Interviewer: E.E. Kennedy
1. ) SS: So nice to meet you, Veronica. I cannot wait to dive into my first Heley mystery! Your slogan, "Believable ordinary women faced with extraordinary situations" is very intriguing. Tell us about your "ordinary women."
VH: My books are about ordinary women facing difficult circumstances. There are two series in which both protagonists are of a certain age and with complications in their family lives. Though both were new widows when their series began, they are very different from one another. Ellie Quicke is a housewife in the suburbs who doubts her own abilities and wishes she were taller and could lose weight. She has inherited money and has set up a trust fund to distribute it while trying to beat off her ambitious, money-grabbing daughter Diana. Bea Abbot, on the other hand, is a businesswoman who runs a domestic agency in much sought after Kensington, while quietly sidelining the advice of her hard-working Member of Parliament son, who always thinks he knows best – but doesn’t. Both women tend to collect lame ducks, who may or may not turn out to be swans! Both try to live as Christians in a secular world.
2. SS: What kind of "extraordinary situations" have you put your characters in? Can you give us a few examples?
VH: The Ellie Quicke series was created to take Christianity into the world of crime, without going into sex or swearing. After Ellie had been going strong for a while, my editor said that most series peter out five or six stories, so could I think up another heroine on which to base my stories? So that’s how Bea Abbot came into being. But, Ellie is still going strong – her 17th book comes out this year, and I’m working on Bea’s 11th. These women live in the world and have dealt with some of the worst that can happen. The crimes for Ellie are slightly different; more family orientated, but including child abuse, drugs, deluded pastors, rape and greed. Because Bea lives in a more expensive neighbourhood, the crimes are often dealing with international companies, with fraud on a big scale, and wealthy family disputes. Both series have multi-cultural personnel but these are different in Ealing from those in Kensington because that is how it is in reality.
3. SS: Most writers love to read. You said on your website that you enjoy reading "anything and everything." Have you a favorite genre? A favorite author?
VH: I go back to some authors again and again. Tolkien, for instance, and Terry Pratchett for humour and fantasy. I re-read Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky and all the best of the American crime writers such as Laurence Block. I love Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri and some, though not all of the Scandinavians. I’ve recently discovered Kerry Greenwood’s Australian series about Phryne Fisher – though I do deplore the amount of space she gives to sex! What next? Anything which leaves me feeling better when I’ve finished . . . and nothing too depressing.
4. SS: You're located in the UK. What, if any, striking differences between US and UK fiction have you noticed?
VH: The biggest difference is that we don’t expect gun ownership to be part of everyday life. And next, we look more than you do towards Europe for holidays and culture.
5. SS: You're very prolific! Sixty-eight books! How long have you been writing? When did you start?
VH: I’ve always made up stories in my head, even as a young child. I thought everyone did this, right up to my mid-twenties! But I had to go out and earn my living, and then get married and produce a child before I could take a deep breath and give myself some time to learn my craft and see if I could make it as a writer. And, fortunately, I got published within the two years I had set myself as a target. That was in 1971!
6. SS: We have an expression in the States; perhaps you know it, too: an author is an Outliner or a Pantser (that is, plotting by the "seat of the pants.") Which one might you be?
VH: I imagine the plot as a sort of rainbow or arc before I start. I have to work out what the characters are like, what the crime is, how it has been committed, and who dunnit before I start. But I don’t make a chart, chapter by chapter because once the characters come to life, they may decide to surprise me by what they want to do next. So I suppose I am a bit of both.
7. SS: People always ask: are your characters based on people you know?
VH: I don’t base characters on people I know, but I might observe someone in a cafe or on a train and think . . . that’s interesting . . . why is that man wearing pink shoes? (It turned out he was Polish. But still . . . what would make a man buy pink shoes!) And then I might think up a reason for it, and that’s what starts the imagination working. On the other hand, I thought I’d imagined Ellie’s dreadful bully of a daughter, Diana, but my readers tell me she’s very much alive and living all over the world.
8. SS: People also always ask: where do you get your ideas?
VH: Ideas come. Or not. It’s nothing to do with me. God gave me a brain which produces stories. The hard work comes when I have to put them down on the computer. Now that is hard work!
9. SS: How does your Christian faith influence your stories?
VH: My faith is integral to the stories. I started writing crime in the genre of the 70s but didn’t find it that rewarding. Then I moved onto historicals where I could bring in some Christian thinking. That was rewarding. Then I spent fourteen years writing children’s Christian stories . . . and finally got round to crime again, but this time with a Christian background.
10. SS: Please tell us about your latest release.
VH: My latest release is FALSE WALL, which is a Bea Abbot story. When the high brick wall between her and her neighbours collapses, a human skeleton is unearthed in the next door garden belonging to her fiancé. Before they can find out who owned the house previously, Bea and Leon fall victim to an elaborately-laid trap. With her home, livelihood and domestic agency under threat, it seems Bea is the subject of a meticulously-planned vendetta. But why? And why is Leon becoming so distant?
FALSE WALL is published by Severn House, available through Amazon. Booklist have said; ‘An intriguing plot, a tough-minded heroine, and a satisfying ending make this an entertaining read.’