Book Series Binge: Q&A with Ann Cleeves on Vera Stanhope Series
By Crime HQMarch 21, 2020
Describe the first time you pictured Vera in your head?
Ann Cleeves: Vera appeared suddenly, in one of those incredible moments that make writing such a joy. The Crow Trap was never intended as a traditional detective novel, which is why she doesn’t arrive until a good way in. I never plan my books in advance and I was stuck! I needed to move the story on but couldn’t see how. I was writing a funeral scene and followed Raymond Chandler’s advice to authors struggling with plot; to have a door burst open to see who comes through. As the service starts, the chapel door is flung open and in bursts Vera, looking more like a bag lady than a detective. I even had her name at that point. She hasn’t aged in real-time and I’ve loved writing about her ever since. This year, with the publication of The Darkest Evening, she’ll come of age because The Crow Trap came out twenty-one years ago.
Would you like to live in the setting you created for the Vera Stanhope series?
AC: I do live there! In fact I have a foot in both camps, in both regions of Northumberland where the books are set. My main house is on the coast, in the slightly scruffy seaside town of Whitley Bay, which features in The Seagull, the novel and the television episode of the same name. I also have a retreat in the hills, not very far from Hadrian’s Wall, in the Tyne Valley. This is the almost feudal Northumberland of big houses and tenant farmers, of moorland and forestry. It provides the background to The Darkest Evening.
Describe your main character in one sentence.
AC: Vera is a competent and compassionate woman who hates to be patronized and so refuses to patronize her colleagues.