Phaedra Patrick follows her debut novel, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (an Indie Next selection that was published in over 20 languages worldwide), with the whimsical, poignant tale of a down-on-his-luck jeweler in Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone.
On a shelf in her pantry my mum keeps a round tin box full of beads, gemstones, buttons and buckles that she’s found or collected over the years. I’ve always been a fan of anything small, shiny or sparkly, and as a child, I spent many happy hours sifting through the box. I enjoyed examining and playing with the little bits and pieces, as did my son when he was a toddler. I suppose being a writer is a little like having a tin box in your head, where you store all your snippets of ideas to search through, and pick out, to write a novel.
When I got engaged to my now-husband, I knew that I wasn’t a diamond-ring wearer. The clear brilliant stone just isn’t me. Instead I wanted something different and visited a local jewelry shop where I found a wide silver band with a leaf design, set with a small round green peridot. I’ve worn it for 20 years and still love it. Peridot is my birthstone, for August. However, when I was younger, I felt rather envious that other months were represented by (what I thought were) more glamorous gemstones—ruby for July, or emerald for May. A peridot seemed kind of anonymous and pale in comparison.
When I initially thought of the idea for my second novel, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, I started to read more about gemstones. I learned that, even in ancient times, gems have different properties associated with them. Peridots are supposed to help you to let go of the past, lessen stress and anxiety, and enhance harmony in marriage—perfect attributes for an engagement ring! However, if you’re a dedicated diamond wearer, then you’ll be pleased to know that they signify honour and pure intention.
Through my research, I discovered that the ancient Greeks believed that coral was formed from the severed head of Medusa, and that jade changes color, often to shades of brown, when buried with the dead. Jasper was one of the most popular stones for making seals and amulets, and Mark Antony was reputed to own a red jasper seal ring with which he stamped his letters to Cleopatra.
And through these meaning of gemstones, my premise for my book developed and emerged. Indeed, each chapter starts with the name of a gem and its properties.
The book finds 40-something jeweler Benedict Stone stuck in a rut. In the small village of Noon Sun in England, his jewelry business is failing. He and his wife, Estelle, can’t have children, and she has moved out of their home. When Benedict’s American teenage niece, Gemma, crashes into his life, together they discover an old journal about gemstones in the attic. Gemma challenges Benedict to win Estelle back, and Benedict also begins to incorporate gemstones into his jewelry, which has a very surprising effect on the villagers of Noon Sun.
Throughout the book, we’re never quite sure whether it’s the gemstones or Gemma who helps to make Benedict’s life sparkle again, so I’ll leave that up to readers to decide. The button box still lives in my mum’s pantry. Sadly, my son has outgrown playing with it now. But if anyone in my family ever needs a spare button for a coat, or a bead for a necklace, we know exactly where to look.
Author photo credit Sam Ralph.