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Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Meissen Porcelain Chinese Nodder
Connie Berry was born in Wisconsin to second-generation immigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles. She loves antiques, cold weather, off-season foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. Connie lives in Ohio with her husband, a champion left-side-of-the-road driver, and her completely adorable Shih Tzu, Millie. Learn more about Connie and her books at her website. 

The Chinese Nodder
"Write what you know" is a well-known cliché in the writing community, but the saying can be excellent advice, especially for new authors. "Three or four families in a country village is the very thing to work on," Jane Austen famously advised her teenage niece Anna in 1814. That's the world Jane lived in and wrote about—her characters drawn from her perceptions of the people she actually knew.

When I planned the world of my mystery series, I began with what I knew as well. Like my protagonist, Kate Hamilton, I grew up in the world of fine antiques. My parents, like hers, were avid collectors who eventually opened a shop, not because they wanted to sell antiques, but because they needed a plausible excuse to keep buying them. Family vacations were thinly disguised buying trips. One particularly successful trip to the east coast ended with boxes filling not only the car's huge trunk but the floor and backseat as well so that I was forced to travel the final hundred miles or so, head bent, on top of the pile. Today my parents would be arrested for child endangerment. Back then I thought nothing of it.

I also thought nothing of the fact that, unlike my friends, our house was filled with old furniture ("Our things have a history," my mother would say. "So much more interesting.") And unusual objects like a larger-than-life-size marble bust of Marie Antoinette and a giant ivory birdcage on a stand. One object in particular intrigued my friends. Made around 1860 by the Meissen Porcelain factory near Dresden, Germany, it was called a "Chinese Nodder," a seated pagoda figure with articulated head, hands, and tongue that moved. Ours was larger than the one shown in the photograph and had lovely Fu Manchu mustaches. I wish I still had it. Meissen Nodders in good condition today sell for between eight and ten thousand dollars.

Growing up with the artifacts of the past instilled in me a lifelong passion for history. History—the past—plays an important role in my stories. The Kate Hamilton Mystery series is set in the UK and features American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. In the first book, Kate finds clues to the identity of a killer in an eighteenth-century marquetry casket (a small chest for valuables). In the second book (available October 2019), the crimes are tied to the Finchley Hoard, a treasure trove buried in 1549 and unearthed in 1818.

And yet the objects of the past are only one part of my fascination with history. My fictional characters live as we do—on the top layer of a deep and complex history that informs and provides context for their lives. No one really escapes their past. The important thing is how we deal with it. And that provides the tension for the fictional world I write about.

A Dream of Death
A Kate Hamilton Mystery, Book 1

Autumn has come and gone on Scotland's Isle of Glenroth, and the islanders gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist-season gala. Spirits are high. A recently published novel about island history has brought hordes of tourists to the small Hebridean resort community. On the guest list is American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. Kate returns reluctantly to the island where her husband died, determined to repair her relationship with his sister, proprietor of the island's luxe country house hotel. The next morning a body is found, murdered in a bizarre reenactment of an infamous crime described in the novel. When the Scottish police discount the historical connection, Kate teams up with a vacationing detective inspector from England to unmask a killer determined to rewrite island history—and Kate's future.

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Connie Berry said...

Thank you for hosting me today! Antiques are a window into the past. I loved sharing a bit about my childhood.


We were happy you could join us today, Connie.