It’s always lovely when a friend’s book is snapped up by a publisher, and I was delighted to hear that Kate Blackadder’s novel, Stella’s Christmas Wish had been bought by Edinburgh-based Black and White. And now publication is finally here! Go on Kate – do tell us about your new novel!
Thank you for having me on your blog, Jenny.
My usual writing genres are magazine short stories and serials but I wanted to challenge myself to write something longer. I had to learn to allow myself to add words – when writing for magazines you’re always cutting to keep to a word limit. But writing serials was good training because magazines ask you to do a detailed synopsis first and I found it useful to do one for Stella.
Stella’s Christmas Wish was originally called Don’t Ask Alice. At my creative writing class we were brainstorming titles and that was one I came up with off the top of my head (although it turned out that someone else had already thought of it). I wanted to take the exercise further – to find out who Alice was, and what she couldn’t be asked and why, so I created Stella and her younger sister Maddie. Alice is their granny who brought them up. She lives in Melrose, in the Scottish Borders, and Maddie shares a flat in Edinburgh.
The sisters and their granny are very close so Stella is shattered to get a phone call in Christmas week to say that Alice is in hospital, unconscious after a fall. Stella is unable to get hold of Maddie and when she dashes up from London it’s to find that her sister has gone away. She gets hints of where and why from various people but it seems it’s only Alice who can provide all the answers – and it emerges that there’s something in Alice’s past that Stella knew nothing about.
On top of Alice being ill and Maddie missing, Stella knows that in coming home she’ll inevitably come in contact with her ex-boyfriend Ross, a former rugby international who now runs a restaurant in Melrose. Theirs was an acrimonious parting and she doesn’t know how either of them will react when they meet again. And of course, when celebrating Christmas is the last thing on Stella’s mind, there are signs all around of seasonal festivities.
So, the themes of Stella’s Christmas Wish include:
Sisters. The story is not in the least autobiographical but little personal things do creep into your writing. Like Stella and Maddie, my sister and I both have our birthdays in May – and, like them, it was a puzzle to us when we were little why her birthday came first when I was older …
Secrets. There’s a secret in Alice’s past, something she’s buried deep for many years. When it surfaces, it becomes the catalyst for a whole chain of events. Family secrets are a subject I find fascinating – and every family has one.
Then there’s the secret, known only to Stella and one other person, about why she suddenly decided to take up a job offer in London, leaving Ross bewildered and hurt.
Stella’s Christmas Wish: an extract specially for readers of my blog.
Six days before Christmas a family crisis brings Stella back from London to the Scottish Borders – and to Ross, the man she left fifteen months earlier. In this extract Stella has unwillingly accepted a lift from Ross.
‘And your work?’ He sounded as remote as if they’d met as strangers at a dinner party. ‘You enjoy it? At least, when it’s not inadvertently getting mentioned on the news?’
‘I’ve had some interesting assignments – the current one is a management buy-out,’ she said. ‘It’s vital it works out otherwise there’ll be job losses.’
He blew out his lips. Almost like a kiss. ‘Big stuff then,’ he said, unconsciously echoing his grandfather’s reaction. If this were before, when she was in the Edinburgh office, he’d have asked questions, wanted to hear more. But now, like herself, he seemed unwilling to respond to her replies in a way that would turn this into a proper conversation. He reached into his jacket pocket for his wallet. ‘Perhaps we should get on.’
‘Let me get this.’ Stella gestured to him to put his money away. ‘As a thank you for the lift.’
He stood up, pushing his chair back so that it scraped along the floor. ‘I may not be earning mega bucks in the Big City but I can afford to buy you a coffee.’
They stared at each other.
Was this it? Stella’s heart pounded. Was this the showdown she’d been half-expecting from the moment she got into the car? She looked away first, biting her lip to stop it trembling. ‘I didn’t mean that. I just—’
The waitress was back. ‘Did you enjoy your coffee?’
Stella got to her feet. ‘Yes, thank you,’ she said. ‘Could you tell me where the Ladies is, please?’ She lifted her phone and her purse and left the café without looking back.
In the cloakroom she stared at herself in the mirror.
Ambitious girl keen to get on in her career, not letting anything – or anyone – stand in her way. That’s how Ross must have interpreted her decision to move to London.
The real story was much more complicated.
Stella’s Christmas Wish is published by Black and White Publishing at 99p. https://blackandwhitepublishing.com/shop/coming-soon/stellas-christmas-wish.html
About Kate Blackadder
I live in Edinburgh with a view of the Castle. I’ve had around fifty short stories published and three magazine serials. Stella’s Christmas Wish, myBook.to/Stella set in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, is my first full-length novel. Two serials The Family at Farrshore myBook.to/Farrshore and The Ferryboat myBook.to/Ferryboat are available on Kindle, and in large-print library editions. I blog at http://katewritesandreads.blogspot.co.uk/ and can be found on Twitter @k_blackadder and https://www.facebook.com/KateBlackadderAuthor