A forensics book on blood splatter patterns might not be everyone’s idea of bedtime reading, but Lynda La Plante is not your average reader.
The creator of such landmark television series as Widows, Above Suspicion, Trial & Retribution and the incomparable Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect, La Plante, is all set for her debut at the Borders Book Festival next month, just days after her latest novel, Twisted, is published.
Born in Liverpool, the former actress has won numerous Baftas, an Emmy and various other accolades, and was made a CBE in 2008 for services to literature, drama and charity.
But for someone who spends much of her daily life immersed in the dark underside of society, she is remarkably bubbly and chatty on the phone when we talk – no hint that the often grim nature of her job, which has seen her carrying out research in morgues and brothels, ever gets to her.
“I focus on the victims of crime and the hunt for the perpetrators. I never try to get inside the heads of those who commit the crimes. That’s not the part that interests me,” La Plante explains.
“So the actual darkness in such characters doesn’t come close to me. It’s the hunt for the guy behind it that I like; unravelling the puzzle.”
La Plante did not want to discuss Twisted too much, for fear of giving anything away and spoiling it for her legion of fans.
What we do know that is that the story revolves round Marcus and Lena Fulford and their teenage daughter, Amy.
But when Amy vanishes after arranging a sleepover at a friend’s home, the family comes under constant police and press scrutiny.
Famous for her meticulous research, in 2013 La Plante became the first non-scientist to be awarded an honorary fellowship with the Forensic Science Society.
And earlier this year, she announced plans to return to her most famous character in the novel Tennison, a prequel to the Prime Suspect series.
She attends numerous book festivals and literary fairs and says meeting fans is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.
“I really do enjoy that. Meeting the people who buy and read my books and hearing what they think. That’s why I’m looking forward to coming to the Borders festival for the first time. Writing, afterall, is a pretty solitary pursuit.”
However, while it may be solitary, writing is also La Plante’s joy. “I love what I do and when you feel like that about writing, it fills you up.”
And she says she enjoys novel writing more than the creation of television scripts. “To me, the novel is the preferable part of writing. It involves no other voice but mine. With a television script, everyone from producers to assistant directors all chip in with why something should be different to the way you’ve written it.”
That lack of control over her small screen creations is a major reason why La Plante formed her own production company several years ago.
“Absolutely. It gives me a degree of increased control.”
Asked for the secret of her success, La Plante says she does not believe there is any secret to writing.
“Just write about something you are passionately interested in, otherwise you’ll get bored with the story 40 or 50 pages in and just shove it to one side. And keep it you yourself. Don’t show it to anyone else before it’s finished. It has to be your own voice.”
Other masters of the crime genre at the festival, include Chris Brookmyre, one of Britain’s most gifted, funny and hugely popular thriller writers, who returns with his new book, Flesh Wounds, to once again provide a riotously entertaining evening. Private investigator Jasmine Sharp and Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod are very different detectives and will ultimately confront the secrets that have entangled both of their fates.
○ Lynda La Plante is at the festival on Thursday, June 12, at 9.15pm. Tickets £10, £8 (c).
○ Chris Brookmyre will be at the book festival on Friday, 13th June 13 at 9.15pm.