Since launching my Storied Charlotte blog in February of this year, I have become increasingly aware of the many Charlotte authors who once worked as reporters or editors for The Charlotte Observer. I have featured a number of these former Observer employees on my blog, including Tommy Tomlinson, Dannye Romine Powell, Patricia Cornwell, Jodie Jaffe, and Kathleen Purvis. With this week’s blog post, I am adding Sandy Hill to this list.
Hill moved to Charlotte in the 1960s, and she worked as an editor for the Observer for many years.She also, however, has written historical novels and cozy mysteries, including the just-released Shadow Dance. Like two of her other mysteries, Shadow Dance is set in Charlotte. I recently contacted Hill and asked her about how living in Charlotte has influenced her career as a novelist. Here is what she sent to me:
All but one of my novels are set in North Carolina. Tangled Threads is set in a mythical Tar Heel cotton mill village in the late 1890s. A visit to the exhibit “From Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers” at the Levine Museum of the New South piqued my interest, and I ended up writing the story of two girls who grew up in a mill village, one leaving and the other staying and how their lives intertwined. That called for a sequel, Kate & Delia, also set in a North Carolina mill village, about what happened later.
The Blue Car is a coming-of-age story set in the North Carolina foothills and deals with difficult choices and the courage to stand up for what is right. I wrote the opening sentence 20 years ago at a writing workshop in South Carolina.: “They came for her in a blue car.” That line stayed in my mind for years. Finally, I sat down with the opening line and let the novel unfold from there.
Three of my cozy mysteries are set in Charlotte: Deadline for Death, An Ice Day to Die, and Shadow Dance. All of them feature journalists. Deadline for Death, with my sleuth, Erin Markham, deals with murder at a fictional Charlotte newspaper. It gives a behind-the-scenes look at a big-city newsroom. An Ice Day to Die takes my intrepid newspaper editor Erin to an ice-skating competition in Charlotte. I’ve competed in skating competitions as an older adult and had one appearance in the chorus line of Ice Capades when it came to Charlotte some years ago. I drew on that background, plus more research for Ice Day to Die. Shadow Dance is set in Charlotte but has a visiting journalist, not Erin. It draws on my brief foray into ballroom dancing and includes rock climbing at Crowders Mountain.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about writing is talking to Charlotte book clubs about my novels and the process of writing. It’s interesting as a writer to see what readers think of your darlings. Readers who want to know more about me can visit my author page: amazon.com/author/sandyhillnovels.
By setting several of her mystery novels in Charlotte, Sandy Hill is not just writing about what she knows; she is also providing Charlotte readers with the added pleasure that comes from recognizing the places that figure in Hill’s Storied Charlotte.