Read about how Ann Cleeves conceived of her famous character, Vera Stanhope, and then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win Season 1 of the hit series Vera on DVD!
Vera Stanhope arrived fully formed into a book that was never planned to include a detective. The Crow Trap was meant to be a stand-alone novel about three women conducting an environmental survey in the Northumberland National Park, but somehow, Vera forced her way in, demanding to be recognized. I loved her from the minute she arrived, looking more like a bag lady than a senior police officer. I loved her independence and the fact that she didn’t care at all what she looked like. I knew immediately that I’d want to write about her again.
Later, I tried to unpick Vera’s origins. I was born in the mid-fifties, and growing up in rural England, I met formidable spinsters who might well have been the model for Vera. They were strong women who’d either lost sweethearts during the war or had been allowed to take responsibilities that would never have been allowed to them before the conflict. They worked as hospital matrons or teachers; they were librarians or taught Sunday school. Like Vera, they knew they were competent; they didn’t need a man to tell them so; and they didn’t need smart clothes to give them confidence.
Brenda Blethyn has become my Vera on television, and I’m delighted that she agreed to take on the role. How many writers have a double-Oscar nominee speaking their words? Brenda might be more elegant than my Vera, but she inhabits the character absolutely, understanding her background. The compassion and the refusal to be patronized or to patronize comes directly from the books. When the production team comes north to Northumberland to film, it feels as if I’m being reunited with a group of old friends. 2016 marks my 30th year of publication. I still enjoy every minute and feel that I’m the luckiest writer in the world.
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Ann Cleeves was the Malice Domestic Honored International Visitor in 2015. In 2016, she was a Left Coast Crime International Guest of Honor. Ann is reader-in-residence for the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and was twice shortlisted for the Dagger Award before winning the first Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award for Raven Black. Vera, the television show based on the Vera Stanhope series, is available on Netflix. Ann Cleeves lives in England.