Once the fall starts turning into winter, the trees start losing their leaves, and the holiday season is coming up, it’s easy to get into the holiday spirit. But it’s much more challenging to do so in the blazing heat of August! International bestseller Harriet Evans tells us how she managed to write a cozy Christmas tale, A WINTERFOLD CHRISTMAS, during the dog days of summer.
My new novel isn’t out until next year and I have spent a lot of time on it and needed to cleanse my palate, as it were, before I started a new novel. I wanted to write a short story, to see how different it was to writing a full-length novel, so one boiling hot morning in August I sat down to write a Christmas story. I put on Michael Bublé’s Christmas album and looked at lots of Pinterest boards of snowy houses and photos of our family Christmases to get me in the mood, all whilst wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was really weird but actually great because I love Christmas.
A Winterfold Christmas is about the Winter family and their preparations for the holidays. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the UK so we really do start thinking about Christmas early on (possibly too early on: Christmas decorations in the shops from September, no thanks, shops). The Winter family and the house Winterfold appeared in A Place for Us and it was really great to revisit them, but you don’t need to have read that book as this little story this stands on its own and I wanted people who hadn’t met the family to feel as if they knew them straight away, too. I liked the idea that Joe, the boyfriend of Cat who lives at Winterfold with her grandmother, is under huge pressure to get Christmas lunch right. He’s a chef at the local highly acclaimed gastro-pub which is booked up for months in advance but is massively on edge about pleasing Cat’s family with this most difficult of meals, so much to get right, so much debate (bread sauce, cranberries, pigs in blankets? Where do you stand on roast potatoes, as I believe roast potatoes are the greatest thing about Christmas).
I love making things for Christmas, mince pies, labels for gifts, Christmas cards and so on. This year I am ambitiously trying to make a) a Mary costume for my daughter who is Mary in the nativity play at her nursery, as well as b) some crackers with old toilet rolls and c) some elves out of pine cones and felt thanks to a craft set my sister-in-law gave me from Costco… Not sure how any of that’s going to go! Most of these experiments end so badly but hey. So I also wanted to put in memories of my favourite things about Christmas and the recipes that I love at that time of year, so there are instructions on how to make sausage rolls (YUM) and hot buttered rum, gingerbread and sloe gin as well as a few of my favourite hymns and readings. I just wanted it to feel really snuggly and warm as a story and be something you want to curl up with. (Just like Michael Bublé, ho ho ho), but also to explore the idea that Christmas isn’t a happy or peaceful time for everyone, as often we are struggling with the loss of loved ones or other issues and can’t feel as happy as we want. How do you deal with that at Christmas? It’s not an easy time of year for everyone and I wanted to give my characters a happy ending without being mawkish.
So here it is, and hopefully it will appeal to everyone who likes the holidays. I absolutely loved writing it, even in August!