Today I’m joined on my blog by the lovely Angela Britnell, who has dropped in to talk about her new book, A Little Christmas Panto.
Angela grew up in Cornwall and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee to visit family and friends, drink tea and eat far too many Cornish pasties!
A lifelong love of reading turned into a passion for writing contemporary romance and her novels are usually set in the many places she’s visited or lived on her extensive travels. Thanks to almost four decades of marriage to her wonderful American husband she’s a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after.
Angela, thank you for coming on my blog today to talk about your new book:
Can a little Cornish village panto convince a troubled Hollywood heart throb to act again?
Oh no it won’t! At least that’s what Zach Broussard initially thinks when the eccentric Anna Teague tries to railroad him into helping out with her community pantomime production in the run-up to Christmas. Zach has his reasons for leaving Hollywood behind, and his retreat to the remote village of Polcarne in Cornwall signals the start of a new acting free life for him.
But when Zach meets Anna’s daughter, Rosey – an ex concert pianist who has swapped Mozart for panto tunes – he starts to wonder whether he could change his mind, and not just about acting.
If nothing else, will the residents of Polcarne ensure Zach has a Christmas he never forgets?
Oh yes they will!
Angela, thank you for popping into my blog today, to answer questions about your new book, A Little Christmas Panto. I have to admit to being a little bit worried that your answers are all going to be ‘Oh yes it is’ or ‘Or no it’s not’.
Oh No They Won’t!
We are in Polcarne this year where the Christmas pantomime rehearsals are underway, so the first thing I’m going to ask, is I’m sure we’ve all got an acting experience in our past that we’d rather forget, oh yes I am – what’s yours?
You’re right that some things are best forgotten! Like many people I took part in the usual nativity plays and soared to the lofty heights of playing the lead angel, Gabriel complete with a silver tinsel halo and dress made out of a white sheet. I was also in the junior chorus of the village pantomime for about three years and so writing this book brought back fun memories. At my grammar school I enjoyed being in the drama group and even took the lead part in a play once but after that my acting ambitions fell by the wayside and I’ve never ventured on stage since. I’m even totally embarrassing myself now by sharing with you a picture of the 1967 St Stephen pantomime production of Tom Thumb – I’m pretty much centre stage, wearing a bobble hat and sitting on a log. I’m happy to say that the St Stephen pantomime is still going strong and after a forced break during the pandemic they’ll be back in January with their 76th pantomime, Robin Hood & The Babes in the Wood.
You’re clearly a natural Angela, it’s a shame you’re so far away and can’t take part in Polcarne pantomime this year too because they are putting on Aladdin – so we meet a genie with a magic lamp, or rather you do – what would your three wishes be?
I suppose world peace might be a tall order, even for a genie, so maybe for the first wish I’ll ask for people to simply treat people as they’d like to be treated themselves. For the second I’ll be a bit more selfish and ask for all of my family to be happy and healthy. And the third … Aidan Turner?
A magic carpet that would go anywhere? Where would you go?
Is it allowed to make multiple stops? If so I’d be whisked off to Oregon and Colorado first to see my grandchildren there, after that it has to be Cornwall of course and then I think some time back in Italy visiting Sicily where we lived for a couple of years and Florence, which I fell in love with on our only trip there a long time ago. Of course on my return to Tennessee I wouldn’t suffer from jet-lag because a magic carpet wouldn’t cause such a miserable thing!
I’m delighted to know that your characters are particularly partial to Cornish pasties, they are a real comfort food for me – I love them, they always cheer me up. Apparently in days gone by they had meat and vegetables in one end and jam or fruit in the other end, in order to give men a two course meal. How do you feel about this? If you could put a savoury and sweet course in a pasty what would you go for?
I’ve always heard of the two-way pasty but never seen one or known anyone else who has so I’m not sure how common that was. I’m a bit of a traditionalist where it comes to my pasty so I’ll stick to the regular beef, potato, onion and turnip at the savoury end and I think apple and blackberry in the sweet side.
Zach, is a Hollywood actor, he has his own reasons for leaving America and coming to Polcarne, can you tell us something about his career up to this point, what sort of roles would he have starred in?
Zach started the same way as many of us – in his school nativity play. Here’s a little excerpt where he’s plucked up the courage to invite Rosey for coffee:
‘Let’s get that coffee.’ Saying those few words felt as courageous as taking his first step on the stage thirty-four years ago. Flashbacks of himself as a scared five-year-old, dressed in a robe made from an old bath towel with a gold paper crown on his head as one of the three wise men in his kindergarten Christmas play, came flooding back. The knot of nerves in his stomach. A fleeting urge to throw up. At his teacher’s urging, he’d trotted out with the equally terrified Noah Warner and brash Ross Milburne, but as the bright lights bathed his face something vital changed inside Zach. He was Melchior. Shoulders back, full of his own importance as a wealthy, sumptuously dressed king, he’d swaggered forward – at least that was how his amazed mother described it afterwards. Then, when Ross had frozen and couldn’t say his lines, Zach had spoken up, smoothing over the hiccup like a practised actor. That was it. He was hooked.
After that he seized any acting opportunities that came along at school until he was offered a scholarship to attend the prestigious Juilliard college in New York. That led initially to off-Broadway plays until a Hollywood agent spotted him and signed him up. He became renowned for playing a variety of parts from the notorious Louisiana pirate Lean Lafitte to the suave Winston Grainger the Third, a snobbish Virginian with a pedigree tracing back to the Mayflower. Zach won 2 Oscars, the last one for playing a doomed Arctic explorer.
Everyone always has an idea of who would be the best person to play their main characters if the book was ever televised or made into a film, so I have to ask, who would play Rosey and Zach?
This is a tricky question because I can’t keep on putting Aidan Turner as the lead man simply because … is there any explanation needed? I can’t think of anyone who really fits my mental image of Zach except for Richard Armitage when he was about ten years younger! He’s got the right piercing eyes, dark hair and great bone structure that’ve made Zach a star. I scanned through pictures of a lot of red-haired actresses, some natural and some not, and think I’ll go with Jessica Chastain to play Rosey. Although Jessica can look very glamorous she could easily fit with Rosey’s more natural, down-to-earth looks.
What was the last play you saw performed, either amateur dramatics or a broadway show?
That would be my grandson’s kindergarten end-of-year show – A Barnyard Moosical – where he brilliantly portrayed a chicken. I definitely see an Oscar in his future!
You’ve been quite prolific with your books lately, and the last three have all been set in Cornwall are we due another Tennessee based book? What are you working on at the moment?
I spent almost a month in Cornwall during September and early October so when I returned from that I stayed busy preparing for the release of A Little Christmas Panto. I’ve made a start on my next book and it will indeed be set in Tennessee but as I’m not a plotter that’s about all I can say for now 😊
You’ve been travelling again lately, how to you manage to carve writing time into your schedule?
I’d like to say I plan it out but that’s not strictly true as I proved earlier in the year when I needed to start on edits for the summer book literally the day after I returned from a month in the UK – I don’t recommend jet-lag edits 😊
So it’s November and while we’re on a countdown to Christmas over here, you’ve got Thanksgiving coming up first, so happy Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hope you can avoid the marshmallow and sweet potato casserole this year, I did try it last year, and have to admit it wasn’t a great success! Lovely to talk to you again Angela and thank you for dropping by.
Happy Christmas to you too, Anne and don’t worry – my family and friends all know that I’ll happily make the dreaded marshmallow and sweet potato casserole for them but not a forkful will pass my lips! Oh No It Won’t!
The book links for A Little Christmas Panto are: