26th January 2020
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PODCAST: Writer Cleeves is debut participant iTunes RSS

Her name may be synonymous with the Shetland series of crime books, but writer Ann Cleeves’ connection with the isles began in the mid-1970s.

A chance meeting led to her taking up the position of assistant cook at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory.

She arrived on the isle and needed a lie down after a bumpy ride on the Good Shepherd. But after “coming round” she fell in love with the place.

That was 1975 and Ann returned the following year reinforcing the relationship she had with the isles and their inhabitants. Of course, she has since returned many times and these days counts many good friends in the isles.

Today you can hear Ann regale some of the stories from her time on Fair Isle – including memories of crofter “Low Willie” and the drams he used to offer visitors, whatever the time of day.

She is the debut participant in The Shetland Times Podcast and has been talking to interviewer Thor Holt, originally from Papa Stour, about her remarkable book-writing career.

It is a success story that has seen her publish 30 novels in 30 years and she is currently working on what she says will be the final book in the crime series that propelled her to fame.

Ann tells Thor: “It was really the Shetland books that changed my career and made it possible for me to give up the day job.

“The first book… Raven Black was really a career changer for me. I’ll always be very grateful to Shetland for that.”

The isles have long provided inspiration for Ann.

She says the “contrast” she finds here makes them the perfect location for the unforgivable deeds that have been committed in her novels.

“There’s a lovely contrast between the bare open landscape. You can see for miles, can’t you? Big sky, no trees, and things that are hidden, so secrets that may be hidden.

“And also the warmth of the domestic setting you have this bleak beautiful landscape then you go into a crofthouse your sitting by the fire and you’re chatting and there’s that wonderful warmth and friendship you get inside the houses. That’s a lovely contrast too.”

Next episode: Fiddler Kevin Henderson.

Ann Cleeves speaks about her love of Shetland and how the isles inspire her books.

Ann Cleeves’ most recent novel, Cold Earth.