Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Night, being a Walking Tour with Alex and Jackie by Tom Weston

Our special guest today is Tom Weston, author of First Night.

Alexandra O'Rourke, aged 16, is not a happy camper. It's New Year's Eve. She should be partying in San Diego with her friends, but instead she is stuck in Boston, with just her younger sister, Jackie, for company. As if that wasn't bad enough, she is being haunted by Sarah, the ghost of a seventeenth century Puritan. Oh, and there is the small matter of the charge of witchcraft to be sorted out.

Armed only with big shiny buttons and a helping of Boston Cream Pie, the sisters set out to restore the Natural Order. Can Alex solve the mystery of the Devil's Book? Can Jackie help Sarah beat the sorcery rap? And can they do it before the fireworks display at midnight? Because this is First Night - and this is an Alex and Jackie Adventure.

Having lived all my life in Massachusetts and having been to Boston multiple times for field trips and sporting events, I asked Tom to discuss some of the landmarks and familiar areas readers will find in First Night.

First Night, being a Walking Tour with Alex and Jackie
by Tom Weston

While First Night is a fantasy, I wanted to set the story in as real a world as possible. Cue Boston - although it would be more accurate to describe Boston on New Year's Eve as surreal.

Part of my aim was to feature Boston as a character in the book. So I dropped a great deal of ink on the history of the city. There are more than 70 landmarks referenced, many of them in detail.

I have to admit, I did worry if all this history throughout the novel would detract from its pace, but I have been gratified by the reactions of the readers: from Bostonians (of both the ‘I-never-knew-that-existed’ and the ‘been- there-done-that’ variety) to out-of-towners, who have been kind enough to write me that the book has made them want to visit the city and follow in Alex and Jackie’s footsteps.

And the good news is: many of the landmarks featured in the book (except, of course, for the ghostly Court of Spirits) are within walking distance of each other. Indeed several of them form part of Boston’s famous Freedom Trail. In the story, Alex and Jackie manage to visit all of these sites in just one day. While this is technically possible (I know, I did it), to do so comes at the expense of a great deal of enjoyment and discovery. So if you visit Boston, I would suggest that you employ a more leisurely pace than that used by the girls.

I have been accused of favoritism in my selections. Indeed I left out so many worthy attractions that I could fill several Alex and Jackie sequels. But I hope that the reader will agree that I chose based on history and connection to the story, not because of personal preference. That said, if I had to highlight any particular landmarks of those featured in First Night, I would choose the following:

The first is the Granary Burying Ground: where the real child, Sarah Pemberton, was laid to rest in 1688. I won’t say where exactly - go and discover. It may seem macabre to list a graveyard as your number one tourist attraction, but the history of Boston (and America) stems from the people buried here, and it contains many names that will already be familiar to you. And this is where the story of First Night had its genesis, during a visit one earlier New Year's Eve. Before I put pen to paper, I knew that this would be where the story began and ended.

The second is the Old South Meeting House: another Boston gem that I discovered one New Year's Eve (thank God for those buttons). Small, sparse and unassuming – a cathedral it isn’t. But with its little museum dedicated to revolution, democracy and civil rights, it is both humbling and inspirational at the same time. That this also turned out to be Sarah’s church was a happy coincidence.

So if you find yourself in Boston, grab a map from the Visitor Center and follow the Freedom Trail, and don’t forget to say hello to Sarah.

Originally from England, Tom now hangs his hat in Boston, Massachusetts; with occasional spells in such faraway places as London and Luxembourg. Tom has a degree in Computer Science, and he claims to speak three languages: English, American, and Visual Basic. Before turning his hand to fiction, Tom had a successful career as the CEO of a systems consulting company, conference speaker, and writer of industry articles and business books.

As well as the novel, First Night, Tom has also written the screenplay, Fission, based on the true story of scientist, Lise Meitner, and the race for the atomic bomb. While Fission has yet to find a home in Hollywood, it garnered enough critical acclaim, including being named as a finalist at the London Independent Film Festival, that Tom was encouraged to keep on writing, resulting in his latest work which is, of course, First Night.

You find Tom online at


Anonymous said...

Hi Cheryl,

Thank you for giving me space on the Book Connection.

I encourage everyone to come to Boston for First Night, even if they don't read the book.



Cheryl said...

Thanks for dropping in Tom. It's great to hear about a book that has so many familiar sites.