tell us a bit about yourself and your book.
Eleanor Harkstead and Catherine Curzon. Our Christmas m/m romcom The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas is
released on 22nd December!
Will Reuben be
unwrapping a captain this Christmas?
Reuben’s a makeup artist who’s much in demand
in the business, from making the beautiful even more gorgeous to creating an
alluring love-scene glow. All of his Christmas wishes come true at once when
he’s hired to work on the set of his favourite TV show. And not only that but
on the swoony Christopher Manners.
Bunny is lusted after by millions as the
brooding hero of television’s Captain Firth adventures. His manly swash and
handsome buckle have earned him a legion of fans, and when he strides onto the
screen and commands, “Draw your sword, sir,” it’s time to get down to business.
When Reuben and Bunny’s first date turns into
a disaster, it looks as though the show’s over before it’s begun, but a
blizzard, a mysterious bearded man in a red coat and a hot winter night combine
to give them a second chance.
1. Are you a pantster or a plotter?
We both get together to write a plot before we start. Writing together means
that pantsing just wouldn’t work! That said, we sometimes don’t know how a
character will get out of a particular situation until we get there. We listen
to the characters and they tell us what they’re going to do. Or they just do it
and it comes as a pleasant surprise!
2. Where do you get your inspiration?
The inspiration for the story came partly from Catherine and I talking about
what make-up artists do on set, and how they use a mixture of water and baby
oil to give actors a post-coital gleam! And that conversation set us off, and The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas is the
3. Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing?
Before we start writing, we’ll bat ideas back and forth, which usually starts
with a character and a scenario or environment. Then we start to get into a
position where we can write down a plot. In this process, we’ll share photos of
people who might resemble the characters, their clothes and accessories, the
houses they live in, the buildings they work in, the cars they drive, that sort
helps us individually to do that sort of research (I know lots of solo-writing
authors who do, even using a model from a catalogue as a heroine!), but of
course as we’re writing together, it’s important to share these things so we
can “see” what each other is seeing.
4. What is the significance of the title?
EH: The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas is linked to our Captivating Captains series. Our first jointly-written novel was The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, and when we thought about it, we realised there was potential to have all sorts of captains! Army captains, cricket captains, ship’s captains, pilots...
5. What were the key challenges you faced when writing this
The biggest challenge with writing a Christmas story is that they’re generally
not written at Christmastime. We wrote The
Captain’s Snowbound Christmas in early September 2019! I know people who’ve
written Christmas stories who’ve played Christmas music in the background to
help them get into the zone.
I found that once we were into the story, and describing the December chill,
and the decorations, and people asking each other what they were doing for
Christmas, it was actually really easy to forget it was September. In fact, I
was surprised when I looked out of the window and saw bright sunshine and
realised there was no frost on the ground! And certainly no snow.
6. What are you reading now?
The Commissar Vanishes, by David
King. It’s an absolutely fascinating examination about the censorship of
official photographs in Stalin’s Russia, to remove those who had been deemed
“undesirable”. I have a lifelong fascination with the politics of the World
Wars and the Cold War, and this book is a richly-illustrated look into one of
the most audacious and extreme examples of propaganda.
I’m currently reading - and enjoying - Kate Johnson’s cosy mystery Death Comes to Cornwall. The action
partly happens on the set of a TV programme, so it dovetails quite nicely with The Captain’s Snowbound Christmas!
7. What was your favourite book when you were little?
The Faraway Tree stories by Enid
Blyton. Today they evoke memories of the happiest parts of my childhood, and
the joy of losing myself in a fantastical story.
Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch stories.
I started to read them just as I moved to a new school, so I could really
identify with the hapless Mildred Hubble. And I had a tabby cat as well!
8. What do you do to relax?
I’m an aviation nut, and can often be found sitting beside runways with a
megazoom camera and an airband radio, snapping photos and listening in to the
flight deck. My dad built planes for Lockheed many, many years ago, and we
spent a lot of time at airshows and runways when I was a little girl. Today, I
keep up the family tradition!
Every so often I get really into knitting. Back in the spring, I was knitting
ear-savers for NHS and care workers, then when I found out I was going to be an
auntie again, I switched gears and knitted lots of little bears as well. And I
really enjoy family history and transcribing old documents. I love the
extraordinary stories that can pop up in them - ordinary people don’t always
lead ordinary lives!
9. If you could live anywhere where would it be?
By the sea, and I’m determined to one day do so!
And lastly, what superpower would
you have given the chance?
CC: Invisibility, because I’m super nosy!
They are the authors of numerous short stories and two novel series, the de Chastelaine Chronicles, and the Captivating Captains, published by Totally Bound and Pride. Their novel The Ghost Garden was shortlisted for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards.
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Reuben couldn’t believe his luck. Makeup on
the filming of one of his favourite shows. As he found a spot in the studio car
park, he felt as if he’d stormed the barricades and at any moment someone would
arrive and try to throw him out. And Reuben would say, “Go and have a word with Amy, she’s hired me for the day.”
Reuben had loved Captain Firth since the first series had been shown on television.
What wasn’t to love about the flamboyant show full of men in tight breeches and
flowing shirts? And the saturnine and sexy-as-hell captain?
Maybe I’ll get to meet
him. Maybe I’ll get to say “Draw your sword, sir!” to the man himself.
As a makeup artist, Reuben had met a huge
number of actors and celebrities. It was both a perk and a downside of the
job—some of the people he’d met couldn’t have been nicer, and some couldn’t
have been more nightmarish if they’d tried. Reuben had never been particularly
starstruck, but he feared he might be if he actually met Christopher Manners,
the man who played the captain.
Once he’d found a spot for his Renault, Reuben
tightened his scarf round his neck and headed off into the studio. He’d
probably spend the day applying mascara to a chimney sweep’s face or brushing
rouge onto a kitchen maid’s cheeks, but when he saw the wall behind the
reception desk covered by a huge Captain
Firth poster, his heart leapt with excitement.
you smouldering bastard.
“Reuben!” Amy appeared from a closed door
before he had a chance to approach the receptionist. “You’re a lifesaver!
Carrie’s gone into labour and we’ve got literally one day left before we wrap.
Reshoots, you know… I’ll tell you on the way. We’ll go straight down. It’s a
Reuben nodded. “Hope Carrie’s okay! Closed
set, eh? This should be interesting!”
He was probably going to be stood in a room
with the coachman boffing the brigadier’s wife, but it paid a wage, so Reuben
didn’t care. Besides, he’d been told before on closed sets that he was a joy to
work with during intimate scenes, so he would be in his element.
“I’m going to let you look after Bunny,” Amy
said as they strode along a grey corridor. It was funny to think that somewhere
in this labyrinth, the Napoleonic Wars were being fought by the swoonsome
“Okay,” Reuben said, trying to mask his
disappointment. Definitely one of the less-well-known cast members, then. No
naked, lustful Christopher Manners for him.
“Bunny’s a complete peach.” She pushed open
another door, dodging past two fully equipped astronauts as she strode on. “But
everything that could go wrong this morning has. It’s all a tad tense for our
Regency spies today!”
“I’ve got my kit, don’t worry!” Reuben assured
her. “And I’m an old hand at love scenes, you know that.”
“Brilliant.” Amy grinned. “Because once we get
today wrapped, I can start my proper Chrimble!”
They paused outside another door that Reuben
knew would take him into makeup. He was no stranger to the setup at the studio,
after all. Amy opened the door a little and peered in, then told Reuben, “Come
on in, everyone’s mostly decent!”
Reuben strolled in, nonchalant as he swung his
toolbox of makeup. Until he clocked who was standing by the mirrors wearing
only his breeches.
His very tight breeches.
Oh fucking hell, no
way! Christopher Manners!
“Erm…nice to meet you,” Reuben said. Nice being the understatement of the
Christopher turned and raised his teacup to
Reuben in greeting. “Hello!” he said as a man knelt before him, face to face
with the breeches. For a moment Reuben wondered what was going on, then the man
began tussling with the buckle of Christopher’s sword belt.
‘Draw your sword sir!’
Reuben was so tempted to say it. The words
were burning his tongue. But he didn’t dare. Here he was, in the flesh. Captain
Firth. His toned chest was even more impressive in reality. And those shoulders…that flop of dark-blond
hair and…and…his blue eyes. Reuben tried to bring himself to his senses and
said, “Just looking for Bunny?”
“You’ve found him!” Christopher Manners
extended his arm over the armourer’s head towards Reuben. “Sorry, I’m trapped
in my sword belt!”
Reuben wasn’t sure where to look. He glanced
down at the armourer and all he could see was Christopher’s groin in the
pale-coloured breeches. Then, when he glanced up, his gaze latched on to the man’s
chest before moving up the column of his kissable neck and finally settling on
his eyes. And even that seemed wrong, somehow.
“I’m Reuben. And you’re…you’re Bunny? You’re on the closed set?”
“I hope so, or my agent’s not doing her job!”
