Naming of Parts
I dream sometimes of going on retreat. Not for religious reasons but for the time and the space to write. The room would be white-washed and simple and there would be a narrow bed and starched white sheets. A window looking out over countryside sufficiently bland not to be distracting. A desk and an A4 notebook and a supply of black bic biros. Would I write any more in those ideal conditions? I suspect probably not. My inspiration comes in flashes, chatting to friends in the pub or in a busy train. But after a hectic couple of weeks promoting RED BONES, I like the idea of the small cell-like room, not needing to perform or to be pleasant to strangers.
Ann Cleeves with Sheryl, the co-owner of the Chorleywood Bookshop; photographed by Morag Watkins
Of course this is churlish and rude. The strangers have made the effort to be pleasant to me and often they buy books. For years I have longed for my publishers to take my novels seriously and the dream of most of my writing colleagues would be an all expenses paid book tour. The time on the road in Scotland was great fun. I enjoyed sitting in the car listening to Peter James, Brian McGilloway and John Neild the Pan Macmillan rep swapping smutty stories and tales about research; I liked meeting readers and the booksellers who set up events and signings for us.
In Shetland I caught up with lots of old friends and made some new ones, especially Kirsteen Cameron and David Robinson. Kirsteen has commissioned a new Perez short story for Radio 4 and will produce the adaptation of RAVEN BLACK for radio too. She’s the most widely read and most enthusiastic advocate for books of all genres I’ve ever met. David, the books editor of The Scotsman is gentle, a selfless interviewer.
During my few days in London I met Foz Allen and Imogen Cooper who will be involved in pushing forward the project to turn the Shetland Quartet into a television drama. Morag Watkins was once a terrific library manager; now she’s a great independent bookseller and the event she organised for me in Chorleywood was as warm and welcoming as she is herself. And I found time to meet my old friend Martin Edwards for afternoon tea and gossip before we set off for the Detection Club dinner. There is nothing like tea and gossip to refresh the soul.
The fourth book in the Shetland Quartet is nearly finished, but it lacks a title. In my head it was always called HOMECOMING BLUES, but apparently that’s not sufficiently dramatic for the booksellers. It doesn’t shout crime. So I need your help. The book is set in autumn, when the storms of the equinox batter the islands. I’d like it to contain a colour – any colour except red, black and white, which I’ve used already. Perez takes his fiancée Fran back to Fair Isle to meet his parents. In a field centre in a converted lighthouse, there’s a murder, and stranded by the weather, Perez has to investigate it alone. Please email your suggestions to ann at anncleeves dot com. The winner will get a bottle of champagne, a signed copy and an invitation to the launch. If more than one person thinks of the title we use, the first person to suggest it is the winner.