Ann Cleeves

The Writers Write Interview – Ann Cleeves

In this post, we share our interview with Ann Cleeves.

Ann Cleeves is a British author of crime fiction. She has written 30 novels in 30 years, and is the creator of detectives Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez. The Vera Stanhope novels have been dramatised as the TV detective series Vera, and the Jimmy Perez novels as the series Shetland.

In 2006, Ann Cleeves won the Duncan Lawrie Dagger for her novel Raven Black, the first book in the Shetland series. She has been short listed for a CWA Dagger Awards – once for her short story ‘The Plater’, and twice for the Dagger in the Library award, which is awarded for an author’s entire body of work. On 26 October 2017, she was presented with the Diamond Dagger of the Crime Writers’ Association, the highest honour in British crime writing.

Ann Cleeves was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by the University of Sunderland. Follow Ann on Twitter: @AnnCleeves

The Writers Write Interview With Ann Cleeves

The Author: Ann Cleeves
Date: 5 December 2020
Place: North Tyneside, United Kingdom
Date of birth: 24 October 1954
The Book: The Darkest Evening (9th Book in the Vera Stanhope series)

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleves

1.   Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

Can I have two? The first is obvious. Atticus Finch, Harper Lee’s character in To Kill A Mockingbird. He’s the lawyer who represents an African American man charged with rape in a small southern town in the US. The second is more anti-hero than hero. I love Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb, grotesque spy, of dreadful habits, who still manages to support the failed people who work for him.

2.   What is your most treasured possession?

A traditional Fair Isle chair made by my friend Eve Eunson. It reminds me of the island where I met my husband, where I first experienced Shetland, and where I made some wonderful friends.

3.   Which living person do you most dislike?

Well, I’ve never met him, but I despise Donald Trump’s greed, his inability to see beyond his own desires, and what he’s done to a great nation.

4.   What is your greatest fear?

I’m not scared of very much but I dislike small, dark places. And rats. So being trapped in a cellar with rats wouldn’t be much fun.

5.   Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?

My husband, Tim. He died nearly exactly three years ago but we had more than forty years together, two great daughters and some wonderful adventures.

6.   What is your greatest regret?

I don’t have any regrets. I think looking back is pointless.

7.   If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?

Harriet Vane from the Lord Peter Wimsey books. Apparently, he was a very considerate lover. And very rich.

8.   Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier. I read it in French at school and loved it and have since read it many times in English. In translation it’s called The Lost Domain. The plot hardly holds together, but I’m enchanted by it, and somehow, I’m still looking for the hidden party and the great love at the heart of the story.

9.   What is your favourite journey?

The overnight ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland. There’s nothing better than waking up as the ship is approaching the islands.

10. What is your favourite quotation?

‘Only connect.’ from ‘Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.’ ~ E.M. Forster, Howards End

11.  What do you prefer, Dogs or Cats? 


12. What do you most value in a friend?

Honesty and the ability to make me laugh out loud.

13.  What quality do you most admire in a woman?

The same as the previous answer.

14.  Which book that  you’ve written is your favourite? Why?

That’s really tricky. The book that changed my career was Raven Black, the first of the Shetland books. But the most recent book I’ve written is always the one I feel closest to.

15. What are your favourite names?

I love my grandchildren, so let’s go for them: Ella, Ben, Isla, Oliver, Arthur, and Joseph.

16.  What do you do as a hobby?

I walk. Every day, whatever the weather, I go out and smell the sea.

17.  What are your top three books? 

This is almost impossible too.  Let’s go for the books I’ve enjoyed most during lockdown.

  1. The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway
  2. Summerwater by Sarah Moss
  3. The Survivors by Jane Harper

18.  Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?

By listening to other people. That’s what I’ve missed most during the pandemic: the overheard conversations in trains or restaurants. Places often trigger ideas for books too.

19. What is your writing routine?

I write best early in the morning. I lose concentration later in the day. So, I wake up at about 5.30 and go back to bed with a mug of tea. That’s a period of relaxation and preparation. Then I sit at my kitchen table and write, while drinking lots more tea. I write like a reader, without any planning. I have to write the next scene to know where the story is going.

20. What are your Top Five (or 10) Writing Tips?

  1. Don’t write for the market. You won’t enjoy it, the readers will be able to tell you’re not really engaged, and anyway the trend in publishing will have changed before the book is ready to go out into the world.
  2. Read a lot.
  3. Finish the book before you start editing and polishing. It’s very tempting to tweak material already written, but much better to get the framework in place first.

Interview: via email

Source for photograph: David Hirst

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Posted on: 18th December 2020