Michelle stopped by to answer some of Unusual Historicals questions and to officially launch the book.
First Romans, then Vikings and now Victorians. Why Victorians?
When my editor first asked me to do a Christmas book, I said that it would have to be Victorian rather than Regency, as the Victorians re-invented Christmas. Christmas up to the Puritans was mainly an adoption of the Roman festival of Saturnalia and other pagan mid winter festivals such as the Scandinavian Jul. It then fell into disuse and during the Regency time, there were many who did not mark the day. It was not until Dickens published his Christmas stories, in particular A Christmas Carol that people really began to celebrate Christmas again.
Are there any real differences from the Victorian English celebration and our celebration today?
One of the biggest differences is the figure of Santa Claus. In the early Victorian period, he was called Old Christmas and more a Father Time figure--thin and rather stern. The more jovial Father Christmas did not develop until the 1870s. Old Christmas carried a punch bowl, had a yule log strapped to his back and wore green robes. I think it is one of the reason why the ghost of Christmas Present wears green robes in A Christmas Carol.
And what about Christmas carols?
Most of the songs we know as traditional Christmas carols were written in the period from 1200-1640, dying out again with the Puritans. The first modern collection of carols ancient and modern was compiled by Davies Gilbert (whose method for calculating the torque of a suspension bridge remained in use for over a 100 years) and appeared in 1822. He was attempting to preserve the remains of this dying tradition. Christmas broadsheets also started appearing, and the patterers (the men who sold the broadsheets) would sing the tunes, passing them on in this fashion.
Tell us a bit more about the book. Is it a Christmas story? Or has it been adapted for the Christmas season?
It takes place during the Christmas season of 1846 in Newcastle Upon Tyne. And the build up to the Christmas festivities in the industrial North does play a significant role in the book. The blurb reads:
Lovely Miss Emma Harrison has long turned her back on the frivolities of the Marriage Mart and dedicated herself to helping her father. But this Christmas everything changes--the unforgettable Jack Stanton is back! No longer the charity boy determined to make good, he has become one of the richest men in England. Driven to succeed and used to getting anything he wants, Jack makes it clear that he wants Emma.You can read an excerpt here.
And as the Yuletide festivities throw Emma into his company, she can’t help but wonder if she made the right choice seven years ago...
Is there anything unusual about the story?
It is set in the northeast of England and it has a self-made man as a hero. I loved being able to have a civil engineer as a hero as at the time they were treated as the peace time equivalent of heroic soldier. So much went into building the early bridges and tunnels and the civil engineers put their lives on the line.
The reviewer on Publishers' Weekly Beyond Her Blog expressed a wish that you might write a sequel. Is this going to happen?
It has already happened. My daughter was so taken with a secondary character, Lottie Charlton, that she demanded her story. I wrote Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife and then gave into her demands. My editors adore Lottie's story and were supposed to title it this week and firm up scheduling, but illness struck and this has been put off. At the moment, all I know is words like Scandal, Secret and Debutante are being bandied about. It is tentatively scheduled for release in the UK in August 08 and it should be my next North American release as well.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently doing the revisions for the first part of my Regency duo. It is again set in the Northeast and deals in part with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. The revisions are some of the hardest that I have ever tackled, but ultimately I hope the reader will get a really good read. I then have to write the second part and am facing a deadline in early January. After that, I think I am writing my third Viking.
Many thanks for dropping by! You can purchase A CHRISTMAS WEDDING WAGER via Amazon, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble, eHarlequin, or from your favorite independent book retailer. CHRISTMAS BY CANDLELIGHT can be purchased via Amazon UK and Amazon.ca.
Michelle is giving away a copy of A CHRISTMAS WEDDING WAGER. All you need to do is post a comment--maybe about your favourite Christmas tradition or Christmas carol. The winner will be chosen at random. Be sure to check back next week to find out who has won.