Hello! Sunday Sojourns are back! Not as frequently, but I’m thrilled to be inviting authors to talk about their books, and bringing us a historical hook to get our teeth into. First up is the lovely Awen Thornber, to tell us about part of the inspiration between her novel, Foxtrot in Freshby, which I reviewed earlier this year. I’ve also got a couple of extracts for you, to tempt you in…
Thank you for having me on your Sunday Sojourn, Jennifer. I appreciate the chance to explain a little bit about my choice of setting and dance for my novel, a romance with intrigue.
FOXTROT IN FRESHBY
When dance teacher Gina Pendleton throws her cheating boyfriend out of her house, she must find a way of earning extra money to pay the bills. The obvious answer is to offer dance classes at her home, even though she knows this will incur the wrath of the owner of the local well-established dance school.
Her life becomes even more fraught when she is targeted by vandals and intruders.
She meets Chris Jackson, it doesn’t take her long to realise he is a wonderful dancing partner. But can she trust him when it appears he is hiding something from her?
You can find Foxtrot in Freshby on Amazon here.
The next foxtrot tune blended seamlessly with the first and they carried on without a break. She became increasingly aware of the other couples leaving the floor and forming a circle around them. Even Freshby’s very own poisonous, hissing snake had left the dance floor. When the music stopped they were on their own.
A roar of appreciation and loud applause echoed around the ballroom, with some voices cheering and shouting “Encore!”
Chris’s eyes twinkled with pleasure. He beamed from ear to ear and hugged her close.
She leant her head towards him and whispered, “Wow! Just wow! I haven’t enjoyed dancing like that for years.”
“Neither have I.” His deep blue eyes gazed into hers with admiration, and he kissed the top of her head. “You were amazing. You followed my every step.”
“You were a good lead. I could tell every move you were going to take next.”
If only she could read his intentions as well as his dance moves…
As he lead her back to their table, she moved in a little closer, hoping for another show of affection, but at the same moment, the man he’d spoken to on the dance floor slapped him on the back and announced, “You two were made for each other. I’d pay good money to see more of that. A neatly executed Operation Foxtrot on the dance floor. Talking of which, I think you’re on again.”
“Come on, Gina. They’re playing our song again.”
She willingly let herself be guided back on to the dance floor for another foxtrot. Our song. They already had their very own song?
Michael Jackson sang The Way You Make Me Feel as they glided their way around the empty floor.
The Ballroom at Blackpool Tower, Lancashire, is one of the worlds most iconic ballrooms. My dance school goes each year, sometimes for the youngsters to compete and sometimes for an afternoon tea and dance for the adults. It was on the latter occasion in 2016 that the idea for Foxtrot in Freshby was born.
I thought it would be a wonderful venue for Gina and Chris to enter a competition here, in my novel. Unfortunately when I asked my dance tutor about a suitable competition, it became clear that the idea wouldn’t work. Gina being a dance teacher would be classed as a professional and Chris an amateur.
Undeterred I decided to make the main setting Gina’s home in a combination of Formby and Freshfield, on the Southport coast, and name the village, Freshby. I then moved the dance competition to the Southport Floral Hall. Less grand, but convenient and more fitting to the story line.
The interior of the Floral Hall was nothing like the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Gina had been to the Tower Ballroom, in her own competitions as a teenager, and it had appeared so grand to her then that it had made a lasting impression on her.
Here there were no plush velvet seats and ornate gold painted carvings around the walls, nor was there a balcony or a famous rise-and-fall theatre organ. A little part of her was disappointed that their first competition together should be in a building that, although modern and bright with a purpose-built floor, was lacking in grandeur and history.
Why foxtrot, when Gina starts up an argentine tango class at her home?
Argentine Tango originated in Buenos Aires and the dance itself was adapted to crowded dance floors so the couple only need a small space to dance in, making it perfect for Gina to teach in her lounge, but not so ideal when it came to the ballroom dance competition they were going to enter.
She met Chris when he helped move the furniture out of her lounge.
Maybe she was being somewhat optimistic, thinking they could lift the heavy furniture up the stairs between them, but she left her front door open for Geoff to let himself in. She was in the kitchen searching for some gloves to protect her hands and help her grip, when she heard a noise.
She returned to the hall to greet Geoff and blinked in surprise. “Oh!”
“Hi Gina. I’ve brought Chris to help me. He was loitering in the shop so I suggested he could make himself useful. Gina Pendleton, meet Chris Jackson. Chris, meet Gina.”
She held her hand out to shake Chris’s, and wondered why his face seemed familiar.
At over six feet tall, attractive in a fresh-faced, boyish kind of way, with stunning blue eyes – the sort she wanted to stare into – she knew she wasn’t mistaken in thinking their paths had crossed at some point. She realised she still had a grip on his hand as she searched his face for a clue about where they’d met. If he lived in Freshby, perhaps they’d passed each other in the town centre.
“Sorry, but, have we met before?”
“Not met, exactly.” He paused. “I was at the same Boxing Day party, and I was going to offer you a drink, but you shot past me and left early before I was able to speak to you.”
“Ah!” She vaguely remembered a hesitant guy standing by the door as she rushed away from the party.
Formerly a textile artist and design consultant for a craft company, Awen Thornber produced craft projects and articles for magazines, and had a regular craft column in Northern Life magazine. She is always looking for inspiration to spark her creative mind and currently devotes her time to writing novels. Born and bred in Lancashire, Awen also loves walking, painting, ballroom and ballet dancing.