He seized Reuben’s hand and shook it as Amy
said, “Bunny, I’m going to leave you in Reuben’s capable hands today. Linda’s a
bit shy and I think she’d prefer a gal, so…you boys’ll be okay together, won’t
you? We need Bunny to look nicely battle-worn and beddable, smouldering
basically. Dust down on torso and shoulders, all that.”
Reuben blinked. Battle-worn and beddable? But wasn’t that one of the main reasons
people watched Captain Firth? Well,
one of the main reasons Reuben watched it, at least.
And Reuben would help to bring the magic
“Okay, could you take a seat and I’ll…” Reuben
turned to Amy. “So just torso, arms, shoulders, we’re keeping the breeches on?”
She nodded. “They’re due to come off round
about lunchtime, but for now just torso.”
“Arse out before lunchtime,” Bunny lamented as
the sword belt finally came free. “Thank God for that! Can’t do a love scene
strapped into a sword belt.”
Reuben put his toolbox down on the worktop. He
caught sight of his own reflection and saw his cheeks were pinker than usual.
I’m going to see
Christopher Manners’ bum. I’m going to sponge it and brush it. Dear God, this
is a beautiful day.
“Okay, we’ll deal with the bum when we come to
it,” Reuben said. He selected some of his creams and powders and laid them out
on the work surface. “Could you take a seat, Christo— Do I call you Bunny? Or
“If you’re powdering me from head to toe, we
may as well go straight to Bunny,” he replied with a smile. “Skip the
Straight to Bunny?
“Dare I ask why you’re called Bunny?” Reuben
“Because I earned my Equity stripes playing
the Easter bunny in a rather anarchic pantomime.” Bunny gave him a dazzling
smile. “And now I brood manfully on Cornish cliffs for a living.”
Amy patted Reuben on his shoulder as though to
say thanks for being a sport, then
headed towards the door with the armourer in tow. As she reached the threshold
she paused and turned.
“Reuben, I forgot to tell you to bring your
baby oil. You’ll need it after lunch!” She shrugged. “I’ve got some in my kit,
shout if you need it.”
Baby oil. On Captain
Firth’s chest? I’ve been waiting for this moment forever.
Reuben had a quick rummage in his toolbox and
held up the bottle. “Never fear, I come prepared!” He gave Bunny a wink.
“Post-coital gleams are a speciality of mine.”
“I hope so.” Bunny settled into the chair,
returning Reuben’s wink with one of his own. “Captain F’s known for his
Reuben remembered one scene in particular
where Captain Firth had lain naked on a bed, only a very small, convenient
piece of sheet sparing his blushes. Reuben had always envied the makeup artist
who’d worked that scene.
Reuben dabbed some foundation in different
shades on the back of his hand, then took a sponge and tried them out on
Bunny’s shoulder. Bloody hell, he’s
toned. “Just finding your shade… So…I wasn’t expecting to be doing your make up today. Carrie’s having her
baby, Amy was saying?”
“Isn’t it great news?” Bunny beamed. “Thanks
for coming in at such late notice. You’ve really saved the day.”
“It’s no bother,” Reuben said. “I had a
magazine shoot booked in for today with some politician bod, but it got pulled
because of some Whitehall drama. I’d much rather be doing this!”
Reuben decided on the shade for Bunny’s chest,
poured out the foundation on a palette and got to work with a large sponge.
“Tell me if it’s too cold,” Reuben said, aware that Bunny’s nipples had
pebbled. Nipples that he’d be stippling with rouge later.
It’s a tough job but
someone’s got to do it.
“It’s fine.” Bunny took a sip of tea. He was cold, though, Reuben was sure, just
too polite to say. “You haven’t worked on our show before, have you? I’d have
Reuben smiled. He was glad that Bunny wasn’t
one of those actors, the kind who saw
everyone backstage, including any actor who had lower billing than them, as
anonymous, entirely forgettable minions.
“No, I haven’t. But I love the show. It’s so
exciting to be here. And it’s so exciting doing your makeup.” Reuben took a breath and the words of Captain Firth’s
catchphrase rang loudly through his head, as intrusive as an insistent earworm.
‘Draw your sword, sir!’ He bit it off
just before it erupted from his mouth. “Yeah, good ol’ Captain Firth…”
Bunny’s face was on a bus that went past Reuben’s
shared south London flat every day, the features brooding and chiselled
alongside the words, Draw Your Sword This
Christmas. And like the rest of the country, Reuben would be glued to the
screen at his family’s festive gathering.