These lovely ladies are some of the members of The Cheshirati, a group of authors based in Cheshire and the surrounding counties. I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to them talk about their work at an “Evening with the Cheshirati” at Knutsford Library in October (Victoria’s summary of the evening can be found here). It was a fun and interesting evening, with some unexpected views about bloggers. However, as this article proves, blogging bridges were made and hopefully this will prove a more positive experience than some they’ve had in the past. The ‘Cheshirati’ as a group can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.
So here’s a brief introduction to my new found friends
Zara Stoneley lives in Cheshire and is the author of the Tippermere series published by HarperCollins, as well as several standalone novels. Her latest book is The Holiday Swap. Zara is currently writing the first book of a new series due in 2017 – look out for a hot vet and the most gorgeous country village ever! Catch up with Zara at her website, on Facebook and via Twitter.
Cath Bore is a Merseyside writer. She is currently completing a crime novel, writing lots of flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Published in Eating My Words, NFFD ’14, Flash Fic Mag, GEEKED, Twisted Tales, Female First, HELLO! etc etc… Catch up with Cath on her website, on Facebook and via Twitter
Nikki Ashton writes romance with a touch of humour and lots of love. Although all Nikki’s six books are stand alone stories characters do make ‘guest appearances’. So best to read them in order, starting with Guess Who I Pulled Last Night. Catch up with Nikki via her website, on Facebook and via Twitter.
Victoria Johns is Cheshire based and enjoys sharing a happily ever after and believes that it’s every good girls dream to experience a steamy, hot one. She is the author of Survivor and The Soul Sisters series which starts with Fostering Love. Catch up with Victoria via her website, on Facebook and via Twitter.
Caroline James lives in Cheshire and spends her time writing romantic comedy. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, The Society of Authors and a Feature Editor for an online magazine. Caroline’s new novella, Jungle Rock, as just been published (see my review here). Catch up with Caroline via her website, on Facebook and via Twitter.
So now you know a little more, let’s get their opinions on all things Christmassy!
Do you have any Christmas traditions?
Zara: Christmas officially starts for me on the Sunday before Christmas, at the Christmas carol service in a nearby village church. With bell ringers, choir, brass band and the beautiful old church it’s festive but also a lovely ‘pause’ in the middle of all the chaos and rushing around. The whole family go, then we finish off the evening at my cottage with mulled wine, sausage rolls and mince pies.
Cath: Nope. Christmas is my least favourite time of year. The world slows and treads water, turns into a fortnight of Sundays. I grimace through, with the aid of good red wine. Which I guess is a tradition in itself.
Nikki: Not nowadays, although when my godchildren were small I would take them to the cinema every Christmas Eve. They’re all a bit old now to enjoy Disney and I have too many nephews and nieces to take – I’d have to hire out the whole cinema.
Victoria: I have to have music playing whilst the Christmas tree is going up! I also try and spend one day in the run up to the Christmas day outside, either walking around town seeing the excited children and lights in our town or in a forest surrounded by calm.
Caroline: Christmas day always follows the same pattern in our family, opening stockings all together as we wake up (adults have stockings too), followed by a champagne breakfast then our presents. If the weather is good, a walk, the Queen’s speech and late afternoon it’s time for turkey and all the trimmings. The day will end with silly party games. It’s a perfect Christmas day for me.
What is the perfect Christmas gift for a writer?
Zara: A beautiful notepad.
Cath: For women writers, the Mslexia diary is a treat. It carries tasty writing prompts and nuggets of literary goodness. For writers in general, the gift of space and time to write is a beautiful thing and costs nowt.
Nikki: Time and inspiration. There aren’t enough hours in the day to write and work, so it’s always long days and late nights. To continue to be relevant and for people to want to carry on reading your books, you need to try and keep them fresh, so new ideas are always welcomed with a fanfare. A couple of dozen ideas wrapped up with a bow, would be great.
