandals. Ghost stories make us curious about regular people and daily life. Hauntings in literature are subtle... they are complex: the causes involved are not only spirits but memories, ideas, things. Places like Borley Rectory and people like Harry Price (the principal character).

If you could choose one person, who would you want to read and enjoy your novel most?

A particularly scathing critic. Arthur Conan Doyle, perhaps, if he was alive. Because if he couldn't spot the twists in the piece, no-one would.

What's the best word in the English language?

"Curiosity." Closely followed by "mendacity." We learn much from both.

You have a full time job at John Lewis and you run a successful networking group for gay professionals ( How's the social life / love life faring?

The novel is the result of a very curtailed social life. But now the book is published, both are faring a lot better! My partner has been incredibly supportive, as have the John Lewis Partnership, where much lot of my work involves recognising good stories and communicating that. Village Drinks goes from strength to strength which is so lovely to see. People meet wonderful people at the events. Some lives change because of that, which is fantastic.

What are you reading right now?

Stephen King's "Dr Sleep". It's a real page-turner.

What's the first thing that you are going to do / buy with all your riches?

If riches come my way (doubtful), I think I'd like to buy a house in Italy, that I can grow older and wider.

Have you got any super fans or stalkers yet?

Nobody would want to stalk me; they'd be wasting their time.

What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?

Write. Then re-write. Get that first draft gleaming, then send it to the agents representing the writers you most admire. Picture yourself in their shoes. Write an opening paragraph that reaches from the page, grabs them by the shoulders, shakes them into reading. Then wait. Be patient. And cross your fingers.

What's next for you?

The Ghost Hunters has been optioned for dramatic production, so I'm waiting with baited breath to see if anything comes from that. I'm also hard at work on the second novel (about half-way through).

In 10 words or less, what message do you have for your fans?

Love well, live easy. And if there's time, write a book!

'The Next Big Thing?' is a series of blogs that focuses on small businesses, start-up brands and talented people in the UK.

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