Catherine Ferguson explains her spin on the classic A Christmas Carol with a female Scrooge.
1. Tell us about your novel Humbugs & Heartstrings.
The novel is all about love and the importance of friendship and is liberally sprinkled with lots of Christmas magic! Bobbie’s boss, Carol, is a real grasping misery-guts and makes the lives of everyone around her unhappy in her pursuit of every last penny. What makes it worse is that Bobbie and Carol were once best friends. When gorgeous hotelier Charlie enters the picture, things descend from bad to worse to downright disastrous as the two women go into battle – and mince pies start flying! Will romance blossom for Bobbie and Charlie? Or will she realise that good friend Fez is the man for her after all? And can Bobbie and Carol resolve their differences in time to enjoy a merry little Christmas . . . ?
2. Where did you get the inspiration for the story?
I knew I wanted to write a novel set at Christmas. I’d gone to an amateur production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – and sitting in the audience, I was thinking what a great story it was, the idea that someone can take entirely the wrong path in life, lose everything that matters in the process but then have their eyes opened to what went wrong and be able to put things right. So I decided to write a novel loosely based on the Christmas classic, with a truly horrible female boss as the Scrooge character. I’m glad I did. It was huge fun to write!
3. What made you choose to write a Christmas read?
The writing flows much better when I’m really into the subject matter – and I absolutely adore Christmas. I don’t even mind the commerciality of it. I think you just have to look through it to the magic beyond. The magic that children see. To be honest, I’d like to spend my life writing Christmas stories!
4. What are you most proud of with the novel?
I like Mrs Cadwalader, loveable cougar and larger-than-life novice tea leaf reader. She has a relatively small but very important part to play in the novel! And I like the fact that even though there is a serious message underlying the tale, there is humour in abundance so it actually ends up being an energetic, light-hearted, fun read.
5. What did you struggle with the most?
For some reason, when I’m writing a book, I keep coming up with what seem like fantastic sub-plots and intriguing characters – and my lovely agent has to sometimes (very diplomatically) rein me in and tell me to stick to the main story. So yes, there are fewer characters in Humbugs & Heartstrings than I started out with – but I know for sure my ruthless pruning has resulted in a much better story.
6. If you could give one reason to read the book, what would it be?
The Scrooge story is the ultimate Christmas tale of love and redemption with a fantastically happy and festive ending!
7. We can’t let you get away without a few Christmas-related questions, so firstly when does Christmas begin for you?
I’m a bit sad, really. I start feeling excited about the festive season as soon as my son starts back at school after the summer holidays. I will already have booked the pantomime (probably back in March) and I can’t help it, those crisp Autumn days I think are utter perfection. Leaves changing colour, a nip in the air, buying new boots. Fab! And it’s all just a big, glorious lead-up to December which has to be the most magical month of all. See, told you I was sad . . .
8. What’s your best Christmas memory?
A few years ago, we’d just finished breakfast on Christmas morning and I looked out of the kitchen window and I could hardly believe my eyes. Two deer were standing stock still on the snowy lawn, staring right back at me. It was ridiculously Christmassy.
9. What’s your favourite Christmas book?
Of course I love A Christmas Carol. And Lucy Diamond’s Christmas at the Beach Cafe is a great read. And I loved Twelve Days of Christmas by Trisha Ashley.
10. And finally, what would be your perfect Christmas?
The perfect Christmas for me has to involve a cosy house full of fairy lights and the evocative scent of a real Christmas tree – plus gorgeous smells coming from the kitchen and lots of festive TV to snuggle up in front of. For me, Christmas Eve is the real highlight of the festive season – I guess it’s a throwback to childhood when you were impossibly excited the night before The Big Day. So I cook the family Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, which really builds the excitement. Then on Christmas Day itself, I like nothing better than to get up early and watch my son opening his presents then spend the day lying around eating too much chocolate, watching Christmassy movies and only getting out of my pyjamas if it’s absolutely necessary. Ah, bliss!
Two ex-friends. One Christmas to remember … Bobbie’s boss Carol is a real misery-guts, dedicated to making the lives of everyone around her unhappy in pursuit of every last penny. What makes it worse is that the two women have history: they were once best friends. When handsome hotelier Charlie steps into the frame the two women go to battle as one sees a romantic future and the other a possible lifeboat for her business. With wonderful warmth and humour – and the odd mince pie fight – the women are forced to confront their shared past, the turbulent present and, most importantly, the potential of the future. Curl up this Christmas with this heartwarming and funny read. You’ll never look at a mince pie in the same way again…
Catherine Ferguson burst onto the writing scene at the age of nine, anonymously penning a weekly magazine for her five-year-old brother (mysteriously titled the ‘Willy’ comic) and fooling him completely by posting it through the letterbox every Thursday. Catherine’s continuing love of writing saw her study English at Dundee University and spend her twenties writing for various teenage magazines including Jackie and Blue Jeans and meeting pop stars. She worked as Fiction Editor at Patches magazine (little sister to Jackie) before getting serious and becoming a sub-editor on the Dundee Courier & Advertiser. Moving south in her thirties, she set up Surrey Organics, delivering fresh organic produce to people’s homes – and this experience provided the inspiration for her first attempt at writing a full-length novel. Catherine’s first novel Humbugs & Heartstrings is very loosely based on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. She lives with her son in Northumberland.