In our Christmas Fiction author series, we’re chatting to some of your favourite writers about their latest Christmas releases – and you can win all the books from the series here!
We’re joined by Ceri Houlbrook as she tells us about her magical new book, Winter’s Wishfall…
Can you tell our readers about your latest book?
Winter’s Wishfall is a festive story about love, magic, finding your place – and cake. Ellie, down on her luck, accepts a mysterious archiving job on a Scottish island that doesn’t exist on any maps. Obscurely, her new employers are a celebrity baker and a strait-laced lawyer. Even more obscurely, the archives contain only letters, in different languages, all addressed to Father Christmas. And so begins Ellie’s journey… and hopefully yours too!
Why do you enjoy writing about the festive season?
I love stories that weave magic into our everyday lives. The air is never thicker with magic than over the festive season, when homes are bedecked with twinkly lights and evergreen trees, when woolly gloves and rosy cheeks brighten grey vistas, when calories don’t count. We always seem more willing to suspend our disbelief, to root for the happy ending, at Christmas.
Why do you think readers enjoy reading Christmas-themed novels so much?
There’s comfort in these kinds of novels; a warmth and familiarity that wraps you up in a blanket patchworked from all your favourite Christmas memories, real or imagined.
What inspired you to first start writing about Christmas?
Winter’s Wishfall came to me while I was working in some archives for my academic job. I’d walked through snow to get there, and while one half of my mind was on dusty manuscripts, the other half was on Christmas. The two halves met. And when I discovered there actually are collections of accessioned letters to Santa – letters that are full of hopes and wishes (and often ambitious lists of toys) – I was smitten with the idea of working in one of those archives. My fingers got itchy and I began to write.
What books or authors (Christmas or non-Christmassy) are some of your influences?
I’m inspired by those authors who have a talent for seamlessly weaving together vivid characters in real-world settings with fiery romance and a touch of magic: Joanne Harris, Cecelia Ahern, Nora Roberts. I’ve also been influenced by authors who craft stories from folklore, turning well-known tales into something new and beautiful: Juliet Marillier, Katherine Arden, Sophie Anderson, to name three of many favourites.
If you’re writing about Christmas during the spring or summer months, is there anything in particular you do to get into the spirit?
Living in northern England, the weather is usually conducive to a wintry mood. For the odd occasion of sunshine, I keep a stash of Quality Street chocolates on top of my wardrobe. If I need a hit of Christmas, a green triangle normally does the trick.
When the world is particularly tough, do you think there’s more of a need for these kinds of novels?
Absolutely. It isn’t necessarily about escapism. It’s about reminding ourselves that there is still magic in our own world. Cheesy but true.
What do you take away from writing festive stories?
I get exactly what I want my readers to get – the warm fuzzy feeling of wearing fluffy slippers, your fingers hugging a mug of hot chocolate, while the snow falls on the world outside the window. This is what I feel, wherever and whenever I am, once I start writing a festive story.