The one where Summer Nights hits a reviews milestone within a month and I talk about the inspiration behind a recurring plot point

Tomorrow, 6th May, marks one month since the final part of my Starfish Café trilogy – Summer Nights at The Starfish Café – but I’ve just spotted the number of reviews/ratings it has attracted so far on Amazon and am so thrilled to see it has hit 1,000 in time for its one-month anniversary.

The Kindle version spent a week in the Top 100 (with a publication day high of #62) and has been in the Top 300 most of the time since, only dipping out on a couple of days. The Audible version also spent its first week in the Top 100, getting as high as #22, and has been in the Top 400 since then which is such an honour, especially when interest in a series can often dip as a series progresses.

Thank you to everyone who has bought, borrowed, downloaded or streamed this story and shared their kind comments (and bah humbug to the 11 who decided it was only worthy of a one-star rating!)

I wanted to write a post today about one of the plot points in this series but *SPOILER ALERT* If you haven’t read the series already, can I suggest you come back later when you have?

About six years ago, we visited Aysgarth Falls while on holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. By the car park, there was a café and gift shop and it’s a standing family joke that I cannot walk past a gift shop. It was full of gorgeous locally-sourced gifts and I was particularly drawn to some cards of a little girl in a pink tutu and red wellies. I had no idea who I’d send them to or why, but I felt compelled to buy them.

A few years later, I began writing the first book in The Starfish Café series – Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café. It’s a story which explores, among other things, bereavement. Hollie’s mum, Heather, has a terminal illness and writes a couple of cards containing advice and encouragement for the dark times ahead. She asks her best friend Angie to pass the first onto Hollie immediately after her death, but entrusts her to hold onto the second card to pass on at a time when Angie believes Hollie may be struggling and could benefit from further encouraging words.

These two cards play an important part in the series. They’re mentioned in book 2 – Spring Tides at The Starfish Café – but carry a strong focus during the final book, Summer Nights at The Starfish Café.

When I had the idea for including cards in my book, I remembered the ones I’d bought that day at Aysgarth Falls. They’d been in my drawer for a several years and now I had the perfect use for them – as inspiration for the cards Heather sent to Hollie.

They’re from the Rosebud Collection by York-based artist Mark Braithwaite, inspired by his daughter. One of them is called ‘Nice Weather for Ducks’ and shows Rosebud standing in a puddle surrounded by plastic ducks, holding an umbrella over her head. Heather’s advice in that first card was to include one of her regular sayings for when things get tough –  “keep dancing in the rain” – so the idea of her sending Hollie a card with a little girl splashing in a puddle was perfect. I felt, however, that the protection of an umbrella contradicted that freeing message. The second card showing Rosebud in the garden blowing on a dandelion puff clock – ‘One O’clock. Two O’clock’ – wasn’t a fit.

I was curious as to whether there were any others pictures in the Rosebud Collection which more closely matched what I was looking for so I visited the website for the Braithwaite Gallery (which the artist owns in York) – see previous link. I found a painting called ‘Splish, Splash, Splosh’ where Rosebud is bouncing up and down in a puddle holding a magic wand. In another called ‘Puppy Love’, she’s running with a dog and I felt drawn to both of them.

The idea of including a dog in Heather’s cards for Hollie particularly resonated because the family had a beloved golden retriever called Willow. I’d hoped to get hold of those two designs in card format so I could create an inspiration board with all three on them, but not all designs were available as cards. I ended up buying prints of them and the original one. They’re been invaluable to look at for inspiration but I sadly don’t have room to display them in my office as wall space is very limited.

Back to the first card from Heather, I reimagined a blend of these three pictures and changed the breed of dog to a golden retriever, As described in Snowflakes Over The Starfish Café, the little girl is, “splashing in a puddle as the rain fell around her. A golden retriever bounced beside her and an open red umbrella lay abandoned nearby”.

In Heather’s second card, there would be more advice which included an extension to the dancing in the rain phrase: “If you stumble, make it part of your dance”. I needed something to illustrate not giving up despite a stumble, but there wasn’t anything in the Rosebud Collection that seemed suitable. Having viewed the full collection, I could imagine Rosebud giving first aid to her teddy bear so I decided to stick with the dancing in the puddle, but change the background – “Behind her stood a first aid case and in front of her sat a teddy bear with its arm in a sling. She had a sticking plaster across her knee and was blowing kisses to the bear.”

The two cards Hollie receives after her mum’s passing are referred to throughout the series and particularly in Summer Night at The Starfish Café when she’s preparing for her wedding to Jake but reflecting on her family not being there. They’re an important part of the plot and I still find it amazing that I felt so drawn to buy those cards that day, and that it was years later when I discovered the reason for my purchase. It was clearly meant to be!

Hope you’ve enjoyed that little insight into one of my plot points and the real-life inspiration behind the illustrations on Heather’s cards.

Big hugs
Jessica xx

4 thoughts on “The one where Summer Nights hits a reviews milestone within a month and I talk about the inspiration behind a recurring plot point

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