Christmas inspiration for A Time to Change by Callie Langridge
Today I am pleased to welcome Callie Langridge on to the blog with a fantastic gust post about Christmas!
Christmas inspiration for A Time to Change
What would you do if you had a vivid dream where you were running through deep snow, beneath a midnight sky pricked with bright winter stars? If you turned to see the light from the windows of a vast stately home reflect on the snow, knowing that a Christmas Eve Ball was in full flow inside? If your breath came in thick hot gasps as, desperate to escape a pursuer, you watched your silk dance slippers transform into battered trainers as you crossed through the gates of the house and onto a wet, litter-strewn pavement?
On waking, you might wonder where on earth such a dream came from. Or, if you’re a writer, you might jot it down. Then you might start thinking day and night of a story of someone somehow crossing from 2013 to 1913 when they step over the boundary of a stately home. That stately home might be derelict in the present day but was a thriving stately home in the past. And someone might be on a journey to change the future of the family who owned that home. There might be mysteries, blackmail and a touch of the supernatural … I’ll stop there as I’m on the verge of giving massive spoilers!
Soon after I had that dream, I began writing what became A Time to Change. I had never considered writing time travel before and knew that I had to get my research right. I’ve always had a passion for history and have to confess that the research was huge fun. Not least because Christmas is my favourite time of year and the first half of the twentieth century, my favourite era. To write a novel with a festive feel, set in my favourite period, was a joy.
I immersed myself in books, films, TV and museum visits to learn about the pre-First World War period. I learned about the rules and etiquette that dictated all aspects of life within the grand houses of the landed gentry – the strict rules of behaviour for staff below stairs and the family upstairs. Learning about the Christmas traditions was particular fun – the festive food they ate, the grand Balls, the use of candles in the branches of Christmas trees, the beautifully blown glass baubles, the paper lanterns. So many of the traditions, including throwing parties, gift-giving, and bringing evergreens into the house are familiar to us now – the mixture of the ancient mid-winter festivals and the Victorian Christmases.
But books and films can only take you so far. I wanted to experience the Christmas of 1913 as far as I was able. Unfortunately, and unlike my main character, Lou, I can’t travel through time, so I did the next best thing; I visited stately homes at Christmas time. I explored many beautiful homes for inspiration, but of all of the properties I visited, one stood out – Polesden Lacey. It is a wonderful house set in the Surrey Hills and was the weekend country retreat for a wealthy Edwardian London hostess – Mrs Greville, who entertained royalty and the famous. Each year at Christmas they decorate the house to represent the Christmas of a particular era. Fortunately for me, the first year I went, the house was dressed for an Edwardian Christmas. I got to explore the upstairs and downstairs. I went into the passageways of the staff and the gold ballroom. I saw the huge Christmas tree in the hallway with the presents wrapped beneath. I rushed home, brimming with inspiration. As I wrote that night, I could almost hear the crackle of holly berries on the garlands above fireplaces and smell the candles snuffed out each night.
For me, it was a lesson in writing from experience. It’s important to get the historical details right. I want my readers to feel they are there in the story, eavesdropping on conversations, sipping champagne and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.
If novels are passports to other worlds, I hope readers of A Time to Change feel they have been on a lovely journey to the Edwardian world.
About the Book
In a house full of history and secrets, the past will not stay where it belongs…
Lou has always loved Hill House, the derelict manor on the abandoned land near her home. As a child, the tragic history of its owners, the Mandevilles, inspired her dream to become a history teacher. But in her late twenties, and working in a shop to pay off student debts, life is passing her by.
That changes when a family disaster sends Lou’s life into a downward spiral and she seeks comfort in the ruined corridors of Hill House. The house transforms around her and Lou is transported back to Christmas 1913. Convinced she has been in an accident and is in a coma, Lou immerses herself in her Edwardian dream. With the Mandevilles oblivious to her true identity, Lou becomes their houseguest and befriends the eldest son, Captain Thomas Mandeville, a man she knows is destined to die in the First World War.
Lou feels more at home in the past than the present and when she realises the experience is real she sets out to do everything in her power to save her new friends.
Lou passes between 1913 and 2013, unearthing plots of murder and blackmail, which she must stop no matter the cost.
On her quest to save the Mandevilles by saving Thomas, Lou will face the hardest decision of her life. She will learn that love cannot be separated by a century.
About the Author
Having left school at 16, she studied drama before embarking on a career in marketing. This saw her work in music marketing in the heady days of Britpop in the nineties. She unleashed her creativity in the design of window displays and marketing campaigns for the leading music retailer. More recently she has followed her passion for social history and currently works in marketing for a national historical institution, promoting projects and running events.
On hitting her thirtieth birthday, she decided finally to take her A levels and gained A’s in English Literature and Language, and Film Studies – not bad when working full time! – and this spurred her on to take the first of many creative writing course. A few years later and she has had a number of short stories published and plays performed at theatres and venues across London.
Callie lives in London with her long-term partner and an ever-growing collection of antique curiosities.