The Silver Travel Book Club read for November 2019 is ‘Borderlands’ by LJ Ross. This is author Louise’s 14th crime thriller with DCI Ryan at the forefront of the hugely popular series, all set very firmly in the Newcastle and Northumberland area that is her home territory.
Silver Travel Advisor Literary Editor Andrew Morris followed in the footsteps of the author and her characters in Northumberland, to try and bring the story to life for readers and also to celebrate HF Holidays being the new Book Club sponsor. You can read about his literary road trip here.
Andrew also managed to track down author Louise Ross and she kindly answered some questions about ‘Borderlands’, Northumberland, DCI Ryan and her literary career.
‘Borderlands’ starts at the Otterburn Ranges and Camp. Did you have special access to the Camp, and did you observe a night-time live firing exercise on the Ranges?
I’ve visited Otterburn Ranges and Camp in the past, but have never observed a night time live firing exercise. I read widely around the topic and spoke to several friends of mine who are military or ex-military, to ensure my descriptions were authentic. Military terminology is almost as bad as legal and police terminology, in that there’s a lot of it! As a writer of fiction (and a former lawyer myself) it’s a constant challenge to distil the most important elements of very dense industries into a story in such a way that the content is still accessible to readers outside of those industries.
‘Borderlands’ is the 14th outing for DCI Ryan. Where did you find him….did someone inspire the character for you, or did he spring entirely from your writer’s imagination? How many adventures does he have left, do you think?
I suppose you’d say he sprang from my imagination but, as he developed, I wanted to flout certain tropes of the crime fiction genre. For starters, he’s managed to maintain a meaningful romantic relationship, as well as several other important interpersonal relationships which soften some of the harder content in my stories. I view him as an ‘aspirational’ character, a bit like an everyday superhero, whose moral compass is so strong and unyielding, a reader can always be sure he’ll do the ‘right’ thing in the end. As for his adventures, I always say I’ll write a story so long as it’s worth telling, but I have many more ideas for his storylines at the moment!
The story covers many towns and villages in north Northumberland, and Newcastle. How do you approach your research for each novel – do you go ‘on location‘, or do you know the county so well that you can conjure up detail from your memory?
A bit of both! I know the county very well, but as a point of research I tend to visit the areas I describe in my books as much as possible before writing them into the narrative. It’s amazing how inspirational the landscape can be.
The Duddo Stones play an important role in ‘Borderlands’. Did you know them before writing the novel?
Yes, I’ve visited the Stones before. Wherever possible, I like to shine a light on lesser-known parts of the area where I grew up, and readers often write in to tell me they’ve had a lovely day trip with their families exploring places they’d forgotten about.
You were a lawyer before being an author. What skills would you say you have been able to transfer from one career to another?
Work ethic, for one thing! I write very quickly, which is a hangover from when I’d be required to write 5,000-10,000 words every day. Having a baseline knowledge of police procedure and practice has also helped, although I often use a bit of artist’s licence there—detailing all the forms and every little check-box might be strictly correct, but it’s also deadly dull, so I prefer to be selective!
Where is your own favourite place in Northumberland?
Too many wonderful places to choose from, so I’ll say my garden is my favourite!
You’ve started writing a new series, with a new character – a psychological profiler, whose cases take him around the world. The first – ‘IMPOSTOR’ – is set in County Mayo, Ireland. Which other locations do you have planned for Dr. Alexander Gregory…and are they driven by the story, or perhaps by places you want to visit yourself?
Yes, there are various other locations planned for Doctor Gregory! The first, as you say, was Co. Mayo, the second ‘HYSTERIA’ will be in Paris, and the third, ‘BEDLAM’, will be in New York State. I’ve visited all three of these places in my life, and I follow the old adage that you should write what you know. I lived in Paris for a few months when I was younger, so I can picture those streets particularly well. As for future locations, they will most likely be taken from other places I’ve visited at one time or another!
Thank you so much, Louise, for giving such thoughtful and entertaining answers. Silver Travel Book Club members will really appreciate the insight you’ve given into the author of November’s book choice, and the Northumbrian landscape in which ‘Borderlands’ is so firmly set.
The Silver Travel Advisor Book Club’s new sponsor is HF Holidays. Their own Northumberland base is the charming Nether Grange Country House in the quiet harbour village of Alnmouth. From here, looking out across a golf course and the sea, there is easy access to the medieval town of Alnwick, the Farne Islands, Lindisfarne, magnificent Bamburgh Castle, the Northumberland National Park and much more. And with Nether Grange as your base, you can explore the countryside, relax or enjoy one of dozens of activity-based holidays in this atmospheric corner of the country.
Keeping to the literary theme, HF Holidays are introducing Book Club Weekends – you can immerse yourself in the world of the Brontës in the Yorkshire Dales, Jane Austen in the South Downs of Sussex, and Tales from the Farm & Country in the Lake District.