When I was about four or five, I sat in the dining room of our two story Colonial house in Bedford, NY, with my parents and grandfather (Dad’s dad.) I was across from my grandfather, my mother at one end of the table, and my father at the other. I don’t remember the exact subject of adult conversation, but what I do remember is the knowledge hitting me that Christmas came every year, and I could count years from Christmas to Christmas. I don’t remember the exact time of year, though I want to say it was fall, which would fit. Christmas would not have been that far off, so my parents would have wanted to make plans. My grandfather would have returned to his home in Puebla, Mexico, long before then, so maybe they wanted to let him know what would be going on, even if he couldn’t be there.
Christmas Is still my favorite holiday. I will happily read Christmas romances at any time of year. I have been known to watch Christmas episodes of TV shows I do not otherwise watch, because Christmas. If there is a marathon of Christmas episodes, especially those from the 1970s, I am there. When I worked in a bookstore (for a brief span of time, two of them at once) I kept a special shelf for the Christmas anthologies that came out every year, so that customers could find the seasonal reads quickly, and took advantage of my employee discount to bring a good number of them home.
Now that we have the interweb, and e-books, I get alerts to new Christmas romances from favorite authors and new authors, often linked to ongoing story worlds. It’s not possible for me to be intimately familiar with all of those worlds, but put the word, “Christmas,” in the title or blurb, and I am at least going to take a look. For me, Christmas novellas are an important part of the holiday season. Double points if I can read said stories by the lights of the Christmas tree, cup of seasonally appropriate beverage (tea, cocoa, eggnog, cider) at hand. Triple points if there can be Christmas cookies or gingerbread involved.
I have never written a Christmas story. I don’t know why. Scratch that. I have never written a Christmas story for commercial fiction. I have written holiday themed fanworks, under other names, and I loved those. The chance to combine my favorite holidays, and favorite characters makes writing, which is already pretty good, even more fun, and it brings its own set of challenges as well.
The first thing that comes to mind is that several of the Christmas novellas I see these days are tied into established story worlds, complete with a handful of previous heroes and heroines, to show up for the holiday gathering, usually with adorable progeny in tow. Right now, I don’t have a continuing story world, apart from the eighteenth century as a whole, so An X Family Christmas is not happening until there is an X family. Same with Y Club Christmas, League of Z Chrismtas, and so on, which does not rule out the prospect of a Christmas story altogether, by any means.
Many of the stories in the countless anthologies I’ve gobbled are true standalones, two lovers, one ending, no sequels, prequels, or spinoffs, complete unto themselves. The historical era doesn’t matter much. Christmas is the great equalizer. Give me the customs of the time, toss in two people with emotional baggage, and crank said baggage up to eleven, because Christmas is also the great magnifier. All the tensions, hopes, regrets, possibilities for reconciliation, strangers who become friends, and possibly more; I love all that stuff.
Writing a Christmas-themed historical romance makes sense. I love Christmas. I love historical romance. I love writing. So why have I not written one of my own? No idea. Seriously, none. Maybe it’s time to fix that. Not for this year, because we’re nearly a third of the way through November, but that only means plenty of time to think about what sort of Christmas story I want to tell. Being a temporal nomad, without an established story world, the field is wide open. Medieval? Tudor? Restoration? Eighteenth century, on either side of the pond? Maybe skip ahead to the turn of the twentieth century once again? In Never Too Late, Amelia receives the journal in which she begins her tale as a Christmas present, and starts writing in it on New Year’s Day, so that’s kind of close.
This is the part of the post where I hear my dad’s voice saying that close only counts in something I can’t remember and horseshoes. In short, not technically a Christmas story, so I have some thinking to do. Good news is that I have plenty of time in which to do it, if I want to have my story ready for next year. Right now, I know nothing about it. I kind of like that. It’s a voyage of discovery, a reason to re-read some classic Christmas romances and look into some new ones, pick what I love best from Christmas stories that have gone before and see what I want to bring to the table.
Part of that process is picking the brains of others who love what I love. What kinds of Christmas romances do you like best? Any particular time period or trope or character type that will immediately get at least a second look? Have a favorite Christmas romance you’ve read, or perhaps written? Bring it on.