WRITE ON IN HASTINGS: Candy Denman
HIP’s PETE DONOHUE investigates author Candy Denman and finds out why her crime novels are set in Hastings
For most of her working life, Candy Denman has managed to juggle two careers, as a nurse and as a writer of television programmes such as The Bill and Heartbeat. Now retired from the NHS, she has taken up writing crime novels.
‘There’s no doubt that nursing has helped me with my writing, by providing stories and characters at both the best and worst times of their lives, but I’m not sure that being a writer helped my nursing skills!’ she told HIP.
Candy now writes the Dr Jocasta Hughes crime series, set in Hastings, a town she has known and loved since her childhood. Having visited with her sisters, she went on to bring her own family to the town and for many years had a holiday home here. She would have loved to live in Hastings full time but work always made that difficult. Having a second home here did give her a great place to come away and write, however, and the town must therefore be credited with helping her career in television as well as giving her such a great setting for her novels. Candy still visits regularly, for research as well as pleasure, and still dreams of being able to retire to the Old Town, if she could just convince her children and grandchildren to move down here too.
Candy often plans her novels with the help of her husband Bob, and the idea for the first of the Dr Jocasta Hughes series was thrashed out whilst eating in Porters wine bar, a place that features in her novels, along with The Stag, as a place for her heroine, local GP and forensic physician Jo, to meet with her friend and side-kick Kate, a solicitor.
‘I’ve always been a crime fiction fan, but since writing Heartbeat which often featured medical storylines as well as crime, I’d wanted to do something similar in my books. The Jo Hughes series gave me the chance to do that and each novel has both medical and crime stories.’
Aside from her love of the Old Town and the surrounding countryside, Candy chose Hastings as the location for her novels rather than Hertfordshire where she lives, for more practical reasons.
‘For a series of novels to work, the setting is very important. If the books are not to become too similar, the writer needs a wide variety of communities in which to base the stories. Hastings has the Old Town with an established artistic community and it is a working fishing port too. Then there are some areas of rundown housing to contrast with the leafier parts of St Leonards and, like many seaside towns, it has a heroin problem. To cap it all, Hastings is set in really wonderful countryside. What more could a crime writer want?’
With two novels in the series already published by Crime Scene Books and a third due to join them next year, Candy plans to keep the series going for as long as possible. She has already mapped out a further three books which gives her a great excuse to keep visiting the town for extended research trips.
• Candy Denman titles include: Dead Pretty (Pub, 2017) Body Heat (pub. 2018) # You too (to be pub. 2019)
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