Victoria: For me it’s writing books, pretty notebooks and pens. I am a really hoarder when it comes to these items and you can never have too many.
Caroline: Time! Time to luxuriate in the joy of writing with no demands of interruptions.
What’s your favourite festive tipple?
Zara: Impossible to choose! Mulled wine, champagne and Bailey’s top the list!
Cath: The aforementioned red, and I’m partial to a fake Baileys. What would Xmas be without a bottle or four of Faileys? Cath’s tip : at dull and stagnant times over the festive season, do a blind taste test to see which is the least Baileys-like. (I know how to have fun, oh yeah).
Nikki: It would have to be the old Bailey’s, but I’ll drink anything.
Victoria: Something sparkly with a dash of raspberry liqueur
Caroline: Mulled wine – For me Christmas is the only time of year to drink this and with the spices and warmth it really represents this special time of year.
If you could spend Christmas with any literary character who would it be and why?
Cath: I re-read my favourite book, ‘Tully’ by Paullina Simons, annually. The protagonist, Tully Makker, still fascinates me after 22 years. She’s frustrating, and not always easy to like, but I’d like to get to know her better. Plus, she knows how to enjoy herself, so…
Nikki: Scrooge, so that I could sort his head out – he wouldn’t need those ghosts.
Victoria: Honestly… wait for it… The Grandpa from David Walliams ‘Grandpa’s Great Escape.’ I read this book with my son and the grandpa is a hoot! He has so many great stories, loves his grandson and I remember when we read that book together seeing the effect his war stories and funny personality had on my own son. For a children’s book it was so emotional but as a character he was lovely.
Caroline: I’d love a Christmas with Bertie Wooster and friends going back in time to the 1920’s, in a beautiful country house with everyone dressed to the nines and me in a fabulous flapper dress.
Where and how will you be spending Christmas Day? And what would be your alternative fantasy Christmas?
Zara: I’m spending Christmas Day with my family in the UK, then on Boxing Day I’m off to Barcelona, so I get sunshine and a walk on the beach as well as more turkey! I don’t have an alternative fantasy, I feel very lucky that I can spend the day as I will be doing – with the people I love.
Cath: An Elvis Christmas at Graceland would be exquisite. I have 4 copies of Elvis’s Christmas Album at home so that will have to do, I suppose. My sister bought me my first copy, at age 9. But I love each equally! People very kindly keep giving me copies of the record; my feeling is that it would be rude to say no to such a marvellous thing.
Nikki: It usually stars with a walk with the dogs, then it will be spent with all the family from lunchtime until late into the evening. An alternative fantasy Christmas would be one more day with my dad.
Victoria: I’ll spending it with family, although this year I am having Boxing Day off my kitchen duties and going to a wonderful little country pub to be waited on for a change! My alternative fantasy Christmas would be to spend it at Wham’s Last Christmas cabin, in the snow and with a log fire. I’d look fabulous in an eighties ski suit with massive hairspray teased hair!
Caroline: This year I’m ticking off my bucket list and will be on a beach in the Caribbean on Christmas day. No doubt eating turkey but from a BBQ and with rum instead of mulled wine.
A fantasy Christmas (another from the bucket list) is to hire a huge country house in the Lake District by Lake Ullswater and invite all my loved ones and friends for Christmas. It will of course snow on Christmas Eve and continue, ensuring that we all holed up for the duration around roaring log fires with beautiful views of the Lake.
What makes a good Christmas story and which (if any) is your favourite?
Nikki: For me it needs to be fun, full of laughter and romantic – everything that’s great about Christmas. It should make you want to be there.
Victoria: Anything with a happily ever after. But I adore A Christmas Carol. Any version is fine but I do like the Muppets version and the recent animated Disney version with Jim Carey’s voice as Scrooge.
Caroline: Romance of course, with a very happy ending. I love the story line in one of my books: So, You Think You’re A Celebrity…Chef? which is very Christmassy and I especially loved writing the Christmas scene.
