Yet, despite near-arctic conditions, the Dartington Morris Men came out for their traditional Boxing Day performance—albeit scantily clad in thin white shirts and pants, sporting bell pads and waving their sticks and hankies about. Accompanied by tabor, fiddle and accordion, they soon got warm.
I was excited to chat to a few dancers since Morris Dancing features quite strongly in Thieves! the fourth adventure in the Vicky Hill Mysteries. For those unfamiliar with the activity, Morris Dancing has been around since the sixteenth century. It’s a form of folk dance and is extremely popular in rural England boasting over 800 teams, or “sides.”
I always introduce something distinctly British in my stories. My series is set in the county of Devon in Southwest England and chronicles the adventures of aspiring investigative reporter, Vicky Hill. Based on my own experiences as a rookie reporter (I used to write the obituary column), Vicky and I have much in common apart from the fact that her parents are criminals wanted by Interpol. Mine, thankfully, are not.
I’m often asked how I come up with ideas for my Vicky Hill mysteries. I suspect it is because my characters tend to be somewhat quirky and the situations they find themselves in, often bizarre.
As most writers will tell you, truth is most definitely stranger than fiction.
Take the little-known sport of hedge jumping, which first appears in A Vicky Hill Exclusive!
The idea began when I overheard a couple in a pub arguing furiously over “Charlie’s ridiculous habit.” It transpired that Charlie held an unusual, obsessive fascination for our beautiful British hedgerows. Rather than simply admiring them—or even taking up topiary as a hobby—he preferred to throw himself over the top, preferably using one the high jump techniques he learned in school.
Then, the thought occurred to me—why not make hedge jumping a competitive sport? And so the Olympic dream for these feisty farmers in the fictional town of Gipping-on-Plym began. From that moment on, I decided to hunt for unusual sports to provide a colorful backdrop for my murder plots. There’s plenty to choose from—snail racing, swamp soccer, bog snorkeling, to name just a few—though I’m still weighing up the pros and cons of introducing the naked Luge.
Finding quirky characters is a piece of cake. With forty-five first cousins on my mother’s side of the family alone (she was the youngest of eight), I was recently thrilled to discover an entire branch of the tree were founding members of the very first Hells Angels chapter in London’s East End. There is also the rarely discussed Romany side too—gypsies with the psychic gift of “the sight,” so of course, I felt compelled to put a few of them into Thieves!
As for creating the small market town where Vicky Hill lives, my mother loves to send me local newspapers with titles like The Totnes Times, Yeovil Clarion and the Truro Packet. I particularly enjoy the Lost and Found sections in the classifieds—like this one:
“Among £50,000 worth of items left behind at Travel Lodges last year included: A blow-up sheep, a prosthetic leg, a monk’s habit, a selection of whips, a gas stove, an inflatable sumo wrestler’s outfit and eight posters of Jonathan Ross.”
There’s a mystery to be told. Right there.
About the author ~
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Email Hannah ~ hannah AT hannahdennison DOT com
Her latest book ~
When the body of a woman is found in a shallow stream, aspiring investigative journalist Vicky Hill suspects there's a connection between the murder and the strong of recent silver thefts plaguing the small town of Gipping-on-Plym. And since both her boss and the local police refuse to investigate, Vicky takes on the case by herself-and she's determined to uncover the answers and clinch her fourth national exclusive!
Click HERE to read an excerpt
Other books in the Vicky Hill series ~
Thanks to Penguin, I have two (2) copies of Thieves! (A Vicky Hill Exclusive!) to give away.
GIVEAWAY Rules for entering:
* This contest is open to residents of USAonly
* Please complete the form below - do not leave information in the comments - it will not count.
* The contest will end on January 24th at 11:59PM EST; 2 winners will be selected and contacted thereafter.
* Once the winners are contacted, they will have 48 hours to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen (make sure to check your spam filters!).
* Book will be shipped directly from Penguin.