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Meet the Author: Lynda La Plante CBE

Written by · Published Jun 27, 2017

Lynda La Plante

Lynda La Plante. Image © Darren Bell

Lynda La Plante is an English author, screenwriter and former actress. She is perhaps best known as the writer and creator of the Prime Suspect television crime series.

Formerly an actor, Lynda broke through as a writer in 1983 when she created and wrote the six-part robbery series Widows for Thames Television. Her debut novel was published in 1987, and in 1991 Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren as DCI Jane Tennison, first appeared on screens. It has won multiple BAFTAs, Emmy Awards and Golden Globe Awards and in 2007 was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 Best Shows of All Time.

Lynda was made a CBE in 2008 for services to Literature, Drama and Charity. She is a member of The Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame and is the only lay person to be made a fellow of The Forensic Science Society. Her latest book, Good Friday, is due in August.

1. Who were your literary influences as you were growing up?

Predominantly Shakespeare and the classic playwrights, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov. In the classroom we read the Brontës, and my favourite of the Brontë Sisters was Anne. I also loved reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

2. Before your career as a writer you appeared as an actress in some of the most iconic British TV series, Z-Cars, The Sweeney and The Professionals amongst others. What are your memories of that time?

My clearest memories from when I was acting in the TV dramas was that they were such fun! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think, perhaps because I never had the deep-seated desire to be a famous actress, somehow I think of those times as being very light-hearted.

3. When you wrote Prime Suspect in 1991 there were not many strong female police characters in crime dramas. Now they are commonplace. Do you think Jane Tennison helped pave the way for some of the characters that followed?

I do believe that Jane Tennison paved the way for many of the strong female police characters that we have in crime dramas today. Often what is not fully acknowledged is that Tennison was in her early 40s and was of the right age and experience to be a DCI.

4. Your new book Good Friday takes Jane Tennison back to the 1970s and the IRA bombing campaign. Writers often say they have to know every detail of their characters. Did you always have a backstory in mind for her?

I had never really considered writing about a young Jane Tennison, but the character was already in her 40s when she was first seen on the screen. The success of the first book, Tennison, has given me an incredible incentive to continue her journey and follow her through the ranks in various different squads. It is wonderful to see her character develop.

5. Listening to you speak at the recent showcase it struck me that potentially you have a great story to tell in an autobiography! Are there any plans?

I have often been asked to write an autobiography, and perhaps one day I will. But at the moment I am fully occupied writing my novels!

6. Do you have a message for your many readers in Suffolk Libraries?

Yes – go straight to Row L of the thriller/fiction section, or it might even by under the crime section…!

Above all I must congratulate Suffolk Libraries, and all their members, for their dedication and warmth in promoting the reading of books.

7. You have been interviewed many times. Can you tell us one thing that your readers might not know about you?

I need to find a successful deterrent for the herons that continually haunt (and hunt) my fish pond!

I have a life-size replica of a heron which, rather than prevents them, appears to encourage a mating call. I have had water spray machines that are supposed to jet them with water if they come close – unfortunately the jet spray was only successful in soaking me, and never worked. I now have a triple layer of netting over my pond to protect the beautiful koi, but they still manage to poke their vicious beaks through the holes.

Brandon King

I work in the Suffolk Libraries Stock Team