Monthly Archives: January 2017

Author Interview: Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves, writer, on August 19, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. For more information about using this image contact Micha Theiner: T: +44 (0) 7525 627 491 E: http:///

Ann Cleeves, writer, on August 19, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.
For more information about using this image contact Micha Theiner:
T: +44 (0) 7525 627 491

I am enormously excited to welcome the renown crime writer, Ann Cleeves, to my blog. More so, because I will also soon have the opportunity to hear her speak in my home town Scarborough, North Yorkshire. She is coming here on the 10th February 2017. For more details: or ring 01723 370 541 for tickets.

Ann Cleeves is an award-winning crime writer, best known for the VERA and SHETLAND series, both of which have been adapted for television.  She has been published for thirty years and Cold Earth is her most recent novel (  She has been translated into nearly 30 languages and has sold 2.5 million books in the UK alone. 

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the edits of the new Vera book, The Seagull, which will be published next September.  At the same time, I’m thinking about starting a new book set in Shetland.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
The Seagull is set in Whitley Bay, on the coast close to Newcastle.  It was triggered by a conversation with a former shipyard worker in a pub close to my home.  He was talking about working the shipyard night shift and some of the things that went on there.  Those activities don’t make their way into the book, but the conversation helped me to develop one of the characters.

 How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
A lot of my fiction is inspired by overheard conversations.  I can’t imagine how I’d come up with cold-earthideas if I didn’t use public transport.  But then imagination takes over and the work is completely fictitious.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
This is very difficult, because I never analyse my work but I’ll give it a go.

  • Creating a character is a bit like acting.  You have to get inside the person’s skin and see the world through their eyes.
  • It’s the small detail that brings a character or a scene to life – a pair of shoes, a loved object.  See the person in your head before you start writing, then be very specific.
  • Don’t forget to use all the senses in description. Smell is particularly powerful in evoking memory.
  • Plot in a way that suits you.  Not every writer works in the same way.
  • Read lots.  That’s how you’ll know what works as a good narrative for you.

 How would you describe your writing process?
Organic!  I never plot in advance.  I write like a reader – when I begin a book I have no idea about the story or any of the characters.  I have to continue writing to find out what’s going to happen. 

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
I write best in the early morning.  Long train journeys help the ideas flow and so do long walks.  Social media gets in the way.  I love twitter – it’s like a strange overheard conversation – but it is very distracting.

 What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
I have good friends who are very useful – Prof James Grieves is a forensic pathologist who appears as himself in the Shetland books, Prof Lorna Dawson is a forensic soil scientist who has been the expert witness in many high-profile cases, and Helen Pepper is a former senior Crime Scene Manager.  They’re very helpful!

the-moth-catcher-pb-jacketCould you say something about your route to publishing?
I was very lucky and my first book was an unsolicited manuscript picked from the slush pile.  Then it took twenty years of being published before I had any commercial success.

 How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
I have a website: and I’m on twitter @anncleeves


#1 A Photograph

Writers can take inspiration from anywhere. Look at a photograph and imagine you are inside the image: write about what you can see, smell, taste, feel, hear. Then imagine you are something (not a person) within the photograph and write from that point of view using the first person ‘I’. As that ‘I’ what are you: feeling inside; thinking; hoping for; scared of; frustrated by? Take no more than 20 minutes to do this. Then see if you can distill down what you have written to five lines.

Here is a photograph. If you want, you can post your five lines to me via a comments box. I’ll be happy to hear from you.




7 prompts for writers – introduction

daffsMarch16We all have out different reasons for starting to write and then developing ourselves into writers. I’ve always said to students and workshop participants, a writer is someone who writes. They don’t just talk about it, dream about it, intend to do it, they do it, and through the doing they become. Writing is not something that happens ‘in theory’. I still believe this. Writers write. But perhaps there could be other elements to being a writer? Writers seek to develop their writing. Writers read. Writers get together with other writers to learn from each other. Writers are interested in the reader. Maybe these all interweave in one way or another to create a writer.

What’s for sure is that all writers find their own process. I tend to write to discover: something about myself; about my characters; about my plot. I’m not a great planner. I like to set off and see where the narrative will lead. I also write regularly. This is something I encourage others to do. I have a writing journal and I write in it almost every day. This is not a diary – someone reading it (though, in reality, it is not for anyone else to read) would get a very strange idea of what my life is like – however, I may write about things that I have done, found or been inspired by. My journal is a place for me to flex my writing muscles, keep them toned. Some of what goes in there may get crafted into a piece I will share with an audience, but not all.

I don’t know whether it is because of my writing journal, but I never lack for ideas. I am always cherviotsvery surprised when I meet a writer who says they run short of ideas of what to write about. I had always thought within the definition of being a writer, is the capacity to generate ideas. I certainly don’t have a problem. My block comes when I begin to imagine the audience, this can paralyse me with shame and feelings of ‘not being good enough’. We all have our own boulders to trip over.

The idea of this new seven-part thread on my blog is to encourage writers to find their own ways of generating ideas.

Tip #1: get a writing journal – a notebook, preferably without lines – which is only used for your creative writing. And start jotting in it, every day or every other day, for ten minutes.
You’ll be surprised how it builds up.

What do you think defines a writer? Any tips for generating ideas?


sunrise-2017I’m not a great one for new year. The enforced jollity and the commercialism doesn’t help, but also it doesn’t appear to fit with my own internal calendar. I am still in hibernation, occasionally poking my nose out of my burrow to gaze at the world with trepidation.

However, I know it is no bad thing to have a moment to take stock (see previous blog post) and have some tentative thoughts about the months to come. Since the beginning of this century, I can’t say my resolutions have changed much:

  • Be kind to others and to myself;
  • Cherish those around me who I find nourishing and let go of those who I don’t;
  • Walk and take inspiration from the natural world;
  • Be aware of, and involved in, what’s going on around me and in the world, without becoming overwhelmed by what I cannot change;
  • Be nurturing to my writing and indulge my creativity.

I have less specific objectives for my writing than usual. I am in the middle of the Curtis Brown three-month novel writing course and I going to see where that leads me. I would like to find an agent and a traditional publisher for my fiction. So I am trying my best to put myself in the way of this possibility. I know I will always write, whether and how I might put my writing before an audience is currently less defined than it has been previously.

I have in mind charting this year through weekly collages. I know I enjoy the process of collage, it is something which eases my mind, so is part of indulging my creativity.

Have you any resolutions for 2017 for your writing? Do you find them useful?