Bird lover that I am, I've read and enjoyed books in her George and Molly Palmer-Jones series. Another series has one of my all-time favorite characters, Vera Stanhope. (I've given huge hints that I'd like to have the DVD of the television series they've based on the series.) I have one of Cleeves' Stephen Ramsay mysteries winking at me from my to-be-read shelves, and of course I love her Shetland Island Quartet. Ann has a way of blending story, landscape, atmosphere, and character in a way that few can match.
|Ann Cleeves in Shetland|
Don't worry-- I won't keep you waiting any longer. Here's the interview!
What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?
There was a sympathetic librarian in the small town where I lived and she'd save copies of Blyton for me. I still remember the thrill as she pulled out the book from her desk. Her name was Mrs Gregory. Fifty years ago and I still remember it!
I soon realised that while Blyton told a very pacy story there were better writers out there and I moved on, but the need to build suspense stayed with me.
Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?
Although both my daughters went away to university they both married local lads and moved home, so we stuff together as a family - walks on the beach, big Sunday lunches. I love cooking (and eating), catching up with friends in the pub, and I spend a lot of time in Shetland for pleasure as well as for research. And of course I read!
If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)
|Bamburgh Beach, Northumberland|
[If someone gave me a choice between visiting London and visiting Northumberland, I'd choose Northumberland every time!]
You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?
[Many of you may remember her in the film Notting Hill.]
Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?
Richard Thornhill. He appears in Andrew Taylor's Lydmouth books. These are set in the Forest of Dean in the fifties. They conjure up post-war austerity, restraint and a particular English snobbishness. And they're very well written.
Name one book that you've read that you wish you had written. What is it about that book that made it come to mind?
The Little Drummer Girl. It's not as well known as the George Smiley books, but it's so tender and the plot hangs together beautifully.
How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published? What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore?
Seeing books on the shelves is always a thrill. I usually turn them to face outwards, so they're more easily visible. My daughters were trained to do that too from a very young age....
I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?
I met a reading group on the island of Whalsay after the first Shetland novel was published. That was a very sparky session because Sandy Wilson, my side-kick detective comes from there. As is often the way in traditional crime fiction, Sandy can be a bit stupid, and the Whalsay folk took that personally. We get on very well now though. I wrote a book called Red Bones, set on Whalsay and told from Sandy's point of view and the reading group were really helpful when I was researching it.
The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?
I haven't tried any of the eBooks, though I can see that they'd be brilliant for a long plane trip or going away on holiday. All my books are available in electronic form. I'm more worried about the pirating of downloaded material. That's theft and there's often little publishers can do to prevent it.
Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Ann. May your book sales do nothing but increase!