A Lion is Not Just for Christmas
Genre: Romance mystery
Is there life after the circus has left town?
Circus performer Justine Belmont works with big cats, but when the circus is disbanded and the old lion is sold to a private menagerie at a stately home in Norfolk, she is asked to spend a few weeks settling him into his new environment. When she arrives at the estate, however, she receives a mixed welcome.
The groundsman Tom Yates resents her presence as he doesn’t feel he needs her help with the lion. He revises his opinion when he sees the bond between her and the big cat, and she and Tom grow closer, although Justine remains torn about her feelings for him. The lady of the house, Priscilla – who is married to the reclusive owner, Lord Brooks’s, grandson – is not so easily convinced. She perceives Justine as a threat for the male attention and her plans for the manor. And her two young daughters are a little too curious about the lion for their own good.
When unsettling events occur, Justine begins to wonder if there is more to Priscilla’s animosity than meets the eye. Can Justine keep herself and everyone else safe until it’s time for her to leave again and start a new life elsewhere?
Scene when Justine and Tom meet, in reality, for the second time.
“I remember you.
Not many men had red hair like that and wore it so unashamedly loose like a rose gold crown. This groundsman – Tom – was the reason Justine had nearly missed a step during the last performance of the season. As far as she was aware ginger men preferred to keep their hair cropped short or even shaved off, fearing that it would make them look effeminate. Or something like that.
There was nothing effeminate about this guy. On the contrary, Justine thought, drinking in his broad shoulders, strong hands and sturdy workman’s clothes. He was every bit a man.”
Goodreads link: http://bit.ly/2yIqETy
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2k2CFhX
I’ve always been fascinated by the circus. It was a different world of elegant line-dancers (which are known as wire-walkers among professional circus performers), daring trapeze artists, brave animal tamers, and of glitter and glitz on par with the magical. A world which was, at any rate, completely beyond the reach of ordinary people like myself, or “townies” as circus folk call us.
But what’s it like behind the scenes? When the bright lights are turned off, the make-up removed, sequinned costumes hung up, the animals stabled? What kind of life do circus people lead? Does it bear any resemblance to mine?
This is one of the absolute joys of being a writer; you have the freedom to make things up, of course, and I am grateful that I’ve have the ability to do just that, to tell a story. But you can also choose to do extensive research to get every little detail right, or even what I did when I worked on A Lion Is Not Just For Christmas: a combination of both. The research part was fun because it was an excuse to read lots of books and watch lots of films with the circus setting that I love so much. I also read non-fiction and watched documentaries, and used Google too, that eternally helpful little tool.
And then I pictured myself smack-bang in the middle of it. All my childhood dreams come true! Using the insight gained from my work as a writer, I pictured what it must be like working long hours doing the same thing over and over again until you get it right. The strength, determination and sheer willpower to succeed. Which I imagine to be exactly like working on your writing craft until that day when your book finally hits the shelves. And then you do it all over again, just like circus people do when they move onto the next town and the next glittery performance. In the end, seeing myself in the ring wasn’t so hard because as a writer I’m nothing without my audience, i.e. my lovely readers. And I’m always very conscious of this.
I’m lucky to have readers. There was a time when I wrote solely for my own eyes, and the thought of getting published was a mere speck on the horizon. I never thought I would get there, but winning the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance in 2011 was a massive leap for me. It gave me the confidence to really target publishers with my writing and eventually led to a publishing contract.
Writing a book is a very mechanical thing for me. Once I’ve got the initial idea down, which is where blue sky thinking comes in, I begin to actually plan the book by writing an outline. Then I compile my own research folder. I do this for all my books, using a 40 pocket display folder that you can get a stationer’s, and put in everything which is relevant to putting the book together. This includes the working outline, which I’ll have to refer back to now and again, research into various aspects – in this case the circus and circus acts, caring for big cats, a suitable stately home for the other half of the setting, horse riding, running a café, posh Christmas decorations, etc. – anything that I feel is relevant to creating my story.
Because of this method of working, once I start the actual writing, the setting and the research has become so central to my thinking, that it’s very easy to picture the scene, to see the people on the page, to listen to them “talk”. Research can be fun and exciting, but nothing beats that moment when your characters truly come to life!
ABOUT HENRIETTE GYLAND
Henriette Gyland grew up in Northern Denmark but moved to England after she graduated from the University of Copenhagen. She wrote her first book when she was ten, a tale of two orphan sisters running away to Egypt, fortunately to be adopted by a perfect family they meet on the Orient Express.
Between that first literary exploit and now, she has worked in the Danish civil service, for a travel agent, a consultancy company, in banking, hospital administration, and for a county court before setting herself up as a freelance translator and linguist. Henriette recently began to pursue her writing in earnest winning the New Talent Award in 2011 from the Festival of Romance and a Commended from the Yeovil Literary Prize.
Henriette lives in London.
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5426857.Henriette_Gyland