Author keeping the magic of Christmas alive with  advent calendar-style audiobook

Advent Calendar Style Audiobook – Author, Helen S Michaelsen, has released an advent calendar styled audiobook, to inspire and keep the magic of Christmas alive. It’s inspired by a little-known book her mother read to her as a child.

Helen who lives in Dorset, has spent months during lockdown and beyond bringing her audio book project to life. 

Advent Calendar Style Audiobook - Helen with her vintage book
Advent Calendar Style Audiobook – Helen with her vintage book

A Christmas story

The Call of Mektoub is a Christmas story that opens with the antagonist from an old Christmas fairy tale stealing Father Christmas’ sleigh and two young novice reindeer.

The story tells of how two of the book’s characters, enlist a mother and daughter, the keepers of a book called The Land of Never Grow Old. Emma and Lucy.

They meet characters from the old book, including those from diverse folk tales and traditions such as Mother and Father Christmas, Jack Frost, Tweeny Bunting and many more. All-in-all an adventure that harks back to Enid Blyton and a more innocent age.

The audiobook has twenty-four chapters. Each lasts up to twenty-nine minutes. And, although you can listen to the book in any time frame you wish, Helen thinks the perfect way to do it would be to listen to one chapter a night through December, finishing on Christmas Eve.

‘My wish is for people to hold on to the magic of Christmas,’ Helen said. ‘I thought, it’s a Christmas story and there are 24 chapters. It would be perfect as an advent calendar-style story. Something listened to as a family, at bedtime, one chapter a night. Who knows – it one day could become a tradition. That would be my dream come true!’

Adaptation

Helen has adapted The Call of Mektoub from a story she began writing in 2008. That enjoyed a brief e-book release in 2012 with a revised edition in 2013. The idea for the book though has a much longer history and a deep family connection that she hopes to revive.

It’s based on the characters and ideas from The Land of Never Grow Old first published in the 1930s – long out of print. One of the characters is a polar bear, named Mektoub – an Arabic word meaning Destiny or It is Written.  Stella Mead was a well-travelled English writer and Helen assumes this was the source of inspiration for the name.

Mead’s book holds a special place in Helen’s heart. Her aunt won a copy in 1943 for making the best calendar at her small Devonshire school. She passed it on to Helen’s mother who was then aged seven. Helen’s mother, Margaret, loved both the book and Christmas, and read it to Helen when she was a child. Helen has since read it to her own children, reading a chapter a night in the run-up to Christmas. A definite inspiration for the audiobook advent calendar.

The family loved the book so much that Helen wanted to write her own story. One that worked around the original version with some of the original characters and new ones of her own.

And Helen’s children have played a part in its realisation: ‘When I started writing, my children were 7 and 5. And by the time I was ready to publish they were 11 and 9, which is the age range I had in mind for my readership. They shared their thoughts and crucially pointed out parts they didn’t understand – that helped the editing process. But the story is for big kids – like me – too! Especially those who love Christmas and enjoy a little magical escapism!’

The disappearing ebook

Helen’s e-book disappeared from sale when its publishers went bankrupt in 2016. But a year later, a meeting with professional voiceover artist Greg Marston led to the idea that he could record some chapters for posting on his website.

From there, the idea of recording the full book took on a life of its own. The audio book boasts an impressive cast. Some are friends and colleagues of Greg’s and others whom Helen found online herself. Recording took place during the lockdown period as most of the cast had their own professional studios at home.

‘My children also make a brief appearance in the audiobook,’ said Helen. ‘Sophie as Little Mektoub and Luke as a distracted doctor in a Glaswegian hospital!’

Many of the musical pieces started off as Helen’s ideas. They were then adapted and expanded by musicians whom Helen had met on the music hosting platform Soundcloud. Other pieces were the musicians’ interpretations of her ideas. With most of the editing undertaken by Helen, with Greg providing his skills in seamlessly dropping the character audio into his narration, sound engineer Eddie Delag then worked his magic to produce the final chapters.

The publishers

USA-based Lantern Audio are the publishers of The Call of Mektoub. It’ll cost $15.95 in the US, which is around £13 in the UK and you can find it from online digital retail and library platforms. https://lanternaudio.com/the-call-of-mektoub-an-enchanting-christmas-tale/


On the topic of Advent: