My Friday Read this week is A Jarful of Moonbeams, the debut novel by Elizabeth Goudge award winner, Chrissie Bradshaw. What an intriguing title!
Sparring sisters, deception, family secrets and reawakened love means that trouble and change is in the air for Cleo Moon and her family. Cleo finds that losing control of your life and losing out in love is tough when you have always strived for success. Alex hates the crazy idea that she should be uprooted from her home and friends to live with her selfish older sister for the whole summer. Teri is desperate for her two daughters to bond but worries that she has left it too late. The family ‘Moondream’ jar, an Egyptian urn that has held their wishes for many years, provides links to the past and we discover which of the many wishes that it holds can be fulfilled.
Extract: Cleo meets Dan
Cleo woke with a start and it took her a moment to realise that she was in her old bed in High Rigg. She’d been woken by a noise, something familiar but she could not place it. She raised herself up onto one elbow and listened intently, straining to hear. Was the noise from Mum’s room?
She got up and slipped along the hallway to peer through her mum’s door. Slow, steady breathing reassured her that all was OK in there. As she retraced her steps to the doorway of her own room, she heard it again; heavy rain battering on her window pane. Only it wasn’t raining. This time she knew immediately what it was, someone was around the back of the cottage and throwing gravel at her window. The only person who used to wake her like that was Dan.
She strode over to the window feeling more curious than scared; this was Dunleith, quiet, sleepy. Who would know she was here in her old room? Peeling back the curtains and peering into the back garden, she saw Dan’s face looking up at her.
A spike of adrenalin jolted her heart so fiercely that she gasped for breath. She closed her eyes and opened them; was she dreaming? No. Standing in the garden and gesturing for her to come downstairs was Dan Collingwood. She was certain it was him, even by moonlight. The years rolled away and she was in her teens again. She let the curtain fall. He lived in Australia, what the hell was he doing here?
Was it shock or nerves giving her shivers as she hurried downstairs? She realised she was wearing old pyjamas covered in faded teddies, a relic from years back that she had found in her drawer. Add unbrushed hair and a bare face and she was the most unready she had ever been to meet up after all these years. Bloody hell, Dan!
Cleo opened the back door and peered around it.
‘Hi, Cleo, it’s a good thing you’re here this weekend... Can I come in?’
She opened the door a little further; the kitchen was still in darkness. Dan strode past her, ‘It’s an emergency or I wouldn’t have woken you,’ he said in a hushed tone.
Cleo turned on the light and faced him. She hadn’t said a word yet; she couldn’t find her voice. He stepped forward and gave her a hug. ‘My God, Cleo, you’re looking bloody dreadful.’ He rubbed a thumb tenderly under one of her eyes, the intimate gesture taking away the meaning of the words.
The one night she hadn’t removed her mascara; she must look a real mess. Dan tightened his embrace, pulling Cleo on tiptoes towards him. Heat seared through her and she was aware of just how thin her ancient nightwear was. Silently praying, please don’t let them be see-through in this bright light, she pulled back, and tried to gather her thoughts. ‘Thanks a lot, Dan. If I’d known that I was having a visitor I’d have made more of an effort.’ Sounding annoyed might mask her discomfort and stop the strong urge to wrap her arms around him and never let go. ‘Now what’s this about an emergency?’
Chrissie Bradshaw lives by the Northumbrian coast with her family and loves taking her dog for a daily run along the seashore. Her other feel good essentials are tea, chocolate and a good book. A career in education, as a teacher then as a literary consultant, has given her the chance to share her passion for reading with young people. She believes that there are books to suit every taste and loves match-making a book with a reader. While undergoing treatment for cancer, Chrissie listed the things she wanted to do. (She is very good at lists but not so good at carrying them out!) Top of this list was believe in your writing and make time for it. She did. Three years later, she has one novel published, she has won the Elizabeth Goudge award 2016 from the RNA and she is writing her second novel.
Congratulations on winning the Elizabeth Coudge award, Chrissie. I was sitting opposite you and remember the astonished then delighted look on your face when you heard your name announced!
I asked Chrissie to tell us a bit more about herself
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No, I have always been a reader and have enjoyed matching people with books that they will love but, when it came to writing, I was a secret scribbler who didn’t dare to believe that I would one day write my own novels. That changed and now you can’t stop me writing.
Has any author inspired you?
So many! The Brontes and Jane Austen started it followed by JoJo Moyes, Adele Parks, Lisa Jewell, Marian Keyes and then the writers who paved the way to self-publishing like Talli Roland and Rachel Abbott. I could list dozens.
What do you like writing most?
Contemporary fiction about real women, by that I mean they do have flaws but they’re likeable and strong in the face of adversity. My women have to face up to conflict or change but eventually find love and happiness. I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
Do you have a special place for writing?
Anywhere on my own; I have a study but I’m writing this at the kitchen table. The surroundings aren’t important but people distract me. I’m too nosy to write while oblivious to all around me in a café or busy place.
Are you a pantster or a plotter?
I plot. I need to know the ending and I need to really know my character’s and how they relate to one another before they start their journey. Some of the twists and turns of the plot are flexible and some crop up to surprise me.
Is your writing ever inspired by your family or real life incidents?
I haven’t used any of my family… yet. In ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’, I started with two sparring sisters because I thought that hating your sister would be the worst situation ever. I have two sisters and we are really so close that I couldn’t imagine us ever falling out.
What are you writing at the moment?
My second novel hasn’t a title; at the moment it’s ‘the one about Erin and Heather’. It is about two sisters who try to turn their lives around after the death of their mother. Both have relationship problems, can they face up to life’s challenges and find love?
What inspired you to write this book?
Heather, a journalist, had a minor part in ‘A Jarful of Moondreams’ and demanded her own story. Her younger sister Erin, who is an aspiring actress, wanted a leading part too. It was fun weaving a plot around the two of them.
What time of the day do you write best?
I’m a night owl. I love it when it’s quiet and I can get my voice on the page. When I’m writing my first draft, I plot when I’m dog walking and think about what I’m going to write all day.
What are your hobbies?
When I’m not writing, or thinking about writing, I’m reading women’s fiction. I’m not a complete couch potato though! I walk my Welsh terrier by the sea each day, I stretch my writer’s back with Pilates and I am a terrible but terribly keen golfer.
What advice would you give to other writers?
Believe in yourself. Read a lot and read a range of genres not just your favourite, go to writing conferences and join an association that will support you such as the RNA. Their new writers’ scheme is second to none.
Visit Chrissie on www.newhenontheblog.com
For regular chatter, follow her on Facebook and Twitter:
Lovely to talk to you, Chrissie. Lots of luck with your book!