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: http://www.booksbythebeach.co.uk/2017festival/cleeves/ 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 (https://goo.gl/b8eYW1). 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 ideas 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!
Could 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: www.anncleeves.com and I’m on twitter @anncleeves