Lauren Westwood talks about the inspiration behind her new novel, Moonlight over the Thames.
It may seem strange (and a little unsettling) to be reading a blog post about Christmas in September! But for me, the entire year has been quite Christmassy, as it was never far from my mind as I was writing Moonlight on the Thames.
For the last two years I’ve been working in central London, and therefore, last Christmas, I got to experience a bit more of the London Christmas ‘scene’ than ever before: the beautiful decorations and lights, the window displays, the puffs of frozen breath in the air as people spill out of pubs after work. And one evening, when I was commuting home from Waterloo Station, there was a choir singing at the station. I’m afraid I don’t remember the details of who they were, and I’m almost certain that they didn’t have a hot, Russian choirmaster (sorry), but somehow, the experience stuck in my mind. When I first had the idea to write a Christmas book and the characters of Nicola and Dmitri came into my head, I knew that Christmas carolling at Waterloo Station was going to be the opening scene.
Nicola and Dmitri each have very different views of the holiday season at the opening of the book, but they do share one thing in common: they both feel very lonely. Nicola because she cuts herself off from people, and Dmitri because, although he is immersed in his Christmas choir, he will not allow anyone to get close to him. I think that in reality, Christmas can be a very lonely time for many people out there. There does seem almost an obligation to be happy, and joyful, but what about people who just don’t feel that way? This is part of the initial conflict between Nicola and Dmitri, as she asserts her right not to have to be forced to participate in Christmas, and he, in turn, asks what the solution is – for people not to be happy, and for the choir not to sing?
It was interesting to explore the dark side of Christmas, including loneliness and isolation, homelessness, and the pressure that a lot of us feel under to make things perfect. And as I walked around London following the route that Nicola and Dmitri take on their day out together, I saw things in a different light than I had before. I saw the beauty of the city, and the ugliness that is there too. I saw people who were clearly happy, and many that might just want to get the whole Christmas thing over with as soon as possible.
I think I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. I like having family around, and love the joy that my kids get from Christmas, but I also feel the pressure to do things right and lament the amount of money spent, and the general overindulgence that always seems to happen. There’s always a bit of a crushing sense of loss when the whole thing is over, and it takes almost the entire month of January to get things back on track. That said, every year, as soon as November hits, I’m there once again, getting caught up in all the preparations and the spirit of it. I guess that’s why it’s such a special time of year. And for me, writing Moonlight on the Thames reminded me of that powerful adage voiced by Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
I hope that readers will enjoy Moonlight on the Thames, and the many sides of Christmas that it represents. If you do read it, please leave a rating or a review where you purchased it. I rely so much on word of mouth from readers to help others find my books, and I really appreciate your support.
Most of all, I wish you all the best for the rest of the year, and the holiday season.
Worlds collide when two strangers meet at Waterloo station. It’s a moment they’ll never forget.
Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright. Nicola is a star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has run its course, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is the last straw… Dmitri loves conducting his pop–up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist. Can two lonely hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?
Lauren Westwood writes romantic women’s fiction, and is also an award-winning children’s writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a pernickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.