Ever tried to write about Christmas in the summer? In the sweltering summer of the American South? Today our guest is New York Times-bestselling Women’s Fiction author Mary Kay Andrews. Her new book is called CHRISTMAS BLISS, and to get it out to her fans by Christmas meant she was writing this heartwarming tale in Savannah, Georgia, in July. Read on to see how she got into the holiday spirit in the middle of the summer.
Writing another Christmas novella seemed like a good idea . . . at the time. When my editor suggested last year that they’d welcome a Christmas novella, I jumped at the chance. After all, my previous attempt at the form had been a success. BLUE CHRISTMAS, originally published in 2006, and featuring the beloved protagonists of my two earlier Savannah novels, SAVANNAH BLUES and SAVANNAH BREEZE, had sold better than anybody expected, and made the New York Times bestseller list. Hundreds of my readers have told me over the years that re-reading BLUE CHRISTMAS is part of their holiday ritual.
I knew these characters, Weezie Foley and best friend BeBe Loudermilk. I know Savannah, where the book is (mostly) set. I even had the basic idea for the story down—Weezie gets married, BeBe has a baby. And a novella, by definition, is supposed to be short—sometimes as short as 90 pages. Easy, peasy, eggs and cheesy. Right?
Not so much. For one thing, I was five months late handing in my previous book, last summer’s LADIES’ NIGHT. Which gave me a late start on writing CHRISTMAS BLISS. Late, as in, I didn’t really get started on it until last spring—which was when it was due to my long-suffering editor. This meant that I was writing a Christmas book—in the springtime.
I’d actually written BLUE CHRISTMAS in the summer—and in Savannah, too. But this time around, everything seemed trickier.
For one thing, I needed to make some trouble for these two characters, whom I’ve come to love. But since this is a Christmas book, I didn’t want anything earth-shattering. Hmmm. Maybe I’d send Weezie’s fiancé Daniel on an out-of-town guest chef assignment. To New York! Yeah, that’s the ticket. Send Daniel to New York—and then have Weezie take a spur-of-the-moment trip to New York to surprise him, the week before Christmas.
Since it was Weezie’s first trip to New York, I’d let her do all the things I love to do in the big city during the holidays. See a Broadway show, stroll down Fifth Avenue to see all the Christmas window displays, and of course, visit the Plaza Hotel for their famous Christmas tea—a trip that would be especially meaningful to Weezie since her given name is Eloise—after the famous Kay Thompson books. I had Weezie’s trip all plotted out—including the inevitable disasters. But I don’t live in the Big Apple. I live in Atlanta, and I have a notoriously awful sense of direction. It took my editor and everybody in my agent’s office to get Weezie properly navigated from point A to point B in the book. Our efforts included looking up subway maps, theatre time clock listings and even youtube videos of museum displays and newspaper stories about transit schedules during snow storms.
While Weezie was playing tourist in New York, I had BeBe back home in Savannah, with a much more serious—and potentially life-changing dilemma. Don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will tell you I had to do some intense research on Georgia divorce law, wills and estates, weather patterns in the Atlantic Southeast—and, oh yeah, stupid baby shower games. All I can say is, thank Gawd for Pinterest, especially when it comes to ideas for stupid baby shower games. Seriously? Who thinks up this stuff?
Finally, I got the story down on paper. But remember when I told you that this was supposed to be a NOVELLA? Yeah, well, it only took me 294 pages to tell Weezie and BeBe’s story. Which is nearly three times as long as many novellas—and just as long as many novels. Oh well. My editor assured me it was just the right length. And I finished it on a sweltering day in July. Christmas came early that day. Way early.
Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling The Fixer Upper, Savannah Breeze and Blue Christmas, as well as Deep Dish, Hissy Fit, Little Bitty Lies and Savannah Blues. She also wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards. Connect with Mary Kay Andrews via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her website.
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