A Lover of Books

Archive for the tag “redemption”

Guest Post by Sharon Booth

I am absolutely delighted to have the lovely Sharon Booth on my blog today.  Sharon’s new novel, ‘Saving Mr Scrooge’, the second book in the Moorland Heroes series, was published as an eBook on the 14th November 2017 by Fabrian Books.  Sharon has written a wonderful Christmas guest post which I hope you all enjoy.

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Christmas. Just saying that word makes you feel all cosy and warm inside. What do we associate with Christmas? Off the top of my head, I would say, family, snow, Christmas trees, turkey, Christmas pudding, Christmas carols, holly, mistletoe, gifts, church, the Nativity, love, forgiveness, redemption, hope …

Some people, perhaps going through darker times, would associate the word with loss, with grief, loneliness, poverty, deprivation, with feeling excluded from the jollity that others seem to be enjoying, with greed and consumerism.

And some, refusing to accept any negativity around the Big Day, would label those people who are less enthusiastic as “Miserable”, “Miserly”, “Scrooge-like”.

All of these things are referred to — or stem from — Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, A Christmas Carol. Think about it. The Christmas we know and love, is so associated with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, that the typical Christmas scene we often see on Christmas cards and decorations, is referred to as “Dickensian”. Charles Dickens, who – unbelievably – completed his novel within the space of six weeks, could never have imagined that his name and his characters would come to embody everything we imagine Christmas to be.

With the December release of the film, The Man Who Invented Christmas —  the story of those six weeks and how Charles Dickens came to create such an extraordinary piece of fiction — I decided to look back at how Christmas was celebrated before the publication of A Christmas Carol. What I discovered was that, generally, it wasn’t celebrated very much at all. Although once marked with much gaiety and joy, it became associated with Pagan festivals and fell out of favour during Puritan times. After the Restoration, Christmas was once again celebrated, but it never meant as much in the Christian calendar as did Easter, or even Boxing Day. At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, Christmas was barely recognised as a holiday. By the end, it was the most celebrated day of the year, and many of the traditions we hold dear today were forever embedded in the nation’s consciousness.

Although Dickens didn’t exactly invent Christmas, he was certainly responsible for pushing it to the forefront of people’s minds, and fixing in our imaginations what the “perfect” Christmas should be like. Yet, A Christmas Carol started life in his imagination as a plea for better treatment of the thousands of child labourers, forced into terrible working conditions.  Dickens wanted to do something about their plight. He wanted to stir up support for improvements. He wanted to open people’s eyes to the injustices that were happening in the factories and mills. He wanted to shame the businessmen and manufacturers, and force change to happen for the good. Eventually, he came to realise that lecturing the privileged classes wouldn’t be so effective as appealing to them in the form of a story. And so, A Christmas Carol was born, with its focus on a wealthy miser who — from his position of strength, power and wealth — could no longer see the depths to which the poor were suffering.

Dickens used the plight of one family in particular, the Cratchitts, and the uncertain fate of the frail child, Tim, to prick at his readers’ consciences. His use of the spirit world appealed to a Victorian society that was in the grip of a fascination for the occult. He passionately wanted to educate people to the truth of what was happening in the workplaces and slums of Britain. He believed the ignorance of the middle and upper classes to the suffering of the poor was a grave danger:

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”

In A Christmas Carol, the traditions we know and love today are drawn so beautifully — the snow, the plump turkey in the shop window, the Christmas dinner with its plum pudding, the giving of gifts. But, more importantly, the story of Scrooge and his redemption reminds us that, at Christmas, there are still people who suffer, still people who are ill, lonely, poverty-stricken, and that we need to remember those people, find room in our hearts for them, and open our eyes to the injustices in the world. It also leaves us with a sense of hope, that change is possible. That we can learn from the lessons of the past. That we can find love again. That we can truly know what the spirit of Christmas means.

When I wanted to write a Christmas novel which was all about second chances, redemption, and forgiveness, I knew there was no better model to look to than A Christmas Carol. Throw in a place of work where the employees appear to be suffering under their apparently uncaring boss, Kit, and a “ghost” from Kit’s past, called Marley, who is determined to save him, and I had the beginnings of my own small tribute to this wonderful story. Of course, there is a twist to the tale, and things may not be as they appear on the surface … I loved writing Saving Mr Scrooge, and I hope people enjoy reading it.

My own Christmas traditions include watching another tale of hope, love and redemption, It’s A Wonderful Life, on Christmas Eve every year, and reading A Christmas Carol during Christmas week. We can’t guarantee the snow, but I’m lucky enough to be having a Christmas tree, good food, and presents, wrapped up in the love of my family. I’m looking forward to a very Dickensian Christmas!

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Book Blurb

It’s the time of peace on earth and goodwill to all men, but at Carroll’s Confectionary, the meaning of Christmas seems to have been forgotten. New boss, Kit Carroll, is hardly winning friends with his high-handed attitude, his foolhardy approach to production, and his tight-fisted treatment of the factory’s employees.

Marley Jacobs, his self-styled PA, is determined to make him see the error of his ways, and return the festive spirit to Carroll’s Confectionary.

Unfortunately, the little matter of their previous relationship, along with Kit’s callous treatment of her when they were teenage sweethearts, keeps getting in the way of her good intentions.

With encouragement from co-worker Don, romantic sister Olivia, and — astonishingly — the usually sceptical Great Uncle Charles, Marley decides to save this modern-day Mr Scrooge from himself, despite having no well-meaning ghosts to help her.

