Ann grew up in the country, first in Herefordshire, then in North Devon. Her father was a village school teacher. After dropping out of university she took a number of temporary jobs - child care officer, women's refuge leader, bird observatory cook, auxiliary coastguard - before going back to college and training to be a probation officer. While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist.
Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person's not heavily into birds - and Ann isn't - there's not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing.
Ann's short film for Border TV, Catching Birds, won a Royal Television Society Award. She has twice been short listed for a CWA Dagger Award - once for her short story The Plater, and the following year for the Dagger in the Library award.
In 2006 Ann Cleeves was the first winner of the prestigious Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award of the Crime Writers' Association for Raven Black, the first volume of her Shetland Quartet. The Duncan Lawrie Dagger replaces the CWA's Gold Dagger award, and the winner receives £20,000, making it the world's largest award for crime fiction.
On 18th October 2012 at the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards, in the glittering surroundings of Grosvenor House, London, Ann Cleeves was admitted to the Crime Thriller Hall of Fame - alongside such all-time greats as Colin Dexter, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle!