Published on 23 May 2018
Ann Cleeves is speaking as part of the University of Sunderland’s Public Lecture Series. Her talk, ‘From Page to Screen’ takes place at the Murray Library Lecture Theatre, next Thursday (31 May) from 6.30pm.
Vera is now filming a new series in the region, with four self-contained crime stories inspired by the best-selling novels and characters created by acclaimed crime writer Ann Cleeves, who received the Diamond Dagger Award at the Crime Writer’s Association in 2017 for a lifetime achievement for sustained excellence.
Vera is now a staple of Sunday night TV, and seen as a great advert for our region, but for it’s creator at least, the drama’s success came as a surprise.
“We started filming in 2009, and at the time we thought we'd be lucky if one series developed from the pilot,” says Ann. “I was lucky that the executives agreed to film where the books are set. I don't do any writing for the dramas - scriptwriting is a very different skill - but I love meeting the writers and sharing my love of the North East and suggesting locations for possible story-lines.
“The same production company makes both Vera and Shetland series (the BBC drama based on Ann’s Shetland-based books and starring Douglas Henshall) and I think that shows in the quality of the cinematography and direction.”
The fourth episode of the upcoming series of Vera, entitled The Seagull, has been adapted from Ann’s latest book of the same title – but the Vera now depicted on screen is not perhaps what she first imagined.
“Brenda Blethyn is magnificent as Vera. She might not be as large or as ugly as the character in the book, but Brenda understands her completely. She worked with director Mike Leigh and his way of developing character through improvisation means that she knows everything about the woman. Dougie Henshall might not look like my Jimmy Perez, who in the books has dark eyes and hair and Spanish ancestry, but he's captured the character beautifully. I've been very fortunate.
“Now I certainly hear Brenda's voice in my head when I write dialogue, and I know readers see her too.”
But despite the phenomenal success of her creations on TV, Ann says she feels no pressure to stick to what she may see on the small screen.
“I'm delighted that Vera is bringing work to the area and showing the beauty of the region off to the world, but I don't feel pressure.
“I feel pressure to make my books as good as they can be, but the TV isn't my responsibility, so I can't worry about it.”
Ann Cleeves’s talk, ‘From Page to Screen’, takes place at 6.30pm on Thursday 31 May, at the University of Sunderland’s Murray Library. Tickets are free, but limited numbers remain. For details go to www.sunderland.ac.uk/events.
The Public Lecture Series takes place over the next few weeks. Speakers include:
31 May – Ann Cleeves – From Page to Screen
7 June – Lee Hall – the creator of Billy Elliot will discuss writing for stage, radio and the big screen
14 June – Gary Filder – Our Place in the Universe
3 July – Lord David Puttnam – Shaping the Value of a Post-Brexit World