Like Christmas jumpers in clothes shops, festive-themed books have been popping up all over the place during the last few weeks. But for those of us involved in their production, their advent (ho ho) will have been much sooner, because when planning to publish seasonal books, authors have to think like the fashion industry, designing festive sweaters in July and bikinis in midwinter.
My own collection of Christmas short stories, Stocking Fillers, began to take shape back in August, while I was soaking up the sun at the Homeric Writers’ Retreat in Greece. For someone like me, used to spending Christmas in the northern hemisphere, Ithaca seemed an incongruous setting in which to weave wintry words. Not so for the retreat’s organiser: as an Australian, Jessica Bell may have spent the week hankering after the traditional Christmas dinner down under on Bondi beach.
A little later in the summer, I found myself beside a rather colder beach, in Aberdeen, on the north east coast of Scotland. The acres of pale sand were completely deserted, thanks to gunmetal grey skies, blasting winds and stair-rod rain. At night, in our camper van, snuggling down in my winter-weight sleeping bag was far more conducive to dreaming up the rest of my Christmas stories.
THE CHRISTMAS IMPERATIVE
What is it about Christmas that compels us to write seasonal fiction? It has always struck me that by penning A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens made the rest of us redundant, for who could possibly write a more moving or memorable festive story than that? So many characters, phrases and icons have crept into our culture from the story of Scrooge’s redemption, taking root there as stealthily as the ivy from a Christmas wreath. Although festive traditions provide plenty of prompts, the more stories that are written about Christmas, the harder it is to produce something original.
But still those stories keep coming! Because for authors, the most natural way to share the true spirit of Christmas is not through sending cards (I confess I have yet to write mine), but through penning feel-good stories. Every author’s story is different and interesting in its own way, as proven by the Write Romantics’ own Christmas anthology, Winter Tales. That book’s generosity of spirit oozes not only from the stories themselves but from the group’s decision to donate all profits to charity.
In Stocking Fillers, I’ve tried to be different and original in my stories too. Though all the usual suspects and situations are in there, there are also plenty of surprises, and I hope at least one icon that people will remember and hark back to in the Christmas yet to come. “I want one of those clocks!” one reader has already said to me. Which clocks? If you want to know, turn to the story called Christmas Time.
This Christmas I’ll be reading many new Christmas stories that I’ve been stockpiling on my ereader for the holidays. No doubt more will turn up under the tree on Christmas morning, because Father Christmas knows that bringing me books is always a safe bet.
On the other hand, I hope he’ll also leave me a new notebook (A4 spiral bound hardback, please, if you’re reading this, Santa) – because my other big plan for the holidays is to get down to work on my summer collection. Now, where did I put that bikini…
PS If you’re still not convinced that you ought to be reading Christmas stories, here’s a seasonal and topical alternative: my single short story set at the winter solstice, Lighting Up Time, about a young woman’s fear of the dark – something to light up even the darkest, longest night tomorrow on December 21st.
My author website: www.authordebbieyoung.com
Stocking Fillers on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stocking-Fillers-Twelve-Stories-Christmas-ebook/dp/B00PF018YC/
Lighting Up Time on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lighting-Up-Time-Winter-Solstice-ebook/dp/B00QFZDHGS/
Homeric Writers’ Retreat: http://www.homericwriters.com