I am delighted to have the lovely Helen Bridgett back on my blog today, to talk about her latest book, the second in the Serenity Bay series. This time Helen has written a romantic comedy that has a cosy crime television drama woven through it. I really admire how you can switch from one genre to another. How exciting a second Serenity Bay book. I am delighted to be back at Serenity Bay and see that all seems to be going well for Andy and Chloe still.
Helen, welcome, can you tell us a little about the book?
A peaceful Christmas in Serenity Bay? Think again!
Chloe Walsh’s skills as location manager for the beautiful seaside village she calls home have come up trumps again, and Serenity Bay is now the setting for cosy crime drama The Montgomery Mysteries, starring amateur sleuth Dominic Montgomery and his crime-solving dog, Agatha.
But Chloe is in a race against time. Filming has to finish before the village Midwinter Festival but schedules are tight – and a mystery saboteur is intent on slowing things down even further. Not only is Chloe facing problems with the shoot, she also has some personal conundrums to solve – a diva actor has commandeered her flat, her mum is having a late mid-life crisis, plus she has no idea what to buy for her Christmas-obsessed boyfriend!
Can Chloe sort out her life and save Christmas for an entire village?
So Helen, I have some questions for you:
Serenity Bay sounds the most idyllic place. Is it based on somewhere real, if so where?
Doesn’t it sound the most perfect place? Serenity Bay is based on a combination of villages – all perched on the glorious Northumberland coast. In the first novel I mention that it doesn’t have a castle like the neighbouring villages – which means that it’s not Bamburgh but I often envisage those wide sandy beaches when I’m writing. I’d say that Serenity is probably closest to Beadnell but also has touches of Cullercoats in there. To be honest, you could come to any beach on our coastline and be wowed by their beauty. We also have the most fabulous fish and chips – or the local kippers so there’s always a good reason to stay for a while!
Holy Island is completely real and absolutely worth a visit – but do check the tide times.
I could do with a week at Roisin’s retreat, what do you do to relax?
I believe in the restorative power of the outdoors. I love walking – whether it’s a leisurely stroll along the beach with my elderly Labrador or a hike across the Cheviots I’m happiest when I’m in fresh air. It blows away any cobwebs and really does make you appreciate the wonderful countryside we have around us. If a walk is out of the question – usually because of weather – then I love to curl up with a good book. I’m a simple soul really!
The Montgomery Mysteries sound perfect Sunday night viewing. I love a crime drama, I find it a great way to switch off. Are you a Sunday night television fan and what would be a perfect television evening for you?
Yes – I’m the same – I do love a Sunday evening drama and a cosy crime or thriller usually hits the spot. At the moment I’m enjoying Dalgliesh – the new series based on the PD James novels. He’s a very stoic detective – calm and reassuring. That’s what you need on a Sunday!
I love the way you weave the crime drama through this book, and who couldn’t fall in love with Agatha? Is she based on anyone (dog) you might know?
Ha – busted! I have a chocolate Labrador called Angus but he would make the very worst detective! When I decided to write a dog into the novel, it simply had to be a Labrador even though I know they’d be more focussed on finding food than clues. So Agatha is so much better behaved than my own dog but that’s probably down to the owner!
I do love dogs and volunteer for a charity called The Cinnamon Trust; we walk the dogs of people who are too elderly or infirm to do it themselves and it means that people don’t lose their companions at the very time they need them. The two dogs I walk are called Poppy and Portia – you may have noticed those names do appear in the novel!
Did you have to do much research for the television side of things?
I used to work in advertising so went on several film shoots so I do know some of what happens although it has probably moved on so much now. The thing I really remember is that sense of teamwork and of everyone knowing their role, coming together and making something wonderful. Also – they were very long days and standing outside all the time, it was often freezing cold. It certainly isn’t glamorous.
If the television rights, or should I say when the television rights, get snapped up for the Serenity series, who do you think would make a perfect Maggie?
Blimey – that’s a tough one. She’d have to be comedy actress who’s also quite a steely person? We have so many great actresses in the UK but I might go for Jennifer Saunders who I think is good in anything she appears in.
Okay, I’m going to put you on the spot now if you were hosting a writing award ceremony, who would the nominees be – four authors and books please and why?
This is a very tough question so I’m going to answer from a very personal perspective.
- Enid Blyton – The Faraway Tree – for inspiring millions of children to read
- Emile Zola – Germinal – for showing me that words on a page can actually make you weep.
- John Boyne – Ladder to the Sky – for his ability to make horrible characters enthralling.
- Sue Townsend – The Queen and I – just loved how Sue mixed real issues with comic genius.
And the winner is….?
I have to say Enid Blyton because without her – I don’t know if I would have spent so much time reading or fantasising about the worlds she’d created and one day, writing my own book.
If you could be an extra in any film or television programme which one, would it be and why?
Bridgerton – the next series – so that I can wear those fabulous costumes, meet handsome dukes and perambulate along peaceful river banks!
Christmas can be a very stressful time of year. Do you have/ or ever have had one person that you always dreaded receiving from presents from and why?
Oh gosh – there can be so much pressure can’t there? I really hope that last year’s experience has made people realise that it isn’t the presents that matter at all – it’s just about relaxing and spending the day in the way that makes you happy.
Fortunately – I’ve never had that feeling of dread (and to be honest – I would never criticise a gift, they are given with love after all). In our family, we just pick one name out of a hat and buy for that person – there’s also a spend limit so really we buy simple things for each other. I’m looking forward to a book and some good dark chocolate – that’s it and I know that I’ll thoroughly enjoy them.
I know you’ve said in the past that you love baking – have you had Stir-Up Sunday and made this year’s cake yet? Di you go got alcohol or fruit tea this year?
Yes – I had a lovely afternoon with the radio on, baking. So it’s made and sitting in the tin waiting to be fed. As I was preparing to make it, I found a recipe called a dark and stormy Christmas cake – named after the cocktail. So this year the cake is laced with spiced rum and has lots of added ginger. It looks and smells delicious so I can’t wait to cut into it – only 5 weeks to go!
We’re only a couple of weeks away from British Bake Off final, are you a fan? Who would you like to see win and why? Have you thought about entering?
Oh yes – I’m a fan. Though I’m not good enough to enter – in this series, the judges said that Lizzie lacked finesse – well I think I would probably take it to a new low!
I think Giuseppe might win – he’s been very consistent over the weeks and his creations have looked simply gorgeous. I don’t know how Prue stays so slim!
Thank you, Helen, for coming on to my blog today. Maybe Serenity Bay could host a baking competition sometime soon….
Now there’s an idea! Thanks so much for inviting me along & have a lovely Christmas x
You too Helen, and for those all important book links: