Debut author Vanessa Savage talks exclusively to The Crime Vault about her first novel, The Woman in the Dark (out 10th January)

What inspired you to write The Woman in the Dark?

It began with a what if question. I grew up near Gloucester when the terrible Fred and Rosemary West murders cast a shadow over the whole county. Their house in Cromwell Street was demolished, but years later, I wondered – what if a house like that, with such a terrible history, wasn’t destroyed. What if it used to be your house, the place where you grew up? Could you get past its recent history and make it a perfect family home again?

It’s very chilling in parts, do you think it needs to come with a warning for the faint hearted?

Oh definitely! Do not read alone and after dark… And above all – do not go into the cellar

It’s already getting great press reviews and reader reviews, what do you think it is about The Woman in the Dark that appeals to readers?

I think with psychological thrillers, readers love to delve into the lives and minds of characters far removed from the everyday. Behind closed doors, the perfect family in their perfect house are so not what they seem. And teamed with the Murder House with its creaking floorboards, ghostly breath on the neck and the locked cellar… The rising tension, twists and turns and creepy claustrophobia – it all offers readers a chance to be deliciously scared with the safety catch of knowing you can pop the book in the freezer like Joey from Friends when it all gets too much!

Who is your favourite crime and thriller author?

It’s impossible to list just one! I love classic Agatha Christie, have read everything Stephen King has written and favourite current authors include Clare Mackintosh, Tana French and Sharon Bolton.

What will your next book be about?

Tess has avoided going home since her sister died in a tragic accident on the day of her father’s wedding… Ten years on and her stepmother is dying. Forced to go back home, she’s haunted by dreams of her sister who keeps saying the same thing over and over – it wasn’t an accident. When another body is found close to where her sister died, Tess begins to wonder if the family and friends surrounding her know more about her sister’s death than they’re letting on…