But revisiting the past doesn’t just stir things up for Kit. As Marley struggles to deal with bittersweet memories, present-day events take a surprising turn. Can the future be changed, after all?

And is it only Kit who needs saving?

 

‘Saving Mr Scrooge’ can be bought at smarturl.it/savingmrscrooge

 

About Sharon Booth

Sharon wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet, and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives. She is the author of nine novels, and has also written for The People’s Friend. Sharon lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. Find out more about Sharon at www.sharonboothwriter.com

 

Links

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter

Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/sharon_booth1

Amazon Author Pages:-

UK – http://bit.ly/sharonboothpageUK

US – http://bit.ly/sharonboothpageUS

 

Interview with Lesley Allen

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Congratulations to Lesley Allen whose book, ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ is out today in paperback, published by Twenty7.  I asked Lesley some questions.

 

Can you tell me a bit about ‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ please?

Biddy Weir is a shy little girl who lives a lonely, solitary existence with her old-fashioned, emotionally crippled father. But she exists quite happily in her own little world, sketching seagulls and examining bird poo – until one day she is branded a ‘Bloody Weirdo’ by the most popular girl in her class. What follows is a heart-breaking tale of bullying and redemption, which spans from the late 1970s to 2000. Biddy’s story is set in Northern Ireland, but it has universal appeal, as ultimately it affirms the value of being different.

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What made you want to write this book and where did you get your ideas from?

Biddy made me write it. I know that sounds a tad trite, but it’s true. She first appeared in a short story I wrote, but she wouldn’t leave me alone. She nattered away in my head and peck-peck-pecked at me until I agreed to explore her story some more. And bit by bit (or Bird by Bird if you’ve read Anne Lamont’s inspirational book) her story turned into a book.

 

How long has it taken you to write?

This book has a long history. It started life over ten years ago as a short story, then very gradually, over three or four years, evolved into a novel. It was almost published back in 2008, but the deal fell through, which was awful at the time. I couldn’t let it go though, and neither could my agents, Susan and Paul Feldstein, who were determined to get me another deal. So after a long break, I dug it back out, did a radical re-write – and they sold it to Bonnier. And this time it actually happened!

 

Can you relate to any of your characters?

I’ve been living with these characters for many years now, so I know them all very well. I really like some of them, and utterly detest others, and there are definitely a couple I can relate to, or at least understand what makes them tick. None of the characters are me, but some are hybrids of people I’ve encountered throughout my life.

 

What would you say to Biddy Weir if you met her for real?

If I met young Biddy, the first thing I’d do is give her a huge big hug. And then another one. Then I’d look her in the eye and tell her that she isn’t a bloody weirdo, that she needs to confide in someone about the bullying, and that, ultimately, everything will be okay. Oh, and that that Alison Flemming one is going to get her comeuppance big time! Then I’d invite her round to my house for tea and Kimberley biscuits. (If you’ve read the book, you’ll know!)

 

What do you want people to get from your book?

The reaction to the book has already surprised me. It seems to be really touching a chord with many readers, and that was so unexpected. I’ve been contacted by people who have been bullied saying that reading the book was cathartic for them and thanking me for ‘telling their story’. Others have told me it helped them to understand what friends or loved ones suffering from anxiety or social disorders are going through and some have said it’s given them the confidence to intervene in a situation they know isn’t right. It’s incredibly humbling.

 

How easy has the publishing process been for you?

It hasn’t been easy at all. A bit of a rollercoaster-come-dodgems white-knuckle ride! But after years of setbacks, rejections, re-writes and confidence crises, I’m one of the lucky ones whose book has finally been published. And I promise you, it has been worth every second of the wait!

 

Are there more books to come?

Definitely. Book two is well under way. It’s not a sequel, but as with Biddy, it does deal with some fairly dark topics.

 

What’s the best bit of advice you have been given about writing?

I’ve had so much advice over the years, from so many people, and it’s all been gratefully received – even if I haven’t particularly agreed with it at the time. But the one thing that has stuck with me above everything else is that in fiction, there are no hard and fast rules. So play with your story, and your characters and your voice. Try out different structures, and if you can’t find one that fits, create your own. There is no right way, and no wrong way, no best way, and no worst way – just your way.

 

Who are you favourite authors?

This is so tricky, as the authors and books that make an impression on your life are constantly evolving. My bookcase is a forever changing landscape. But in recent years, Maggie O’Farrell, Sarah Winman, Zoe Heller, Alice Sebold, David Nicholls and Lucy Caldwell are the writers who have inspired me the most. My very soul absorbs their stories.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Read. I read as much as I can, particularly debuts as I’m always interested in new writers. I also like a wee glass of red wine, and if I can combine the two, even better! And I have to admit to a bit of binging on Netflix, most recently Stranger Things. (By the way, when Hollywood comes calling, I want Millie Bobbie Brown to play Biddy in the film!)

 

If you were only allowed to keep five items what would they be?

Assuming my daughter is not classified as an item, then I’d say my laptop, a notebook, a red pen, a bottle of red wine, and my cat, Herbie. All the components I need to finish my next book! (Herbie is glaring at me as I write this with an “I’m not a flippin’ item either” expression!)

 

About Lesley Allen

Lesley Allen lives in Bangor, County Down, with her teenage daughter. She is a freelance copywriter and the press officer and programme developer for Open House Festival. Lesley was named as one of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s 2016 Artist Career Enhancement recipients for literature. She will be using the award to complete her second novel.

 

‘The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir’ is available to buy from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lonely-Life-Biddy-Weir/dp/1785770381/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1478112650&sr=1-1

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