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INTERVIEW: Ann Cleeves

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


Today I welcome Ann Cleeves, author of Raven Black, to the blog.

Are you a daydreamer too?
Not so much a daydreamer as an observer. I love watching people and finding new places that might become a part of the book.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I've always wanted to write, which is a little bit different. It never occurred to me that I might get published, and I was astonished when my first book was accepted for publication.

Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, what do you like to do?
I was born in Herefordshire, a rural county in the rural Midlands, but we moved to North Devon when I was still a child. My father was a village school teacher. I live on the North East coast now, in Vera-land. I love this part of the country, the big skies and empty landscape.

How did you get the first flash of inspiration for this book?

Are we talking Raven Black? I first went to Shetland more than forty years ago. I'd dropped out of university and quite by chance was offered a job as assistant cook in the bird observatory in Fair Isle, the most remote Shetland island. The book came much later, though. My husband was a passionate birdwatcher and we went to Shetland to see a rare bird. It was mid-winter, dark and it had snowed. Then the sun came up and it was a beautiful still clear day. There were ravens, very black against the snow. Because I'm a crime writer, I thought, if there were blood as well, the scene would look almost mythic.

How extensively do you plan your novels?
Not at all.

Do you ever use dreams as a source of inspiration?
No, I don't usually remember dreams.

Did you make any astonishing serendipitous discoveries while writing this book?

Where do you write, and when?
I write early in the morning at the kitchen table.

What is your favourite part of writing?
I like the very first ideas and sketching them out, but I enjoy editing my own work too, once I have the structure in place, trying to make the language sing.

What do you do when you get blocked?

Go for long walks. Long train journeys are very good too.

How do you keep your well of inspiration full?
Inspiration is easy. Turning the inspiration into 100,000 words that people might want to read is the tricky bit.

What is your advice for someone dreaming of being a writer too?
Read a lot. Eavesdrop. Get to the end of the book before you start re-writing and tweaking.

What are you working on now?
A new series. I'm not quite ready to talk about it!

You can read my review of Raven Black here.

Ann and Kate will be appearing at the Bendigo Writers Festival in 2018.

BOOK REVIEW: Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

Friday, June 29, 2018


The Blurb (From Goodreads):

Winner of Britain’s coveted Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award, Ann Cleeves introduces a dazzling new suspense series to mystery readers.

Raven Black begins on New Year’s Eve with a lonely outcast named Magnus Tait, who stays home waiting for visitors who never come. But the next morning the body of a murdered teenage girl is discovered nearby, and suspicion falls on Magnus. Inspector Jimmy Perez enters an investigative maze that leads deeper into the past of the Shetland Islands than anyone wants to go.

My Thoughts:

I am a big fan of the British crime dramas, ‘Vera’ and ‘Shetland’, both of which are inspired by the work of writer Ann Cleeves, and yet I had never read one of her books. Being in the mood for an atmospheric murder mystery, I grabbed a copy of Raven Black at the airport.

The story begins with two drunken teenage girls knocking on the door of a lonely old man at midnight on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve. The following day one of the girls is found dead, within sight of the old man’s house. The tightly knit community of the island of Shetland remembers another girl who went missing many years before, also within sight of Magnus Tait’s house. Suspicions flare and tensions mount. Inspector Jimmy Perez – who despite his name comes from a long line of Shetland islanders – begins to investigate the girl’s death and uncovers long buried secrets that change his understanding of everything to do with the murder.

I remembered the TV show inspired by this book vividly, and so I knew right from the beginning who the murderer was. Discovering the culprit is not the only pleasure in reading a tightly plotted murder mystery, though. The bare, brooding atmosphere of the Shetland islands, the sharply drawn characters, the masterly laying of clues and red herrings, and a warm and sympathetic protagonist in Jimmy Perez all contributed to a very enjoyable few hours of reading. I’ll be reading more by Ann Cleeves.

For another great crime read, this one set in Australia, check out me review of And Fire Came Down by Emma Viskic.

You can read my interview with Ann Cleeves here.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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