Friends, we can’t get enough of Ann Cleeves. The prolific mystery author of the Vera Stanhope and Shetland Island series is being awarded the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Diamond Dagger, which is the highest honor in British Crime Writing!
Did you also know that in 2016, Ann was appointed as a National Libraries Day ambassador, an annual celebration that highlights the importance of libraries and the vitally important public services they provide both to individuals and their communities? She also set up reading groups in prisons as part of the Inside Books project. Don’t forget the Vera TV series starring actress Brenda Blethyn is available through Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Acorn TV, too!
To celebrate the forthcoming publication of COLD EARTH (book #7 in the Shetland Island series, on sale 4/18), Ann has developed a murder mystery game for libraries and booksellers, based around a traditional Shetland Sunday tea!
The script is designed to be read by four actors, and directions on how to stage the event are also included. Plus, Minotaur Books will provide three Ann Cleeves Shetland series books to use as a prize when you host your murder mystery game!
Click here to download the murder mystery game PDF and email Martin Quinn for more information about book prizes.
Ann also answered some questions for us about COLD EARTH:
Please share some of your creative process. What research do you typically do for your Shetland books, and what research went into COLD EARTH? How was the creative process different with COLD EARTH than with the previous books?
My research certainly isn’t hard work! I visit the islands, sit in my friends’ kitchens, drink tea and gossip. I listen to their preoccupations. COLD EARTH started with the title, which is unusual for me. Often that’s the very last thing to arrive. This quartet is based around the elements: DEAD WATER, THIN AIR and now COLD EARTH. Earth made me think about the burial service: ‘Earth to earth, dust to dust.’ So, the story starts with a funeral. In 2003 there was a serious landslide that cut the island in two. More earth. It just missed a small croft house. I used that as a dramatic opening to the novel. It set the theme of secrets buried and uncovered.
Did COLD EARTH unfold as you imagined, or did it evolve and take twists and turns from your original thinking?
I never plot or plan in advance. I write in the same way as a reader reads–I write the first chapter because a conversation, an incident or a person sparks my interest and then I have to write the next chapter to find out what’s going to happen next. When I describe a murder scene I don’t know who the victim is–I certainly have no idea about the identity of the killer. After about 40,000 words I have a very vague idea about how the book might work out but all the detail comes in the writing.
What do you like best with how COLD EARTH turned out?
I like the fact that Jimmy Perez lets down his guard a bit and finds some moments of happiness.
Why do you think the series has been so incredibly popular? What do you see as the key to writing a good murder mystery?
I think the setting has much to do with the popularity of the series. Shetland is a very special place and there’s an interesting contrast between the bleak landscape and the warmth of the people and their homes. This is very traditional crime fiction, and while the landscape might seem Nordic or Scandinavian, there’s none of the extreme violence or cruelty that has been associated with Scandie Noir. I’m not interested in writing about monsters. The key to writing a good mystery? That’s so subjective, because all readers are different, but I think believable characters should be at the heart of the story.
Any chance you’ll continue with the Shetland series after the eighth book?
I have no plans to write more at the moment, but perhaps I should leave the eighth book with the possibility that Jimmy might return.
What elements will fans of the Shetland series find familiar in COLD EARTH and what elements will surprise them?
I think readers will find the setting very familiar. We’re back in Ravenswick and the story starts with the funeral of Magnus Tait, who appeared in RAVEN BLACK. Perhaps the tone of the book is a little darker. I hope, as always, that they’ll be surprised by the denouement. As a reader, I love the cheap thrill of a surprise ending and I hope to pass that treat on to the people reading my books.
Why did you choose Shetland as the setting for the original book? I understand you once cooked in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle. How did you end up at the observatory, and at what point did you decide Shetland would make a good setting for a murder mystery and why did you think that?
I first went to Shetland more than forty years ago, after dropping out of university. I needed to find work and a chance meeting in a pub in London took me to Fair Isle to be assistant cook in the bird observatory there. The warden must have been pretty desperate because I couldn’t cook and I knew nothing about birds, but I fell in love with the place almost immediately. It was much later that I decided to set a murder mystery in Shetland. I’d already been published for twenty years, when I went to the islands with my husband just for a day, to see a very rare bird. It was mid-winter, snowy and very clear and still and the ravens that live all over Shetland looked very black against the snow. I thought if there was blood as well, that would make a very striking image. That was the beginning of RAVEN BLACK.
The Shetland Island series:
#7: COLD EARTH (HC ISBN: 9781250107381, on sale 4/18/17)
#6: THIN AIR (HC ISBN: 9781250069948, TP ISBN: 9781250091079)
#5: DEAD WATER (HC ISBN: 9781250036605, TP ISBN: 9781250060952)
#4: BLUE LIGHTNING (TP ISBN: 9780312384449)
#3: RED BONES (TP ISBN: 9780312384432)
#2: WHITE NIGHTS (TP ISBN: 9780312384425)
#1: RAVEN BLACK (TP ISBN: 9780312359676)|
The Vera Stanhope series:
#8: THE SEAGULL (HC ISBN: 9781250124869, on sale 9/5/17)
#7: THE MOTH CATCHER (HC ISBN: 9781250105424, TP ISBN: 9781250144690)
#6: HARBOUR STREET (HC ISBN: 9781250070661, TP ISBN: 9781250104977)
#5: THE GLASS ROOM (HC ISBN: 9781250107367, TP ISBN: 9781250135728, both on sale 4/23/18)
#4: SILENT VOICES (HC ISBN: 9781250033581; TP ISBN: 9781250049810)
#3: HIDDEN DEPTHS (HC ISBN: 9781250107343, on sale 1/22/18)
#2: TELLING TALES (HC ISBN: 9781250122766, TP ISBN: 9781250122773, both on sale 8/22/17)
#1: THE CROW TRAP (HC ISBN: 9781250122735, TP ISBN: 9781250122742)
Note: We are re-publishing the Vera series backlist out of order, based on when we acquired the rights.