Author Ann Cleeves reveals the inspiration behind her new book in the Vera Stanhope series


Author Ann Cleeves reveals the inspiration behind her new book in the Vera Stanhope series

Not a lot of people know this, but I’m very good at… baking scones. When I was cooking in Fair Isle Bird Observatory, I made two dozen every day, so it’s second nature. 

My best friend is… Sue, who lives in North Devon. We’ve been friends since I started secondary school. We lost touch a bit when our families were young and we lived at opposite ends of the country, but we’re as close as ever now. 

The bravest thing I’ve ever done is… drop out of university. 

My favourite TV show is… Inspector Montalbano, based on the novels of Andrea Camilleri, one of my favourite crime writers. It’s perfect escape: Sicily, sun, sea, wine and food. And a very humane detective. 

My perfect evening is… a meal with friends. 

My first kiss was… with a boy called Donald. He was called, of course, Ducks. I was about 12. I didn’t think much of it. 

The best thing my parents taught me was… that contentment is more important than money or status. 

My biggest regret is… I don’t think I have any regrets. I’ve made loads of mistakes, but that’s just about living. I’ve taken up most opportunities that have come my way. 

I’d like to say sorry to… my mother. She had a tough time and sometimes we had a scratchy relationship. I should have been more patient. 

The one thing I’d change about myself is… my bossiness. 

The last time I cried was… in my local Morrison’s just after lockdown. It was a very scary time and the staff hadn’t yet got protection, but they were so helpful and cheerful to everyone that I got quite emotional. 

The first record I ever bought was… James Taylor’s You’ve Got A Friend. 

It’s not good for my image, but I like… writing in my pyjamas. 

My greatest weakness is… Doddington cheese. 

If I could pass any law… it would be to give care workers proper training and a decent wage. I worked in an old people’s home when I was younger and I volunteered in a day centre for adults with a learning disability. It’s incredibly hard work and very much undervalued. 

I drive… a five-year-old VW Golf. 

The most expensive thing I’ve splashed out on is… a cottage in the hills. I always despised people with second homes, but I love having a place to run away to and can’t imagine being without it now. So hypocritical. 

The shop I can’t walk past is… I can happily walk past any shop. I hate shopping. 

My perfect Sunday is… a long walk and a home-cooked dinner with friends. 

My favourite place in Britain is… Tarset, Northumberland. It was the inspiration for the new Vera book, The Darkest Evening, and it’s especially beautiful in the winter when there’s snow on the hills and the trees in Kielder Forest are covered in frost. 

My last holiday was… The Seychelles. My husband died before Christmas [in 2017] and we couldn’t face the next Christmas without him, so the whole family took off to the sun. We spent all his life insurance on the trip. He would have loved that. 

I’m currently reading… Lin Anderson’s Time For The Dead. 

The best day of my life was… Impossible to pick just one. I was married for 40 years and my husband and I had so many adventures. We were very, very lucky. 

If I had half an hour left on Earth, I’d… spend it with my family. I hope we’d laugh a lot. 

The Darkest Evening (Macmillan, £18.99), the ninth in the DCI Vera Stanhope series, is out on Thursday. See Express Bookshop on page 69. 

Published at Sat, 29 Aug 2020 23:01:00 +0000


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