What’s your edible Christmas must have?
Zara: Chestnut stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
Cath: One year we went to the pub at Christmas Day lunchtime, and stayed a little too long. The roast potatoes were ruined, so we had chips instead. The best mistake I ever made. I’ve never looked back.
Nikki: Chocolate Orange for breakfast, and then another for supper dunked into a nice glass of Bailey’s!
Victoria: Pickled cauliflower for left over sandwiches. But for my main Christmas meal, it’s pigs in blankets and bread sauce.
Caroline: Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
If you could have any of your books/a favourite book made into a film which would it be and who would you cast?
Cath: Me, as Tully. A chance to misbehave appallingly, with no repercussions.
Nikki: It would have to be my Rock Star series. They’re not typical rock star books but I love the banter between the band and the romance of them all. If it started with Rock Stars Don’t Like Big Knickers, I’d cast Micah Truitt as Luke (he’s a model and not sure he can act, but he’s beautiful so what the heck), opposite him would be Emma Stone as Martha.
Victoria: I’d go for my first book Fostering Love. It has all the main characters from the series and I’d cast Charlize Theron as Dalton and Jason Statham as Jonas
Caroline: I’d like to see my novel, Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me made into a film because of the fabulous locations – Cumbria and Barbados. Melissa McCarthy would be Hattie, a main character in the book with Delroy Lindo as her love interest, Mattie.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
Zara: ‘Me Before You’, Jojo Moyes.
Cath: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh. It’s a very dark book, the central character complicated, and often repulsive. But that’s what attracts me to her; so many levels and complexities. Such sharp writing it makes my mouth water, it is delicious.
Nikki: Wow, that’s hard because I read about 4 books a week. If it was books that had left an impression on me, then it would be, Colleen Hoover’s, ‘It Ends with Us’ and Lesley Jones’, ‘Carnage’. Both had an impact on me and left me emotionally drained.
Victoria: ‘A God in Ruins’ by Kate Atkinson.
Caroline: I loved ‘A Man Called Ove’ by Fredrik Backman.
Any hopes and dreams for 2017?
Zara: Writing wise I’d love to see my new series of books proving popular (a bestseller list would be fab), and appearing in print. I also dream of them being made into a TV series – I’d love to see Langtry Meadows, my gorgeous vet, the village school, and all the hilarious animals and children on the screen. Life wise I have too many to list, health and happiness for my family, and peace being top of the list.
Cath: To write a bestseller, please.
Nikki: I just want to continue to make people smile, laugh and cry with my words, but I’d love to break America. I’m hoping to do so with my book, Box of Hearts that comes out next Summer. It’s not my usual rom-com, but a little deeper. It’s a lovely story about love; love of a father for his daughter, the love and grief he has over his dead wife and the guilt he feels at falling in love with someone else.
Victoria: To keep finding inspiration for my stories, for my family and friends to have health and happiness and for Liverpool to win the Premier League.
Caroline: This year will see lots of changes for me and I am so looking forward to it. I will have more time for writing with new locations and new jobs to get stuck into. It is a time of rejuvenation and I can’t wait.
Thanks so much Jill, for this opportunity to chat on your lovely blog and I wish you and all your visitors the very happiest of Christmases and every good wish for a wonderful 2017.
I’d like to thank Zara, Cath, Nikki, Victoria and Caroline for sharing their Christmas favourites, must haves and traditions with us. I envy Caroline her warm Caribbean Christmas, but I also love Barcelona so I’d be equally happy there. I’d have no difficulty eating or drinking anything on the Cheshirati menu should anyone need an extra house guest and Nikki I’ll happily dogsit the dogs for the day as I know they’re Jack Russells. I wish I had a magic wand to give you all your fantasy Christmas, if only to see Victoria in that 80’s ski suit! But as I don’t I can only hope all you all have a wonderful Christmas and that your wishes for 2017 become reality.