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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nickie's Ten Questions to Ann Cleeves

Has anyone seen the British ITV series 'Vera'? It's a detective story based on the books of Ann Cleeves. I asked her a couple of questions a month or so ago.

1) Did you know you woud be an author when you were just a kid?

 I knew I wanted to tell stories. It never occurred to me that I might earn a living from it. And it's still a wonderful surprise to me when I see one of my novels in a bookshop or library.

 2) Your father was a teacher. Were you a pupil in his class?

 Yes, he taught me for two years. It was a tiny primary school in the country - there were only 30 pupils in the whole school. He loved telling stories too!

 3) Have any of your daughters inherited her mother’s talent for writing?

 Not for writing fiction. One of my daughters is a midwife and the other is an academic. She writes very good research papers...

 4) When did you start your first novel (published or not) , and what drove you to it?

 I started my first novel when we were living on the very small tidal island of Hilbre. It's a nature reserve in the Dee Estuary to the north west of England. My husband was the warden there and we were the only residents. There was no mains water or electricity and when I was pregnant with my first child there was nothing much else to do. It took several years for me to finish it and I was so proud when I did. And even more proud when it was accepted for publication.

 5) Being a member of various (would-be) writer’s forums, I know how many find it difficult to get their work published. How did it go in your case?

 I went to the library to see which company published the sort of book that I'd written and then I sent a letter to three of them. All answered and the third one I tried accepted me! That was in the late eighties. It's much more difficult now.

 6) How was that first work received by the public?

 It got a couple of good reviews and sold enough copies to encourage my publisher to take my next book, but I certainly wasn't an overnight hit. I'm pleased about that now. It meant that I could improve my writing in relative obscurity.

 7) You surely get enough reader’s letters. What do they tell or ask you most?

 Most recently they've asked about the ending to BLUE LIGHTNING. This is the fourth novel in my Shetland quartet. The ending is quite dramatic and some people have been upset by it. I take that as a compliment - it means that readers have become involved in the characters.

 8) Suppose a critic is tearing down your latest effort in the national press. How would you react?

 I'm sure I'd be upset. A book is very personal so it feels as if someone is criticizing one of your children in public. But often it's possible to learn from a review, so I do read them.

 9) What kind of research do you use for your plots?

 I spend a lot of time in Shetland researching the books set there. I have a good friend who is a CSI. She teaches now on the policing course of a local university, so she's brilliant about crime scenes or forensic details.

 10) And lastly (because I also love a good malt whisky): what is your favourite one?

 Bruichladdich. It's an Islay malt. We have close friends who live right next door to the distillery. They make very good gin too.

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