Summers Shadow

This is my first ever novel for young teens. I am more than a little bit excited, mixed with more than a little bit nervous about this. Up until now people have pretty much known what to expect from my books: funny stories about children and their pets, families, friends and enemies. Summer’s Shadow is a huge departure from this.

The story starts with Summer’s mother in hospital, fighting for her life. Things go downhill from there for Summer as she finds herself ripped from her old life and catapulted into a new one with relatives who don’t seem to want her. Her uncle Tristan is distracted and will not answer questions in a straightforward way, her cousin Kenan would rather she did not exist, and her aunt Becca has disappeared altogether.

As Summer comes to terms with her new life, she has many experiences, some of them good (mostly in the shape of a boy called Zach whom she meets on the beach); some of them most unsettling. After one unnerving occasion too many, Summer comes to believe that the house may be haunted. But the reader has to work out whether Summer is haunted by real ghosts, or by the shadows of her own family’s past . . .

The inspiration for this story came from a place which is very precious to me and my family. It is a beach in Cornwall where we spend every summer holiday. The house we stay in belongs to my husband’s relatives and has been in his family for generations. It is a romantic setting, far from normal life, at the very tip of West Cornwall. We have no mobile signal and, until recently, there was no WiFi. We see seals, dolphins and even whales while we are down there, we swim in the cold, cold sea (no wetsuits allowed!) and we walk along the craggy coastal path, drinking in the scenery.


For years I had written about the place in diaries, trying to capture its essence and what it means to me, but it wasn’t until my grandmother died and I was truly bereft for the first time in my life that I felt I had the beginnings of a story. Suddenly I was writing from the point of view of a grieving girl. The scene that really kicked things off for me is a passage towards the end of the book, where Kenan challenges Summer to a dangerous swim across the bay. I knew once I had written that scene that I had two good, strong characters and the makings of a plot.

So Summer’s Shadow is a sad book, but it is also, I think, a story with hope and a happy ending of sorts. It is the kind of story I loved reading when I was a young teen. I am hoping it will be well received by today’s teenagers as I would very much like to have another book published for this age group soon!

Summer’s Shadow is published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 3rd July. If you live in or near Bath, do come along to the launch party at Toppings Booksellers on Tuesday 8th July at 7.30pm.