Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait, which has just hit the shelves, is my third Christmas novel. I learn something from each book I write, and the lesson I took from Jenny and Elijah’s story is that I need not fret that I’ll run out of themes for my Christmas stories
Yes, this is something I have fretted about—maybe the way you fret about what to get dear old Dad for Christmas each year. I suspect there are authors who have story ideas coming out their ears, and for them, getting words on a page is the anxiety producing aspect of publication. I manage the prose fairly well (most of the time!), but I spend much time on my figurative knees, imploring the universe to reveal to me just one more interesting, clever plot. I’ll settle for a premise, most of the time, and on my hard days, I’ll settle for a single opening line.
When I’ve placed two or three books in the same frame of reference—a historical Yuletide romance—my sense of anxiety about what I can do that’s fresh and interesting sneaks up toward panic. No more mistletoe, I tell myself. No more getting tipsy on the wassail. No more Handel’s “Messiah.” Well, maybe a few selections from Handel’s “Messiah,” because I need to hear it every year.Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish, dealt with the unexpected arrival of a baby into the lives of two lonely people, only one of whom, the hero, had any experience with infant care. Unexpected babies are Christmasy, right? The second of my Christmas stories, LadyLouisa’s Christmas Knight, dealt with the figure of St. Joseph. Ever notice how little is said about Joseph, but how integral a caring, responsible, selfless fellow was to the whole plan? That’s hero material, says me, also a Christmas theme.
Jenny and Elijah’s story, not surprisingly, deals with the connection between a prophet, somebody who will tell us the truth when hope and courage are flagging, and love—more Christmas! Next year’s story, What A Lady Wants for Christmas, will be my first Scottish Victorian Christmas tale, and those characters are confronted over the holidays with what it means to be and have family. Families are Christmas, right?
I realize that I’ve been looking at the challenge of a Christmas plot backward. I’ve been looking for tropes and symbols and even recipes that fit into the holidays, when in fact, Christmas is about love. EVERY romance theme can work in the Christmas setting, with a little luck, and oh, all right, maybe ONE sprig of mistletoe.
Has a holiday shown you any new insights or taught you any lessons (besides to leave Uncle Stan’s punch ALONE if you want to remember the last half of the party)? To three commenters, I’ll send copies of Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait, signed to that difficult-to-buy-for person on your holiday shopping list (or to you).
And if you'd like to read the first three chapters of Elijah and Jenny's story, or order a copy for yourself, then click here.