Clayton author continues ‘A Christmas Carol’

Paul Mast, of Clayton, holds his book “A Cratchit Family Christmas,” which further develops the members of the Cratchit family after the death of Ebeneezer Scrooge. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Ever wonder what happened to Ebenezer Scrooge and the Cratchit family after the events of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”? Clayton resident Paul Mast has.

He’s done more than idly wonder about it though. He’s endeavored to answer the question for himself by penning a sequel to the Victorian Christmas classic.

“For the past 15 years or so, my youngest brother, David, and I always get together on Dec. 26 to watch the 1951 film version of ‘A Christmas Carol,” said Mr. Mast. “I think Alastair Sim does the best portrayal of Scrooge out of all the films.”

After carrying out this tradition last year, the question about what might have happened next in the timeless story began nagging at Mr. Mast. It lingered until February, when he decided to sit down and write “A Cratchit Family Christmas”.

“I started doing some research and then I just started writing,” he said. “I found out that the

original novel was actually three magazine articles — each based on one of the different spirits. It wasn’t until afterward that Dickens weaved them together as a novel. For the first two years, the novel was a flop, but on the third Christmas, it became a best seller. The rest is history.”

Mr. Mast read that it took Dickens about three months to weave his stories together. “A Cratchit Family Christmas” took almost exactly the same amount of time to write, Mr. Mast said. He also pointed out that Dickens’ novella had 116 pages and his has 123.

Mr. Mast, a retired Roman Catholic priest, is no stranger to the written word. The sequel, originally released on Oct. 23, is his fifth book. His previous works span a slew of subject matters. He’s written a romance novel, a prayer book, a journalistic investigation of homelessness and a novel based on church scandals.

“When I was on (former) Bishop (Michael) Saltarelli’s staff in Wilmington, the scandal erupted around the clergy sex abuse of minors,” he said. “That really threw me off balance and I was emotionally and spiritually displaced for a while. Then I became the spiritual director for four victims who were abused by priests. I worked with them for about two and half years. I decided to try to heal a bit by trying to write a novel about my experience.”

The story goes on

“A Cratchit Family Christmas” opens on the funeral of Scrooge. After being transformed into a benevolent philanthropist by the persuasive efforts of the three spirits, he spends the next 20 years of his life as a generous man. By incorporating the Cratchit family into Scrooge’s business, they become a big part of one another’s lives.

“The story begins to develop the five Cratchit family members — Bob and Alice and their children Peter, Martha and Tim — as they all have flashbacks about their relationship with the transformed Scrooge and how he influenced their lives.”

During the writing of the novel, Mr. Mast pursued traditional publishers, but ended up deciding to contract with Amazon’s CreateSpace — a self-publishing platform.

“A Cratchit Family Christmas” is available on Amazon.com, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach and Acorn Books in Smyrna. l(Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Since the tale crossed over into the public domain a number of years ago, Mr. Mast didn’t need to obtain any special consent to use the same characters, he said.

“Patent laws indicate that 70 years after the death of an artist ,their rights become part of the public domain,” he said. “Dickens died back in 1870. The image on the cover is actually art from the original novel that was published in 1834.”

The Amazon marketing team selected an illustration featuring Bob Cratchit walking with Tiny Tim on his shoulders. Their art department color enhanced and bolded the older, more plain version of the illustration, Mr. Mast said.

“I loved the cover that Amazon put together and I approved it right away,” he said. “When I saw the cover with Bob Cratchit dressed in his Victorian clothes, it inspired me to rent a costume from Actors Attic in Dover to wear out on my book signings.”

On tour

Mr. Mast has spent the last two months touring with his book and making appearances at various signings throughout Delaware. However, a short interlude he hadn’t previously planned on led him to hop a plane on Nov. 18-19 for Dover, England.

When reviewing his book, the marketing department at CreateSpace noticed that he mentioned Dover, England 26 times — so they suggested he explore the possibility of visiting.

BOOK SIGNING DATES
40 S. Main St. in Smyrna (Colonial Home Tour) from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. today
Dover Public Library from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 18
Smyrna Public Library from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 30

“I hadn’t even thought to do it originally,” he said. “I reached out to the Anglican church in Dover, St. Mary the Virgin, because it makes an appearance in the book, and they got back to me the very next day. The rector said that they were honored to be in the book and would host me in the vicarage.”

Mr. Mast’s jaunt to Dover resulted in an enthusiastic book signing and some hobnobbing with the locals, who were charmed further when they heard where he was from.

“They were very amused to hear that I was born in Dover, Delaware in Kent County and that I was visiting them in Dover, England in the region of Kent,” he said.

“One lady had me sign a book to Gerald Dickens — she told me that Gerald was Charles Dickens’s great-great-grandnephew. Apparently, Gerald tours the world doing full performances of Dickens’ 15 novels.”

The woman he met claimed that she’d be attending one of Gerald’s performances in St. Georges Hall in Liverpool on Dec. 21 and that she’d hand deliver the copy of Mr. Mast’s book to him.

Mr. Mast is considering returning next year to attend the Dickens festival held in Dover, England on the first week of October. At signings he performs a dramatic reading, hosts a Q&A and sells hard copies of books to sign. The book can also be found on Amazon, Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach or Acorn Books in Smyrna.

Although on the tail end of his book signing tour for this book, Mr. Mast is already in the middle of his next novel.

“I’m working on new novel with a fellow Delawarean, Smyrna native, Hal Bodley,” he said.

The former local and national sports writer is retired and living in Florida.

“He and I are co-authoring a baseball murder-mystery called ‘Take Me Out to The Murder,’” Mr. Mast said.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment