Author: Nancy Ellen Hird
Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
Books: My Edinburgh Series
Other Works: “Marty’s Monster,” “Jennifer Jacobs Did what?” “Here With Us,”
We All Get a Clue by Nancy Ellen Hird — Edinburgh. Adventure. Mystery. Twists and turns. A house full of treasures and greedy thieves. The kids are up to their eyebrows. But in the end, We All Get a Clue.Tweet
Adventures in Edinburgh
Interview by Jenny Fulton
Nancy Ellen Hird is a former middle school teacher who loves to travel, explore, and diligently investigate the answers to her never-ending questions. Her writing interests span across several genres: children’s picture books, early readers, middle grade novels, short stories for children and adults, plays, and non-fiction pieces for teens and adults. She is currently the team leader and a reviewer for the book review blog, Books 4 Christian Kids. Nancy’s book series, My Edinburgh Files, are mystery novels. Although these books were written for girls ages 10 to 14, Nancy told me that boys have also enjoyed the books.
My first question for Nancy, after discovering her writing genres, concerned her inspiration for the books. What prompted her to write these stories? Why Edinburgh?
“On my first trip to Edinburgh, Scotland,” Nancy wrote, “I was shown to a room high up in the house of a large bed and breakfast. The moment the door swung open and I glimpsed the cheerful, cozy room, my imagination was on fire. A young girl–I was sure of it–would love this room. A window looked out on the quiet street below and the school beyond. From here a curious, thoughtful girl would be able to observe all kinds of goings on! A seagull perched on the roof tiles seemed to agree with me before he flew off to rejoin his friends in a noisy game of tag.”
And thus began the series. From that moment, Nancy’s imagination led her from one idea to another as it developed the plot for the first book, I Get a Clue.
“It struck me,” Nancy said, “what if this young girl were an American and only just arrived from California? And with that I stepped aside as Libby Carlsen, who is nearly twelve, and “big” sister, Mags, entered the room. Downstairs—I knew–was their grandmother and their aunt who run the B&B. If Libby hangs out the window, she can see a bakery van parked in Gran’s car park. Does the owner suspect someone has tampered with his van? Or does she just imagine his concern in the conversation she overhead? Why would anyone want to hurt the baker’s business?”
The adventures of Libby and Mags continue in the second book, We All Get a Clue. This book grew out of Nancy’s love for visiting museums and restored old houses.
“In Scotland, many of the old houses have fabulous collections of books, art and antique inventions. The original owners were gentlemen scientists and intellectuals.”
Nancy’s imagination took over again.
“What if Libby, my scientist-in-the-making, could visit such a house? But not as a tourist. What if Lord Blackford, the owner of the house I named Lintwhite, were having a party? He could hire Malcolm’s father, the baker from I Get a Clue, to cater it. What if Malcolm’s father asked Libby to be on his crew? When I had visited the country manor houses, I had noticed the security measures they take. It reminded me that there are people who might want (and try) to leave the grounds with more than a souvenir brochure. Enter a thief.”
In addition to drawing inspiration from the houses and buildings in Edinburgh, Nancy also pulled from other personal experiences to help her write the books.
“My family moved from a suburban area to a big city when I was in high school, so having Libby trying to make friends and navigate big-city Edinburgh, Scotland, was a no brainer for me. As a college student I worked in a bakery, so having a bakery be part of I Get a Clue seemed natural. Besides, the pastries in Edinburgh looked scrumptious and if I wanted to do right by my novel–I know, I know, sometimes life is so hard–I would have to do research.By training, I am a teacher. I’ve taught seventh grade in a public school and sixth grade Sunday school, so I feel a strong connection to that age group. I think, I hope, that the books portray many of the struggles and triumphs of those tender and exhilarating years.”
“How did writing this book change or impact you?” I asked.
“Writing a book is often a God adventure for me,” Nancy said. “For the sake of the book and in obedience to Him, I do so many, many things that frankly, put me in a panic. I talk to people. I go places. I take chances that people will say no. I work problems that initially look unsolvable. But God holds my hand and meets me at each twist of the mystery known as my life. It’s too long a story for here, but some time I should write up the tale of how I got to Edinburgh the year I had neglected to notice my passport had expired until the clerk at the check-in counter told me that I would not be flying with them that day…”
What happened? How did she get there? What’s that story?
I suppose the answers to those questions will have to remain another mystery… for now…
Next question. “What are some of the key points/themes woven throughout the books?”
“Libby is a different kind of hero from others found in contemporary mystery novels. She is not a superhero. I want girls to know that you don’t have to be a superhero to have an adventure. Life is an adventure.”
“Libby also doesn’t work alone. She solves mysteries with the help of her friends. She also seeks out and accepts help from trusted adults. “
“Libby has more independence and responsibility in Edinburgh than she did when she lived in California. In We All Get A Clue she and her friends are learning how to use that independence wisely.”
“I Get a Clue begins with the thought that God has a plan for your life and it’s a good one even when you don’t see it. It’s an underlying theme in both books and surfaces in many practical ways. Making friends is an example of one of the ways. I believe that kids in particular need to choose friends wisely.”
Nancy hopes her readers will have fun being Libby’s sidekick as she and her friends solve the mysteries.
“I know my readers will be smarter after reading the books,” she said. “Reading mystery novels makes kids better thinkers as they practice noticing details and applying what they know to new information. The novels will help my readers consider that just as God wants to be Libby’s friend, He wants to be their friend too. I hope my readers will know that God wants us to have friends, but He wants us to choose them wisely. I hope my readers fall in love with Edinburgh, but I also hope they grasp that they can have adventures right where they live.”
On her website, https://www.nancyellenhird.com/party, Nancy has created a mystery party. There are ideas for party games, suggestions for yummy food, and pictures of possible table settings.
Book Blurb for I Get a Clue
The distance from home to Gran’s B&B is one 62-minute car ride, one 14- hour, 53-minute plane trip, one 15-minute totally embarrassing meltdown in the Glasgow airport, one drag-myself-and-my-telescope-on-a-bus trip, and one Edinburgh-is-nothing-like-home taxi ride.
How could Mom & Dad do this to me?!!! How could God? Edinburgh is a whole new planet—a planet with no summer, no family, no friends, a new school, and, AND a new language!!!
I was over the moon miserable. I didn’t tell my brother what I overheard. Sabotage–SABOTAGE!!!–was going on right in Gran’s parking lot. I couldn’t believe it. I had landed in the middle of a mystery!!!
Book Blurb for We All Get a Clue
Libby, Malcolm, and Roopa, the kids from I Get a Clue, are back! Edinburgh’s young sleuths are up to their eyeballs in a new mystery/adventure. Libby and Malcolm are on Mr. MacLeod’s catering crew for an event at Lintwhite, Lord Blackford’s country manor house. The job is going well until Libby trips, spilling a tray of desserts on a guest. Minutes later, it is discovered that a valuable antique has been stolen from Lord Blackford’s collection. His Lordship suspects the catering crew of being involved. He particularly suspects Libby. The police come and question everyone, but arrest no one. Back at Gran’s, Libby hopes the whole unhappy incident is behind her. She soon discovers, however, that she is involved and more than she could ever imagine.