Monday, November 30, 2009
Getting the Scoop from Hannah Dennison
Rhys: Today I’m delighted to welcome my good friend and fellow Brit Hannah Dennison to JRW. Hannah is the author of the Vicky Hill Mysteries featuring an obituary reporter desperate for a front-page scoop. Hannah began her writing career doing just that—writing obits for the local newspaper deep in the English countryside. Eager to live a more “adventurous life”, she spent a decade working as a flight attendant on private jets before moving to Los Angeles as a single mother with her daughter and two cats. After several years as a story analyst in the entertainment industry, Hannah switched to long form narrative and enrolled in the UCLA Writer’s Program. Her third book, Expose! (Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin USA), is out this month.
Rhys:: It's great fun to have a fellow Brit on Jungle Red. Tell me how you came to wind up in California like me.
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 16 years now but it was the one place in the entire world, I never wanted to be. One Friday night, after a particularly brutal week—I lost my job, my home and also ended an unsatisfactory relationship (revenge to come in a future book)—I was drowning my sorrows with a bottle of red wine and wondering who I could call at midnight to share my pain. It just so happened that during a recent vacation to Disneyland, I’d been casually introduced to a certain Melissa in HR (who was later fired, but hopefully not because of me), at New Line Cinema who had gaily said, “You should come and work for us!” Fortified by wine and remembering it was 4 pm in Los Angeles, I did a “drink and dial.” Recalling our conversation in the cold light of day I realized I’d agreed to take a receptionist position in Hollywood and start “On Monday.” To cut a long story short, I emigrated 3 weeks later, miraculously armed with a J1 Trainee visa (I still have no idea how I qualified) and ultimately got my green card thanks to my knowledge of Pitman Shorthand—a defunct form of speedwriting.
Rhys: So you've made the choice to live in California and yet your books are set in a charming English village. Is this nostalgia for the old country or do you just think murders are more fun in England?
It’s a mixture of both. I’ve never lived in a city. I’m a country girl at heart (which is why Los Angeles is such a strange place for me). I grew up in a small village where the shenanigans of country living make Hollywood celebrity scandals dull in comparison. For the Vicky Hill mysteries it was a case of “write what you know” but it also gave me the chance to exploit the eccentricities of my fellow countrymen. Everyone knows the British are mad as hatters so perhaps that’s why I can get away with unusual backdrops and quirky murder scenarios.
Me: We met Vicky Hill, budding journalist stuck in the obituaries but looking for a big break in Scoop! Now she has a new adventure out this month. Can you tell us about it?
Vicky fantasizes about being the next Christiane Amanpour of CNN fame but she’s more like Lucy Ricardo. Her adventures have found her dealing with hedge jumping in A VICKY HILL EXCLUSIVE!—no, it is not an Olympic sport—and hedgelaying in SCOOP! Feel free to google the National Hedgelaying Society for more information. In EXPOSE! Vicky is determined to solve the mystery surrounding a dead local celebrity during snail racing season—my friend’s ancestors lost their entire family fortune on snail racing in the late nineteenth century.
Rhys: So what's next for Hannah Dennison and Vicky Hill?
I am currently writing THIEVES!, the fourth Vicky Hill which features Morris dancing. Hopefully the series will continue since poor Vicky’s worst nightmare is dying a virgin. It would be such a tragedy if she were to end her life, literally, on the shelf.
I’m also working on an idea for another series that is set in the world of executive flying—writing what I know!
Rhys: What do you miss most about England? For me it's that sense of continuity, that feeling that everything has been there for ages and will continue in the same way. The pubs. Sitting outside with a Pimms on summer evenings--oh, now I'm getting too nostalgic. Over to you.
Top of my list is the English countryside, walking in the woods, tramping through muddy fields and visiting Stately Homes—as you say, it’s that sense of continuity. I listen to a tape of English songbirds when I write—which confuses my cat. I still subscribe to Country Life and Devon Life. I absolutely adore our Queen. However, I definitely don’t miss the weather.
But, America has been very good to me. I got published—and I met and married my soul-mate. I’d never have imagined in a million years that I’d be happy here. My mum was right when she said you just never know what’s around the corner.
Rhys: Expose will be in stores this week. Makes a great stocking stuffer, hint hint.