Claire Sandy's new book, Snowed in for Christmas, is a feel-good and hilarious story of family secrets, which come to bear as the first Christmas snowflakes begin to fall. Claire talks to us about trying to create a festive story... in Spring.
It sounds so easy, it sounds so fun when your editor suggests a Christmas-themed book. Especially if, like me, you look forward to Christmas with the same fervour you did when you were five, before you'd heard of credit card bills or what under-cooked turkey can do to your immune system.
I imagined myself sitting in a leather chair by a roaring fire, a plate of mince pies within reach as I scribbled happily. I imagined myself all wrong; the truth is I wrote the book in late Spring, when a roaring fire would make me faint and mince pies are as rare as white rhinos.
I had to think myself Christmassy. It's harder than it sounds. Christmas needs crisp cold breezes and the crunch of snow underfoot, a feeling of home as haven from the weather. In Spring everybody wants to be bounding about, walking dogs, noticing primroses. Nobody wants turkey and all the trimmings in March.
So I made a list of festive things and pinned it to the wall by my desk. It was a random, confused, nostalgic list that started snowflakes, tinsel, stars, wonderment. I let my imagination run free and soon I'd added ethereal, frosty, indigestion. I wrote scenes and then rewrote them with added mentions of holly wreaths and ice on the window panes. I bundled up my characters in scarves and mittens and boots which they'd stamp on the snowy pavement. I retooled skies so they were blank white with approaching flurries and everybody's nose was red at the tip.
Still it wasn't enough. I inserted the pulling of Christmas crackers, the wrapping of bulky presents. Something was still missing. I realised it was atmosphere. It wasanticipation. Once I'd made sure that the story had that special tingly air of something marvellous just around the corner, I'd cracked it. The characters are all living in that special countdown, that silvered, snowy, hugging-yourself-with-glee period before Christmas finally unfolds with all its familiar traditions and its glorious surprises. It was joyous to write.
But then I'd lift my head and there was no tinsel, no glitter. When I took the dog for a walk I couldn't see my own breath. And I'd think, like my five year old self,why can't it be Christmas every day?