A huge thank you to Authors’ Lounge for inviting me to write this article.
I am a British author living in rural Devon, a county in the far southwest of the country, and I wrote Christmas Yet to Come. I moved to the area to go to university in the late 1980s, and it was there I met my future wife. We have just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, which, it being 2020, was a Zoom-based party. My wife tells me I am an incurable romantic… not that I have seen her looking for a cure. I put it down to spending my Saturdays watching old black and white movies when I was at school and my love of 19th Century literature.
The works of Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and Anthony Trollope are among the most thumbed volumes in my book collection. Those authors wrote about the social issues of their time in a respectful, accessible, and occasionally humorous, manner which I hope has influenced my own writing. Over the last two and a half years, I have published two novels and two novellas, all of which have elements of romance and mystery but also tackle some of the issues facing people today. But above all, I try to have a message of hope ripple through all my work.
My new novella is called “Christmas Yet to Come.” It tells the story of Mark, a sixteen-year-old boy living in the poor area of town with Lizzy, his younger sister, and their addict father. As he scrimps, saves and juggles money to help his family survive, Mark’s academic life suffers and he has little hope for his future.
He has friends, though. Eddie and Chloe live on his estate, but they are in a no better financial position than he is. The whole area is under the malicious control of the local drug dealer and money lender, who uses and abuses whomever he wishes.
Then there is Mary, the girl on the train. Mark aches to talk to her but lacks the courage or self-belief to say anything. She takes the same English class as him at their college, but he doubts she even knows his name.
Christmas is coming, but as Mark struggles to even put food on the table, it feels far more like the bleak midwinter for his family. While he tries to give Lizzy some kind of Christmas, things get progressively worse until something happens to throw their world into complete disarray. With nothing else to do, Mark and Lizzy settle down to watch their late mother’s favourite seasonal movie, “A Christmas Carol”. In those dark moments, the two siblings discover the true meaning of Christmas and find hope for the future.
I was in part inspired to write this book as a private tribute to Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”. My first exposure to it was as a boy in the early 1970s when I watched an animated cartoon version; the artwork very much caught the style of the original Victorian illustrations and some wonderful actors of the era lent their voices to it, including Alastair Sim, Diana Quick and Michael Redgrave. I was transported by the story. Every year since then, I have been sure to either read the book or at the very least watch at least one film or TV adaptation.
One occasion that I watched it was Christmas Eve when I was twelve or thirteen years old. It was the Albert Finney musical version. I remember it particularly because I watched it while my family awaited news on an urgent operation a close relative was having. It was an intense experience, as I was both absorbed by the film and at the same time nervously waiting for the telephone to ring with news from the hospital. That experience came to me when I was thinking about writing a Christmas story and I realised I wanted to incorporate the same emotion into it.
Lastly, “Christmas Yet to Come” is a reflection of aspects of modern society which I see around me. We don’t have Victorian levels of deprivation these days, but there is still suffering and families go hungry for a variety of reasons. I wanted to discuss this in the light of positivity and hope through kindness and compassion, much as Dickens tended to.
I hope people will read the novella and not only find an uplifting story which touches on the true meaning of Christmas, but also something which leaves a lasting impression.