Today I am joined by Trevor Williams (who writes as TA Williams) tells us about how he came to write his latest book, What Happens at Christmas…
Ready, steady, go. You’ve got three months to write a Christmas book
It’s the end of April 2015. I’ve just submitted a synopsis of my next book to my editor at Harper Collins. I’m hoping she’ll like it and I’m expecting an email from her telling me to change character A from a goodie to a baddie, or maybe character B from a prude to a nymphomaniac. Editors do that kind of thing; you know, like Richard Adams of Watership Down fame allegedly being told to, ‘try it again without the rabbits’. Instead, I get an email on May 1st from her telling me she likes the proposal I have sent in, but not for now. For now, she wants me to write a Christmas book. Oh, yes, and so it can come out in good time, please can she have it by the end of July.
I grab the calendar and count the weeks. Just as I thought, that only gives me 13 weeks and for one of them I’m committed to a cycling tour of Dorset (that subsequently turns out to be the coldest, wettest week of the year, but enough of that here). So that’s 12 weeks to think up a story, write a synopsis and submit it to her, make the alterations she recommends, and then sit down and write the damn thing. So where do I start?
As it happens, most of my previous books have been set in the summertime. What Happens in Tuscany… sees the heroine, Katie, plunged into the oppressive heat of August in the hills around Florence. What Happens in Cornwall… is also set in August, although the temperature in Cornwall is far lower than Tuscany. I like the summer and I feel comfortable writing about the summer. But a “Christmas Book” by definition needs to be set at Christmas and, at least up here in the northern hemisphere, that means short days, freezing nights and most probably the white stuff. So, the first decision is pretty much taken for me. The book is going to be set in December.
The next question is not so much when as where? Write about what you know is the advice most writers are given fairly early on in their career and I was no exception. So where do I know? I lived in Italy for a good few years, but I’ve just done the Tuscany book. I lived in France for a year and could maybe set something there. However, I now live in Devon, only a few miles from the barren wastes of Dartmoor, and winter up there can be a challenge. I decide to go for Dartmoor and create a fictitious village based on a number of little places I know well, just on the edge of the moor.
So I know the where and the when? The next questions are the big ones. Who and what? Who are the main characters and what happens in the book? Starting with the who, I decide to create a character called Holly. Funnily enough, I only realise the connection with Christmas when I am already halfway through the book. I know I could do a quick Find/Replace on the computer and change her name to Naomi or Clarissa or something, but I’m identifying with her as Holly by then and can’t bring myself to rechristen her. So Holly she remains.
What does she do? This is where sheer blind chance comes to my assistance. I find a bunch of my old letters, written to my parents over the years and kept by them, and realise that letters are a great way of telling a story within a story. So Holly comes to Dartmoor and finds a pile of letters. Who from? Her dad. Okay, we’re motoring now.
Who does she meet in the village? That’s where the hunky neighbours come in and, of course, a big black dog. I put a black Labrador into all my books and this one is no different.
And, finally, what happens? I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t already read it. Quite a lot happens and I think it’s fair to say that Holly emerges on Christmas Day with some life-changing experiences behind her.
Anyway, the good news is that my editor liked the idea and, more importantly, my imagination and my pathetically slow two (at best) fingered typing managed to get the book written within the allocated time. It came out on October 20th and it appears to be doing pretty well, getting some excellent reviews, so maybe writing against the clock is the answer for me…What Happens At Christmas... by T. A. Williams
Also by this author: Dreaming of Italy
Published by Carina on 22nd October 2015
Genres: Chicklit, Christmas
For the perfect Christmas…
When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew.
Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money – and her father’s adorable dog, too!
Head to snow-covered Devon!
And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…
Praise for T. A. Williams
‘T. A. Williams has that gorgeous way of writing a feel good story and something which will easily make you smile…he’s absolutely backed up that men can write chick-lit.’ ─ Reviewed The Book (TOP 1000 Amazon Reviewer)
‘When Alice met Danny is maybe the first book in this genre I have read that is written by a man, and T. A. Williams has done a splendid job!’ ─ Rachale's Reads
‘I have read others of the author’s books and have loved them equally. I wanted to jet off to join them and I bet you will too…Great characters, a fun and enjoyable read that will leave you with a big smile on your face.’ ─ Jilllovestoread
‘I had my doubts as to whether a 'bloke' would get it! To get beneath the skin of a woman and process how she'd feel in various scenario's. Let's just say I don't have any longer – Trevor you nailed it.’ ─ Crooksonbooks