By Lucy Diamond
Finishing writing a novel is always a bittersweet experience for me. There’s joy, of course (I did it!), relief (particularly if a deadline is looming) and the happy anticipation that a pay cheque should soon be on its way (shopping spree ahoy!). Alongside all the celebration though, I often have a feeling of sadness too: that this particular journey with these particular characters has come to an end. All the loose threads of the story have been neatly pulled together, and everyone has the ending they deserve. Game over.
But what about the characters themselves, once the words ‘The End’ have been typed? Is it really the end for them? Do they cease to exist? After all, give it a few weeks, and I’ll usually be starting work on a brand new book, with a whole new set of characters to meddle with. In fiction, as in real life, I have discovered that some people are harder to forget than others. You find yourself wondering about them from time to time. What are they up to now? Are they doing okay, are they happy?
For me, the stories in The Beach Café are very much tied in with a sense of place, my imaginary beach in north Cornwall. And even though I finished writing the book back in 2010, I’ve been back to Cornwall every year since then – and each time, my mind has drifted to Evie and the café. How was she getting on? What was it like when all the tourists had gone home? How was her first Christmas at the café? And then an idea took hold, of the café at Christmas, and before I knew it, I was typing ‘Chapter One’…
Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that my characters often pop up in later novels, but I have never written an actual sequel before. The prospect of writing a short, Christmassy follow-up to The Beach Café proved impossible to resist and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting Carrawen Bay and writing the next episode in Evie’s life. I hope you enjoy reading it just as much!
There are some Christmas recipes at the back of Christmas At The Beach Café – all sent in by readers, following a competition on my Facebook page, and thoroughly researched (and eaten) by me. Because I love the Novelicious ladies soooo much, the recipe below is a little extra, just for you: my own favourite alternative to a traditional pudding. Best served on Christmas Day post-roast, with cream, custard or a sneaky dollop of brandy butter.
Apple, Mincemeat and Cranberry Sponge Pudding
1 large cooking apple
100g fresh cranberries
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
75g self-raising flour
25g ground almonds
10g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 180 C, gas mark 4. Peel, core and chop the apple, then gently cook the pieces with a splash of water in a lidded saucepan for a few minutes until soft.
Stir in the cranberries and mincemeat, then pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish (approx. 1 litre size)
Now make the sponge topping. Cream the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with each. Sift the rest of the flour and fold it in, along with the ground almonds, until well mixed.
Spoon the topping over the fruity base and then scatter the flaked almonds over the top.
Cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes. The sponge should be golden and bounce back when pressed.
Tuck in, pull another Christmas cracker… and then go back for a second helping. Hey, it’s Christmas!