visits my blog this week. Hi, Mary Jayne, and thanks very much for being here. The enigmatic and enduring Miss Moonshine is the subject of your post today, I believe. So, tell us more...
September will see the release of the second anthology of short stories about Miss Moonshine – Christmas at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium – set in the fictional Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge. All nine contributors are successful romantic novelists from the north of England.
It’s funny to reflect now on Miss Moonshine’s origins, before we realised how important she was going to be in all our lives. Over one of our regular cake-stuffed lunches, Helena Fairfax suggested we collaborate on an anthology, an idea that was taken up readily by the rest of us (I think some of us may have had wine…). And so the Authors on the Edge were born – nine novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire who regularly met up on the “edge” in Hebden Bridge, near the border of our two counties.
Various themes were suggested to link our 10,000-word short stories together in a single volume. As some of us write contemporary romance while others write historicals, it needed to be something that could span different time periods – I think for a little while we toyed with the idea of an item of clothing that would be passed from owner to owner. But eventually we settled on the idea of a mysterious shopkeeper, whose timeless shop in a fictionalised version of the town where we met provides happily-ever-afters to everyone who enters. Provided they deserve them, of course!
The shopkeeper would be named Miss Moonshine, we decided, and would be an otherwordly figure who dressed in outlandish clothes (we originally pictured her as looking a little like Vivienne Westwood!), had sparkling hazel eyes and a shock of white hair, and was devoted to her elderly chihuahua Napoleon. The act of creating her felt a little magical in itself, seeing how she came to life in all our tales and took on a personality all of her own. As different as our stories were, Miss Moonshine was always there being just exactly herself, regardless of who was writing for her. By the time we’d put together the first volume, I think all the contributors felt “Miss M” – as she’s affectionately known by her creators – was someone very real indeed.
In the first anthology, Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings, Miss M sells a variety of items to the people who come through her doors: a fire opal necklace; a music box; a ballgown. The one thing all have in common is that after receiving them, the owner’s life will never be the same again!
I loved writing my story “The Last Chapter”. In it, Miss Moonshine gives a young friend a cheesy pulp fiction novel, Budgerigars Don’t Talk, which eventually leads her both to the idea that will save her business and the love of her life. One big fan of this tale was my mum, who had a request for the next story I wrote – more about Miss Moonshine! And when mums give orders, of course daughters have to do as they’re told…
In my Christmas story, “The Ghost in the Machine”, my journalist heroine delves more into this mysterious shopkeeper and the whispered rumours about what happens to those who enter her shop. When she dares to cross the threshold of the emporium herself, she comes to find herself in possession of a 1920s-era Woodstock typewriter. This eventually leads her to a tragic love affair of the past – and to one of her own in the present. But will she expose Miss Moonshine’s magical meddling in the lives of her customers?
Here, heroine Scarlett meets the enigmatic Miss Moonshine for the first time.
Scarlett tried not to stare, but she couldn’t help it. This had to be the oddest-looking individual she’d ever seen. Certainly the one with the weirdest fashion sense.
Miss Moonshine had a shock of white hair, fluffed beehive-like on top of her head like an elderly Sandy Shaw tribute act. She was dressed in a long, black-fringed dress that would have suited the widowed dowager in an Agatha Christie, complete with string of pearls. And on her feet, a pair of massive Doc Marten boots.
How old was she? If someone had told Scarlett the woman was sixty, she wouldn’t have been surprised. If someone had told her she was nearly a hundred, Scarlett still wouldn’t have been surprised.
‘Miss Moonshine, I take it?’
The old lady glanced up from fussing Napoleon. Her mouth twitched.
‘So you’re here,’ she said softly.
Scarlett blinked. ‘Er, yes. I appear to be.’
There was silence while Miss Moonshine looked her up and down.
‘Look, could we make this quick, dear?’ she said eventually. ‘I’ve got a poker game to get to.’
‘You play poker?’
‘Oh no, I never play.’ Miss Moonshine’s hazel eyes glinted. ‘I win.’
Scarlett regarded her for a moment. ‘Huh. I believe you.’
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Thank you Mary Jayne, and another fellow Author on the Edge will be visiting the blog next month, so watch this space...