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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

How a Real Life Love Story Propelled Christmas Carol Prequel, ‘The Red Button’

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Did you know that a recently released prequel to A Christmas Carol is based on a real life love story?

Join us for a fascinating, wide-ranging interview with Keith Eldred as he explains the why, how, and who behind his A Christmas Carol prequel, The Red Button. (For our full review: New Novel Reveals Untold Story Behind Scrooge Romance.) Take it away, Keith!

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Hello, Kristine and Kimber fans! I am grateful to K & K for inviting this guest post and for reviewing The Red Button, my prequel to A Christmas Carol that focuses on the doomed engagement of young Scrooge and his fiancee, Belle.

I appreciate the opportunity to tell why I wrote it. You might be able to guess some of the reasons but probably not all.

First reason: I love A Christmas Carol!

Thawing

Like countless others, I’m always fascinated to watch the frozen pond that is Scrooge undergo thawing. Compassion flows, bitterness melts, regret ripples, and finally generosity gushes, just in time for the holiday.

I absorbed an enthusiasm that my father developed during the Depression and through World War II. From 1934 to 1953, Lionel Barrymore annually played Scrooge on the radio, a tradition that deepened American affection for A Christmas Carol. Every Christmas Eve, my father pointed our family toward the rebroadcasts, plus we had the annual CBS animated version. Few of my childhood memories surpass these.

Second reason: I wanted more

Over time, I became somewhat frustrated that I couldn’t go deeper into A Christmas Carol. I pined to enter and walk around.

Tell Me More!

I was especially curious about Scrooge’s engagement. We meet him old but apparently still smitten, since magical glimpses of Belle pierce his soul. Their brief scene together indicates the long betrothal of a likable pair. Ebenezer is tender, energetic and determined, and Belle is considerate, eloquent and decisive. So let me know more! How did they meet? What did they have in common and see in each other? How did they shape each other? What highlighted their engagement? Why did Belle finally, regretfully withdraw?

Also, at their parting, Belle wears mourning dress. Who died?

Crafting my story gave me satisfying answers to those questions and fresh perceptions of related characters. I have a great fondness for well-crafted prequels and origin stories, ranging from Batman Begins and Smallville to Dead Man’s Walk and Wicked. This is my origin story for Scrooge and Belle.

Third reason: I want to make a lot of money!

A Special Wrinkle & A Moonshot Goal

Janet and Keith Eldred

Just like all authors, right? But with a special wrinkle: My wife Janet and I have a moonshot goal of raising $1 million for our public library, which she serves as director. I wrote The Red Button for our project THIS IS RED, inspired by Janet’s early-stage dementia. Our website is This Is Red.

Red!

There you will find that I make much use of the color and the word RED. It’s the last half of our last name (EldRED) and the color of passion, such as Janet and I share for each other, for reading and for libraries. Another of my books (also inspired by A Christmas Caroll) is Rubrum, Latin for red. Red is also a primary color of Christmas, of course, and all of this swirled into The Red Button.

As of this posting, Janet is still able to work, completing her 18th year with the library, pressing toward retirement with full support from her board of directors and staff. She has been impaired for nearly a decade. While still reeling from her initial diagnosis, Janet found that she could remain effective, and we saw a chance for her to provide an inspiring example. Her infirmity is well known in our community.

However, since we didn’t know what lay ahead, I retired early from my 29-year corporate career to blend my bucket list with Janet’s: I would aim to create bestsellers to benefit her library. I managed to edit past writing and create three new books to self-publish 20 titles in 2020, including The Red Button.

Keith and Janet with some of Keith’s titles.

Project Update

To date, our project has raised nearly $20,000, but only a small percentage is from books. Most is from donations that we invited as we publicized our effort. $4,600 came from a local festival, and $10,000 when Janet won the American Library Association’s 2021 Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Facing Adversity.

As satisfying as these results are, I do want to create a bestseller or two! I believe The Red Button has the broadest appeal of my titles and could become a book club favorite. (So do we! So listen up, folks! Start talking up this title. Share links. And most of all, get the book, okay? – Mom and Kimber.)

Fourth reason: I crave immortality

A Lasting Tradition

I’m only half-joking. On top of our million-dollar goal, I’m also aiming for The Red Button to generate a lasting tradition in theatrical productions of A Christmas Carol: A red button in the pocket of the actor playing Scrooge, for reasons explained in the novel. I long to hear of a costumer, decades from now, telling a stage Scrooge, “Just carry it! Don’t you know the story?”

Who Knows?

Admittedly, our goals are outlandish. Most writers never earn $1 million, much less alter culture. But Janet and I are having a priceless time targeting impossibilities. And who knows?

Here is a humbler wish: May The Red Button make your life just a bit richer.

.

We really mean it, Kristine, Kimber and K & K fans.

Thanks again to each of you.

***

Find out more at: This is Red.

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