“WILL ye have a cup of tea. Ah, Go On! Go on go on go on.”

If you’re going to offer author Lissa Evans a brew, you’d be hard pressed not to throw in a Father Ted catchphrase. Lissa worked as a producer on the iconic series before becoming a full-time author.

As Mrs Doyle famously said: “It doesn’t matter what day it is, Father. There is always time for a nice cup of tea!”

Lissa says Yorkshire Tea is her biggest vice: “I drink gallons of it. I lived in Newcastle for a long time, so my heart is still in the north.”

She’s heading up north next week to be interviewed by Nick Ahad for Ilkley Literature Festival. “I adore Yorkshire. I have such happy memories getting out of medical school and driving to Rievaulx Abbey and I love Whitby and the Dales,” she says.

Lissa studied medicine in Newcastle before working as a doctor, then gave it all up to work in light entertainment. She saw an ad for a radio producer and thought, ‘I’ll have a shot at that.’

“I was always interested in comedy and writing, I read masses and I’d always written stories in the school magazine. When I gave up medicine, I wasn’t qualified for anything else, but what I had done was performing and writing comedy.”

What followed was five years as a producer at BBC Radio, then a move to TV where her credits as a producer and director include Room 101, Have I Got News For You and Father Ted. “I saw the script of Father Ted before it was made, and was instantly the biggest fan. They were the best scripts I’d ever seen; they made me cry with laughter. The producer of the first series went onto the BBC and asked me to take over. It was the best job in the world handed to me on my lap.”

The scripts were so good, she was filled with angst to try and make sure the show lived up to them. “I can’t tell you how rare that is. Normally you get a script and no matter how good it is, you think ‘how can I make this better?’ But these were so good, the worry was can we actually put this inspired lunacy on the screen? They were enormously complicated, and done very quickly. We were always up against transmission, so we were rehearsing one episode while editing the other one. There isn’t half a page of a Father Ted script where you haven’t got three stunts, or a bishop flying through a window, they were like military operations. Really hard work, but fantastic.”

She believes we’ll still be guffawing at the show in 100 years’ time, comparing it to the joy Fawlty Towers still delivers. “It’s extraordinary, there are so many jokes in Ted, the casting was perfect, everything just came together.”

Making Have I Got News For You was significantly less stress: “I was only ever director, which is basically making sure the cameras are in the right direction. I had no editorial input.”

Lissa found producing radio a useful skill for life as a novelist. “You only have words, so it’s the best possible training for seeing how a story works, by taking a page and making it the best page you possibly can.”

Her novel Their Finest Hour and a Half was filmed in 2016 as Their Finest, starring Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy. Her latest novel is the warm and witty V for Victory. “It’s the third of three books that are linked. Crooked Heart is set in the beginning of World War Two, then I wrote the prequel set in the Twenties called Old Baggage, and this is the sequel, set at the end of the war. It’s a natural place for a set of books to end on VE Day. It has got an optimistic, uplifting ending. When I’m writing a book, I like to have hope in it.”

It sounds perfect Sunday night viewing. “There are so many hurdles to getting something made in TV. All my books are currently optioned, and they’re all stuck at some stage. You just get philosophical about it, but yes, I’d love the trilogy to go on TV.”

* Lissa Evans is at King’s Hall, Ilkley, on Sunday, October 17 at 12.30pm. Visit ilkleyliteraturefestival.org.uk

Ann Chadwick