Today, we are introducing one of our two NEW members – Hannah Dennison. Several of us have known her for quite a while, so it’s a treat to have her join us.
Welcome to The Writers in Residence, Hannah!
Q: We know you live on the other side of the world from most of us, so tell us just where DO you live now. What’s your house like? And what’s the weather like there right now?
HANNAH: “I live in a tiny hamlet called East Leigh which is about three miles from the ancient market town of Totnes I’ve included a link here in case anyone is interested. It’s such a beautiful part of the UK. I feel very fortunate and of course, I am close to my family here too. I live in a small barn conversion on what would have been a working farm fifty years ago. As I type this – the sun is shining and it’s cold. We’ve had torrential rain however and many of the fields are still water-logged which reminds me, my Wellies are leaking.”
Q: From your website/blog bio we learn you were born in a little village called Old Basing in Hampshire, England. Its claim to fame was the siege of Old Basing House during the “very bloody” English Civil War.
HANNAH: “Yes. as children, my sister and I used to play among the ruins and in the secret tunnels. I dreamed of musketeers and knights in shining armor and I’m quite sure it was there that I first discovered a passion for telling stories. My mother said I told fibs but I just liked to embellish my version of events because they seemed more interesting.”
Q: Ah, fibs and embellishments – the makings of a good fiction writing! Okay, let’s get personal. What is your favorite chocolate! You do like chocolate, right?
HANNAH: “Not like, LOVE. Slabs of Bourneville and tubes of Smarties – those are my favorites.”
Q: What about coffee? Fave brew or style?
HANNAH: “I have a Keurig machine with k-cups. I’m a dark French Roast fan.”
Q: We know you have a daughter, is she a writer too?
HANNAH: “She’s not a writer but she’s got a very sharp eye and often proofs my newsletters. Sarah is a buyer for house and homeware and before Covid-19, traveled all over the world. I’m very proud of her.”
Q: Vizslas? What are these, and tell us about yours? Pets or Protection?
HANNAH: “Ah … the Hungarian Vizslas. Vizlsa, is the Hungarian word for ‘pointer.’ They make excellent alarm dogs but they are also very affectionate and are nicknamed “Velcro Dogs.” They must be touching you at all times which can often be a challenge when you want to take a shower.
Q: They are beautiful! Writers love to read, so who are your favorite fiction authors?
HANNAH: “So many! It depends on my mood. Barbara Pym, Agatha Christie (of course), Dodie Smith, Carolyn Hart, Jilly Cooper, Barbara Erskine, Jane Austen, the Brontës, Dennis Lehane, Frederick Forsythe, Ken Follett., Samantha Ford. You did ask.
Q: Yes, I did. Great choices! If you could travel to any place around the world right now, where would it be?
HANNAH: “Africa. 100%. In another lifetime I worked for Coca-Cola Africa on the company jet (I was a flight attendant). I traveled all over the continent. It was magical.”
Q: Do you still teach UCLA Workshops? If someone wanted to attend or apply, what would they do?
HANNAH: “I do but I won’t be teaching until next Fall since I am feverishly writing the tenth Honeychurch book. Here is the link for the amazing workshops on offer. https://www.uclaextension.edu/writers-studio I know I would never have been published had I not taken classes there myself.”
Q: Have you ever considered writing a book on ‘how to write a mystery’? I know many would love to buy it.
HANNAH: “Well … it’s funny you should say that because I have thought about it. I’ve also thought about creating online writing workshops too. I think it’s finding the mental space to do it – life seems to get in the way of all my best intentions!”
Q: Besides a mystery writer with three cozy series published, you’ve had a LOT of amazing jobs and interests. Here are a few. WOW!
- A disastrous stint in the British Royal Navy
- Avid supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
- Cub reporter at a local weekly newspaper
- Secretary to a Formula One World Champion
- A job with a French antique dealer
- Flight attendant for private jet charters where you met Steven Spielberg
- A job with various film studios, reading scripts
- A job with an advertising agency in Los Angeles
- Teacher of a mystery-writing Workshop at the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program
HANNAH: “Well … I think I stumbled into each one with no clear plan in mind at the time. The Navy was so embarrassing. I desperately wanted to travel and back in those days, Wrens (as they were called) didn’t go to sea. If I’d stuck it out, I might have been an Admiral by now – ha ha. Looking back, it all SOUNDS exciting but I was always in a state of panic. I was/am a single mum and so much of it was trying to make ends meet and survive. Little did I know that all these experiences would serve me perfectly as a mystery writer (or fictional murderess!)”
And serve you they did! The VICKY HILL MYSTERIES (6 books) are where you started.
Q: What should we know about Vicky?
HANNAH: “I love Vicky Hill. Of course, she is based on my experiences as an obituary writer for the local paper. Just like Vicky I was desperate for a front-page scoop … ANYTHING other than covering funerals and weddings. I was able to live out that fantasy on the page. It was also fun to incorporate some of the crazy British customs and traditions. Snail racing? Who knew!”
Q: What “family secret” does she have?
HANNAH: “Vicky’s parents are on the run. Her father is a famous silver thief known as The Fog. I must point out that neither of my parents ever broke the law (at least, if they did, I never knew).”
I love this aspect about her story. They don’t appear in most of the series, but I recently read TRAPPED, the Christmas Novelette from 2021, and was excited to meet them again!
Q: Is Gipping-on-Plym a real village? And if not, how did you come up with that name?
HANNAH: “Ah … what’s in a name. I agonized over that for weeks. I found the River Plym and then googled quirky place names in England and hey presto! Gipping-on-Plym was born.
Q: Who are the protagonists in your ISLAND SISTERS MYSTERIES? (2 books)
HANNAH: “The sisters are both in their mid-to-late thirties. Evie Mead, an amateur photographer, has just been widowed so her sister Margot Chandler, races to be by her side. Margot is a Hollywood producer and at the beginning of the series, she lives in Los Angeles (I know, I know … sound familiar?) They are both starting new chapters in their lives. Starting over seems to be a theme in many of my books.
Q: How did you come to set the series on this little island?
HANNAH: ”My sister Lesley introduced me to her friend Gill Knight who had worked as the HR manager on a tiny island called Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago twenty-eight miles off the southwest tip of the Cornish coast. Gill said that those who came to work on the island were either hiding or running away from something or someone. I couldn’t think of a better place to set a mystery!”
Q: Wow, he really handed you that a perfect plot point! Will there be a third in the series?
HANNAH: “I am hoping there will be. I can’t leave the sisters hanging … Watch this space, as they say.”
Q: The HONEYCHURCH HALL MYSTERIES (9 books). What inspired you to begin this series?
HANNAH: “My mother. Basically, when my dad passed away, Mum impulsively (and secretly) bought the wing of a country house. She was 72 at the time and my sister and I were horrified! The expense! The practicality of it all – it was on three floors, the roof was leaking, it was miles from anywhere but she was happy. It was her dream house. I’ve also always been interested in old buildings so this gave me an opportunity to highlight the fading glory of grand old country houses and the struggles to keep them afloat.
Q: Who are the two protagonists?
HANNAH: “Kat Stanford is the daughter (not based on me I may add, but my very practical daughter), and Iris who is definitely based on my mother – although Mum doesn’t write bodice-ripper romance books. I have to thank Rhys Bowen for that suggestion and it’s one that’s worked really well. The series also explores the intricacies of mother-daughter relationships.
Q: Very cool! And finally, I hear there is a sweet white donkey named Hannah who has a cameo in your new Christmas book, A KILLER CHRISTMAS. Do you want to tell us how that came about?
HANNAH: “Oh dearest little Hannah the donkey. My best friend sponsored Hannah for my Christmas gift last year. I loved watching Hannah on the webcam – it was my daily reward after I’d done my wordcount. Poor Hannah died a few weeks ago – so sad. Her best friend Drizzle was bereft so of course I now have Drizzle. Here is the link to The Donkey Sanctuary if you feel the urge to take a peek.
Readers can purchase A KILLER CHRISTMAS AT HONEYCHURCH HALL as an e-book from Amazon right now. Amazon Buy Link
Or they can order a PRINT copy from BLACKWELLS BOOKSTORE UK. Shipping is free. (I ordered a copy and it came within a week.)
Hannah, we feel so fortunate to have you as a part of The Writers In Residence. And we will be waiting eagerly for your first post on January 18th, 2023.
Q: Do you have a closing thought for our readers?
HANNAH: “I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that if you say, “Yes” to whatever life has to offer, no matter how daunting, the most extraordinary things really can and do happen. After all, they happened to me.”
Readers: if you have anything else you are dying to ask Hannah, put it in the comments below. (If you don’t see “Reply” click once on the title, “Welcome Hannah Dennison” and it should come up.)