RIGHT now, her legion of fans have just one question. What happens to Samantha? You can almost hear the subtext of their reviews of The Moor, LJ Ross’s latest, bestselling Northumbie Noir – ‘for the love of god, when do we find out’. The 12th in the DCI Ryan series was ‘devoured in one sitting’, said one, ‘unputdownable’, everyone else agreed. Even the one discordant reviewer concurred in her own way: ‘I don’t like cliffhangers and wished I had waited for the next book before reading this one.’

So, breaths are well and truly baited at the end of the investigation into whether ten-year-old Samantha’s mother had run away from their travelling circus eight years previously, or whether the then toddler’s flashbacks of watching her mother being strangled was the reality.

I fear for readers’ sanities – a vat full of Valium is going to be required – when they discover the 13th Ryan book might not necessarily be next in the litany of literary enterprises Louise Ross has lined up. For the ideas are coming so thick and fast that, as she puts it, “I have to choose a running order; if one story is pressing on me more than the others, then I have to go with that one”.

And three stories are currently demanding her attention, two of them the bases of entirely new series altogether. Psychological profiler Alex Gregory is one of the new characters to end up with his own run of books.

“I often find it easier to write male characters, because you can put so much of yourself into a character that it helps to differentiate between them and you – it ensures you’re not just writing about yourself," says Ross.

This series will be very "Hitchcocky", more psychological thriller than whodunnit crime, she says. “It was inspired by real events in so far as there was a move by the Home Office in the 1990s to set up a profiling unit in the UK that would rival the FBI, but it didn’t really pan out. What if there was a clinical psychologist who had been part of that unit who went freelance and then worked wherever the job took him? He could equally go to a small village in Ireland or to New York, depending on which police force needed his particular skills at the time.”

The titles will be Hitchcockian too – Hysteria, Bedlam and, for the first book, Imposter. “I hope to have that one out in October,” says the doyenne of Kindle Direct Publishing.

And then there’s the first book in what will be a series of standalone crime fictions that could be equally set in Cumbria or Cornwall. The ‘romantic suspenses’, as she calls them, will each have a different female character at heart.

The beauty of being a self-publisher is that you’re not restricted by anything other than time, or the lack of it in Ross’s case. “I think I live on borrowed time, there’s so much I want to fit in,” she says.

Tucked away in her study in her stunning Victorian house, but a hop and skip from Hadrian's Wall, she can write what she wants, when she wants. “I speak to a lot of people who worry ‘should I be writing this now?’ But if you’re not answerable to a commissioning editor, you don’t need to worry about what’s on trend," she explains.

The four million books Ross has sold on Amazon are all the reassurance she needs that she's right on track. The Moor shot straight to the top of the bestsellers list on publication in May, the ninth of her 12 books to have done so. She has knocked some real heavyweights off the top spot, including The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and the thriller she published this time last year, Seven Bridges, did a bit of a do-si-do with the re-release of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

“I really can’t think of anyone other than the late, great Stephen Hawking I’d rather tussle for the top spot with,” she says. “He’s probably the only person I can genuinely say I was happy to see knock Seven Bridges into second place for a while.”

So what about DCI Ryan’s next outing then? Well, the book already has a title and the bones of a plot. Penshaw will turn the clock back to the 1970s and ‘80s and the turmoil of pit closures and miners’ strikes.

“It was my dad who suggested Penshaw (monument) as a motif," says Ross. "I’d already seen it and thought ‘how can I craft a novel around it’, but my dad is from County Durham and an old mining village, and that was the start. He was a child in the 1950s and could remember when the local pit was still working. He’s very knowledgeable about local history and talking to him about it is always inspiring.”

While she calls her dad Jim her ‘spotter’, her husband James and young son Ethan are very much her comrades-in-arms. Indeed, the ‘J’ in LJ Ross is James’s initial, inserted in recognition and with heartfelt thanks for his unstinting support.

“When we go for days out, we see things that are ultimately fed into my books,” she says. “When I was researching Northumberland’s amazing International Dark Skies Park status, for example, we went on a ‘bear hunt’ through Kielder Forest, with Ethan on James’s shoulders for much of it. Ethan really enjoyed helping.”

Her family’s encouragement and support has been key to her success today and, in the spirit of wanting to put something back and to help nurture others, she has founded the Lindisfarne Prize for Debut Crime Fiction. Four newcomers were shortlisted for this year’s inaugural prize, which brings with it £2,500 in cash, free editing and mentoring from Cheshire Cat Books and a year’s membership of the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

“I’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the response we have had to the very first Lindisfarne Prize,” says Ross. “The talent on display is phenomenal and it’s been amazing to see how each author who entered has been so inspired by the landscape and people of the North-East. Narrowing down such a fantastic pool of work was tough, but we really did feel we had found crime writers of the future with our shortlist.”

The prize, which is open to unpublished new authors who are either from or whose work celebrates the region, takes its name from her own debut novel, Holy Island. In May, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle made the presentation to the first winner, Cressida Downing. Louise hopes to see Cressida’s synopsis for The Roll Bearer’s Daughter turned into a fully-fledged book some day soon.

“This prize is about giving budding authors a bit of a nudge to get on and achieve their goal,” she says. “Sometimes that’s all people need, a bit of encouragement and support.”