Continuing my occasional Throwback Thursday series, I’m taking a look back at the Home for Christmas stories and how they came about. If you haven’t yet come across this series, it consists of three books, all linked by the common theme of finding a home for Christmas. Speaks for itself really.
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of home, and what it means. Is it a place or a person? Home is clearly important to me, as the theme of finding a home or making a new home runs through many of my books. If I believed in astrology I’d say it was because of my star sign. I’m a Cancerian, and we’re supposed to be very attached to our homes – well we are crabs, and we do tend to carry them around with us! Of course, being logical and practical *whistles* I don’t believe in astrology, so it couldn’t possibly be because of that…
Anyway, to get back to the books. Home for Christmas actually started back in 2014, when I was asked by the blogging group, The Write Romantics, to contribute a short story to their anthology, Winter Tales. It was to be a collection of winter-themed stories and would be published with all profits going to two fabulous charities: The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust. This was just before I was asked to join The Write Romantics myself, and at that time I’d only spoken to two of them – Jessica Redland and Alys West. Understandably, I was nervous, particularly when I learned that many other authors were contributing a story – authors I’d heard of! I wasn’t practised at writing short stories. I was still working on my first novel at the time, so you can imagine I was fairly daunted.
The Other Side of Christmas
I’m not sure where the idea for The Other Side of Christmas came from, but out of the swirling mists of panic and doubt there suddenly appeared a title, and two characters – Katy and Luke. Before I knew it, I was writing a short synopsis, and then I began to write. It actually didn’t take me as long as I’d imagined it would. The story was almost formed in my head. The biggest surprise to me was that I realised I’d written a lot of it in present tense, which wasn’t something I was used to.
It worked, though. As Katy undertakes her lonely, snowy, Christmas Eve car journey back to the Holderness village of Weltringham, the story is in the present tense, but when she looks back over what led her to this dismal moment, those events are told in past tense. The story seemed easier to follow with the contrast in tenses, and I admit, I got quite fond of Katy and Luke. I’d have liked to expand their story a little, but we had a strict wordcount cap, so that was out of the question. It was five years later when I decided I’d revisit them and find out a little bit more about them. And that was how my Christmas novella, The Other Side of Christmas – book two in the Home for Christmas series – was born.
Baxter’s Christmas Wish
So The Other Side of Christmas came first, in a sense. But the first Christmas novel I ever published was Baxter’s Christmas Wish. At the time, it was a standalone novel. I hadn’t thought about expanding it into a series. Baxter’s story came about quite differently. I’d set myself a challenge of writing a pocket novel for The People’s Friend. Baxter’s story was the one I came up with, though at the time, it wasn’t set at Christmas. I was beyond excited when it was accepted for publication, and thrilled when it appeared in shops and supermarkets in October 2015.
Of course, typically, I was recovering from an operation to have my appendix removed at the time, and couldn’t manage a trip into town to see it on the shelves of WH Smith – my dream since childhood. I did, however, brave my local Morrison’s, and managed to buy a copy from there. It was a real milestone to me.
But pocket novels only stay in circulation for two weeks, then they’re replaced by the next one. So it seemed to me that, unless I wanted Baxter to disappear into the ether, I needed to do something with it myself. I sent it to Ulverscroft, who – to my amazement – bought it for publishing as part of their large print library. I then decided to publish it on KDP as a Kindle book, but first, I came up with the idea of tweaking the story to make it a festive novel, ideal for the following Christmas. And so All Because of Baxter became Baxter’s Christmas Wish, and once I’d written The Other Side of Christmas, I realised they’d go well together, linked by a common theme. And that’s when the Home for Christmas series really came into being, complete with a paperback edition.
Christmas with Cary
I’d had the idea for Christmas with Cary for ages. I’m a huge Cary Grant fan, and it was actually one of his films that gave me the idea for the story. I was watching Penny Serenade, and I loved the way the narrative unfolded, as the heroine, Julie, played by Irene Dunne, looks back over her marriage to Roger (Cary Grant) as she prepares to leave him. Where did it all go wrong? We find out as she works her way through their record collection – each song taking her back to a key event in their relationship – so bit by bit we discover why she is about to end her marriage.
I thought it would be a great way to tell a story, and I decided to put my own twist on it by making my heroine, Molly, look back over her relationship with her very own Cary as she worked her way through, not records, but Cary Grant films. As she was homeless and alone, I thought it would make a great addition to the Home for Christmas series, finishing it off nicely. I became very fond of Molly and Cary, and I hope you will, too. I’m pleased to say that Christmas with Cary is also now out in paperback.
So now I’ve told you what’s behind the Home for Christmas series, it’s time for a giveaway. I’m giving away a real Christmas cracker this time. Three paperbacks are up for grabs – yes THREE! You can win a copy of both paperbacks in the Home for Christmas series, and also a paperback edition of Winter Tales.
Winter Tales contains stories by the following authors:
Jessica Redland, Rhoda Baxter, Jo Bartlett, Zanna Mackenzie, Deirdre Palmer, Alison May, Kerry Fisher, Holly Martin, Jackie Ladbury, Sarah Painter, Helen J Rolfe, Jennifer Bohnet, Helen Phifer, Terri Nixon, Alys West, Annie Lyons, Linda Huber, Rachael Thomas, Sarah Lewis, Lynne Pardoe, Samantha Tonge – and me.
To enter the giveaway, just fill in the contact form here. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a website address – that doesn’t matter. Just write Winter Giveaway in the text box and you’re done! The competition will close on 25th November and I’ll announce the winner here on the blog and on social media on the 26th. Good luck.
Have a great week!