I am delighted to be welcoming Kirsty Ferry to my blog today, I sort of know Christmas is just around the corner when I hear there’s a new Kirsty Ferry book out. And in 2021, Christmas of New Beginnings was published by Ruby Fiction on 19th October 2021, which means the festive season is well and truly here. Mental note – order Christmas cards – yes, I am still one of these old-fashioned people who like writing cards. But as the weather changes and the nights draw in, Kirsty’s latest book is a perfect seasonal romance to curl up in front of the fire with. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present you won’t regret it.
Kirsty Ferry is from North East England and lives there with her husband and son. She won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 and has had articles and short stories published in various magazines. Her work also appears in several anthologies, incorporating such diverse themes as vampires, crime, angels and more.
Kirsty loves writing ghostly mysteries and interweaving fact and fiction. The research is almost as much fun as writing the book itself, and if she can add a wonderful setting and a dollop of history, that’s even better.
Her day job involves sharing a building with an eclectic collection of ghosts, which can often prove rather interesting.
Welcome Kirsty, before we start, can you tell us something about Christmas of New Beginnings.
Not all festive wishes come true right away – sometimes it takes five Christmases …
Folk singer Cerys Davies left Wales for the South Downs village of Padcock at Christmas, desperate for a new beginning. And she ends up having plenty of those: opening a new craft shop-tea room, helping set up the village’s first festive craft fair, and, of course, falling desperately in love with Lovely Sam, the owner of the local pub. It’s just too bad he’s firmly in the clutches of Awful Belinda …
Perhaps Cerys has to learn that some new beginnings take a while to … well, begin! But with a bit of patience, some mild espionage, a generous sprinkling of festive magic and a flock of pub-crashing sheep, could her fifth Christmas in Padcock lead to her best new beginning yet?
You are one of the most prolific writers I know, do you write one book at a time or have lots of ideas on the go at the same time?
It’s one book at a time, but a lot of them are quite quick to write. If I have a series out, then as I’m finishing one book, I tend to know which character I’ll choose for the next book and as I already know them quite well, they are quite easy and grow quite quickly. I was once accused of ‘churning them out’ by someone, which I took great offence to! Some of the books have lingered in one form or another on my hard drive for years, and parts of some were written as part of my MA course, where I was quite strategic. There was a good two years where I wrote absolutely nothing, but luckily Choc Lit had a few in hand so that filled the gap. My husband works away for several weeks at a time, my son is now away at Uni, and I work part time, so all that helps to give me time to write. Prior to that, my laptop was my constant companion if my son had Scouts or swimming or guitar lessons, and I would sit for an hour and work away while I waited for him with no distractions.
Do you have a Welsh connection?
No I don’t! We have family from Scotland, Ireland, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Sussex and of course the North East – but Cerys is Welsh, and we’ve had some lovely holidays in that area, and she just needed to be Welsh for some reason, especially as she had a background as a folk singer and comes from a musical family. I do love the accent, though, and our lovely Choc Lit authors Sue McDonagh and Evonne Wareham have wonderful accents.
I love the way you took us back through four of Cerys’s Christmases, tell me about a Kirsty Ferry Christmas.
Well last year’s was pretty diabolical, and I was glad to go to bed at the end of the day! Normally, though, we have a lovely time. It starts properly on Christmas Eve, and we go to the local church Family Carol Service with a group of friends and their children – the kids have all grown up with one another and are good friends too – and then we get a Chinese takeaway and watch Muppets Christmas Carol. A carrot for Rudolph, and a mince pie and a beverage for Santa still goes out by the fireplace (he likes prosecco nowadays, I wonder why), but I think that’s more for my benefit than anyone else’s! On Christmas morning, we still have stockings at the end of the bed, and all creep downstairs to see if the Christmas tree lights are on, which indicates Santa has been. Then we open presents to a soundtrack of Christmas morning TV and go to see my parents mid-morning for coffee and mince pies. We have lunch at home, then my parents come over mid-afternoon for more coffee and mince pies, then they go home and I miraculously change into my PJs. Chocolate is scoffed, prosecco is drunk, TV is watched, presents are explored, a hot bubble bath is run and I disappear in there for an hour or so with new candles, bath smellies and a book, and possibly more prosecco. Then it’s a chilled-out evening and a walk on Boxing Day to blow the cobwebs away!
Singing and music are quite important throughout, do you sing, and can we expect a rendition of “The Parrot Song” around the Ferry Christmas table? And what is the parrot song?
Ha! My singing is about as diabolical as Christmas 2020 was! One of my best friends and I did recently watch Dirty Dancing and sang along loudly with all the songs, and then moved onto 80s classics along with a TV show, and our singing got louder and louder. By the end of the night we were utterly amazing singers. Well, we thought so, anyway. We do have a karaoke game on the playstation called Singstar, and sometimes switch it on for a laugh. My friend and I also feel we excel at that. Over the years my husband and I have had a few Singstar Challenges with other couples where we made trophies for winners and losers out of plastic microphones and kept swapping them over. It’s all good fun. Our dog hates it though. He winds himself around our feet and stares at us until we stop. If we close the lounge door on him, he stares out of the glass panels and tries to use mind control to stop us. The Parrot Song is basically The Twelve Days of Christmas, but a Welsh folk version of it. I was researching songs that might fit for that scene in the book, and that one made me smile. As Cerys says:
“As I sang, the pub fell quiet and, when I ended my last song, you could have literally heard a pin drop.
What I did hear wasn’t a pin – it was Edie suddenly beginning to clap, and a funny noise that sounded like a disguised sort of snotty sob from Veronica. That last folk song must have made her feel emotional, even though it was actually just a Welsh version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, and I’d simply slowed it down and looked serious while I did it. It’s called ‘The Parrot on the Pear Tree’, if you’re interested.
I really hoped Veronica would never find out.
It could have been worse; Geraint and I had been known to do a duet about a dead pigeon. Truth.”
You usually write in the third person, but here you write in first person. How easy do you find that to do?
It was a lot of fun. The thing I need to always watch for is head hopping amongst narrators, and that seemed a lot easier to avoid this way, as I only use one voice rather than four, which is something I have to juggle in my timeslips. Also, I found it was a great way to really get into the character of Cerys. I could imagine her talking and saying those things and I think it gets her personality over quite well. You can also have a lot of fun in first person narrative by creating an ‘unreliable narrator’ which is basically the way they see the world. I don’t think I’m quite literary enough to do that, but I did enjoy telling Cerys’ story in Cerys’ voice.
Padcock sounds an idyllic place and I know Lacock well, so was fascinated to learn you’d based Padcock on it. What made you decide this would be the perfect location?
I just wanted a lovely little village that had a close-knit vibe about it, and, like Lacock, was used to hosting drama and costume productions. Christmas of New Beginnings was actually written after my first foray into Padcock, and for that first (as yet unpublished) book I needed a location where a film crew would rock up and the villagers would be “oh, okay, hello film crew”, and just go about their business. I have no idea if Lacock residents feel that way, but I’ve visited Lacock a couple of times now and always felt it was a lovely place to store away for a setting. The kind of village where reality might drift along a little, to a background of excitement from visitors and strangers to it. Christmas of New Beginningsopens just after a TV version of Christmas Carol has been filmed, and the villagers all got into character as extras – so you have this surreal feeling of costumed villagers in a very modern setting, having drinks in the local pub. I thought it set the scene for ‘quirky and cosy’ quite well.
You have a knack of creating characters that feel so real. Reading one of your books is always like being amongst friends. Where do you get the inspiration for your characters from?
They usually appear in my mind at the most random moments. Sometimes I see someone walking down the street or sitting in a coffee shop and I go, hmmmm, I wonder what their story is? Sometimes I think of a concept for a story and the people just walk into the pages, with a little help from a Google image search. Sometimes, like in The Girl in the Painting, the characters are real, historical people I’ve fictionalised. I find I get to know them and develop their quirks as I go along. I think a character has to have flaws to be real; sometimes, I don’t even know what their flaws are until I start writing. I try not to base them on people I know, and as I go along, I will edit it carefully to make sure that they aren’t recognisable, as I can tell who they are turning into!
I love the fact you’re bringing Edie back for another Padcock book. I can’t wait to get to know her properly. Are there other characters that you see coming back in later books?
Yes! Edie’s book was actually the first one I wrote, and that’s scheduled for publication next summer. As I wrote that, I saw Cerys begin to come to life, and realised that hers should be the first Padcock story. Edie is such a fab character, I wanted people to get a flavour for her craziness in the first book and then really let them get to know what makes her tick in the second book. Edie is an artist and has a very individual look – but she’s pitched up in Padcock and as her story develops you understand more about why that happened. In Christmas of New Beginnings, she’s in a pretty dark place, although she’s still funny and outrageous, and she’s happy to crash around in Cerys’ tea shop ‘helping’ out. I think Cerys and Edie both need one another to lean on, and always will, and this Christmas book was the perfect way to introduce them to one another, and introduce Edie to the readers. Next year’s Christmas book is about Geraint, Cerys’ brother. He’s a bit dopey in Christmas of New Beginnings at times, but he’s very sweet. He does say in ‘his’ book something along the lines of ‘if you ever hear Cerys telling her version of my story, take it with a huge pinch of salt’. That’s a nod to the unreliable narrator thing I mentioned earlier!
Belinda’s persuaded Sam to turn the Spatchcock Inn into a gastropub, what would be on a typical menu these days?
Hmm – I think triple cooked chips (not the cheesy chips my characters favour!). Something vegan like banana blossom dressed up as battered cod. Halloumi fries. An organic scotch egg with a runny middle. Smashed avocado on sourdough toast. Something random containing black pudding or calamari or both. A weird burger topped with something abstract. A tiny pudding that’s gone in one bite, with a drizzle of coulis next to it. There are some very nice gastropub menu ideas, but the sort Belinda is planning isn’t something Padcock will look kindly upon!
It sounds like Sam is experimenting with artisan gins, what would be his favourite flavour and why?
I think Sam would be a rhubarb and ginger man. It’s modern yet traditional at the same time and has a sort of manly aspect to it. Plus, it’s very, very tasty….
Do you have a routine for writing?
I usually do best in an afternoon, from about two until four. I will work later at night if I’m at a point where I’m trying to finish something or want to keep going as it’s flowing so well. By now, I know when that point is, and I switch off TV at nine and take myself off to bed with a cup of tea and my laptop and work until eleven or so when I force myself to stop or I’d just keep going. I love seeing how the word count grows when I do that, but it’s tiring, especially when I have to get up for day job the next day, so it’s not something I could sustain regularly.
Have you ever had writers block; how do you get rid of it?
Yes, as I said earlier, there was a good two years where I wrote nothing. I had no heart to write, and life was getting in the way big-time. Sometimes, I just don’t have an idea to work with. So far, I’ve always managed to get one in the end though. I will often start a book, get to a certain point, then stop for weeks or months as I can’t move it forward. Then I’ll suddenly see a way to do it – it’s almost as if it’s bubbling away under the surface and needs something to make it crystallise when I’m not focussing on it. And at that point, I attack the story with a new vigour and when I get that 9pm feeling, I know it’s on its way to completion.
Thank you so much for your time today, Kirsty. It’s been a real pleasure to talk to you.
Christmas of New Beginnings is available from:
You can find out more about Kirsty from: