Writing is very much a journey of exploration for bestselling author LJ Ross. Visiting the region following the release of High Force, she speaks to Gavin Engelbrecht

WRITING her bestselling DCI Ryan mystery series is very much an ongoing journey of exploration for author Louise Ross.

For researching her books gives her a chance to return her native North-East roots to rediscover where she grew up.

Louise, who writes under the name LJ Ross, has infused most of her gripping and grizzly stories with the spirit and characters of Northumberland.

But with her latest book High Force, which was released in January and reached number two on the Amazon Kindle UK bestsellers chart, she has ventured further south into County Durham.

And as she awaits the release of her sixth, and as yet unnamed book, she is musing on setting the next mystery in Durham.

The author, who famously knocked The Girl on the Train off the top spot when she turned down a traditional publishing deal to publish her debut novel Holy Island, spoke as she passed through the city on a visit to the region to promote High Force.

She says: “High Force is more relevant to this part of the world as some of the books have been set in Northumberland so far – Holy Island, Sycamore Gap, Heavenfield and Angel.

“As I go it’s a kind of a journey of exploration for me. I grew up more in Northumberland, but my stepfather grew up in one of the pit villages in County Durham.

“He has always said there is so much to explore around here. I know Durham well and I have always had it as a thread through my books. I am looking forward to exploring it a bit more. One of my character’s is a doctor of history at Durham University.”

She adds: “It’s been really wonderful, particularly with High Force, just to explore that region a bit more. We took a few days, my husband and I, taking some long walks over the Pennines and explored around High Force. High Force has a lot more action than I have written in many of my books, because it follows on from Angel, which had a cliff-hanger ending.

“One of my heroes was kidnapped by a known serial killer, so when it led into High Force there was already a sense of anticipation. It opens with Denise, who is a popular character, in the trunk of a car riding through the dales. The reader has no idea where she is and neither does she.”

Louise is not giving away any more. She says: “I’m lucky. Location scouting is no great ordeal. It’s where inspiration strikes really.”

Fans will be pleased to know her sixth book is due for release soon. It starts in the 1970s with explosion on a ship in Newcastle. Fast-forward to the present, to a Bavarian-style house on the side of a crag in the Northumberland National Park, with a range of characters of different ages.

She says: “There are a number of characters. It can be connected in so many ways. It is very much of the old school and creating that claustrophobic atmosphere. It has pace, but a different style. There is a creeping sense of danger. You know someone around you is a killer but you don’t know who.”

She adds: “One of the great things about being an independent writer is you don’t have to submit to publishing schedules. I’m very lucky my readers are always eager for the next book. They one they don’t have to wait two years. I usually don’t have cliffhangers. I like readers to have a sense of resolution at end of books, otherwise they are left feeling short-changed.”

Louise’s main player is DCI Ryan, but many people say his sergeant is their favourite character. “The sergeant is based on my grandfather, who is much more fatherly in his outlook. He is a real Geordie gentlemen, with a lot of banter and a great sense of humour. He is very much down-to-earth.”

Louise, from Dissington, near Ponteland, attended Dame Allan’s School and Central High School before moving to complete her undergraduate and masters degrees in law at King’s College, London. She spend most of her twenties as a regulatory lawyer before writing the “book I wanted to read myself”.

She says: “I didn’t pay much attention to what was trending at the time. I am extremely fortunate that for whatever reason it struck a chord with people. It was released in January 2015 and by May was number one in the Kindle charts.”

n An Evening with LJ Ross will be at Darlington’s Crown Street Library from 7pm tonight. Tickets £5. To book a place call into Darlington Library or call 01325-462034.