By Amy Lane
So, the holidays are coming and all of our favorite authors have a holiday release coming out—HUZZAH!
There is something irresistible about the winter solstice holidays and romance. It’s like the requirements of good will and gift giving make it possible to violate all of the rules of reality in a quest for a happy ending. Even your angstiest author abandons the gritty romance of a dangerous street for a gentler, kinder romance, one in which the outcome is never really in doubt.
Seriously—no self-respecting romance writer would dare release a romance with a questionable ending at this time of year, and if he or she does? The consequences are dire. (Ask me how I know—see The Bells of Times Square, released December of 2014. Uh-huh.)
This season can be a lot of fun in terms of books. The happy romance reader gets to go out and buy something light and fluffy, or poignant and sweet. Something that offers a panacea to shopping panic and a brief, happy sequester from family quarrels and strife that can sometimes overwhelm us during the holidays. It’s a good feeling—I know I’m not immune, as a reader. I want that happy, sappy, weepy, chocolaty yum piece for my December and January, and oh yes, I have a few authors that never fail to deliver.
Of course, for your happy romance writer, it’s time to write something sweltering in August—for, say, a ten-month lead time, or skippy in May for the seven or twenty-month crowds, or maybe a Valentine’s piece for a fifteen month timeline.
The fact is, romance writers are never writing during the time that they’re living—and that can be either a hindrance or a help to the writing process as a whole.
It’s a help when you’re desperate to escape the time you’re in, or when you’re eager to revisit the joy of the holidays. Some people slip easily into their Winter Solstice Slippers during the rest of the year, and that makes writing a breeze. Huzzah! They get to relive December, and that’s jolly good fun!
However, that jolly good fun thing isn’t for everybody. When the sun is sweltering down in May and you’re still paying off your Christmas bills and your entire state is either a hot wool blanket or a dust bowl in a blender, thinking about the holiday season might be a little bit difficult. If you’re writing your holiday story in February, when you’re craving any spot of sun and the bright cold of December just seems like the precursor that doomed you to a damp and frigid death, it might be even worse. These are times when a writer might need some help recreating Christmas cheer.
Some suggestions that might help--
- Reading the solstice letters you wrote and sent out over the seasons. I’m lucky in that January 3rd is the latest I’ve ever sent a batch out (I have the blog post to prove it!) so these are all seasonally themed. They can help you remember things like concert and dance appearances, what your kids are doing that time of year, and what shopping was like in December—all of which help build holiday mood.
- If you blog, go back in your archives and read the posts you put out in November/December, and even the beginning of January. Those also have pictures of family in them for me, so that really gets the holiday happy going.
- Which brings me to holiday pictures of family. Yes. Use them shamelessly. Again, you are trying to recreate a smell, a mood, an ineffable feeling. If you have a family that has loved and celebrated a winter solstice holiday, then looking at those pictures might take you right where you need to be.
- A long sit down in a walk-in freezer. Okay—I’ll admit, I’ve never actually done this, but I’m serious, when it’s July and I’m working on a deadline and it’s 85 F in my house, I’ve wondered if I could talk my local food joint into letting me do just that. Mostly I’ve had to settle for a trip to the grocery store and sticking my head in the ice cream freezer, but still. It’s a nice break. Which brings me to…
- Cooking some solstice celebration and food. Not the whole turkey and the works, no—but some cranberry sauce and a baked potato with gravy, or a pumpkin spiced iced tea might get the holiday juices flowing.
- Music! Of course, in my house, Christmas/Solstice music is strictly verboten until after Thanksgiving, but be assured, I would TOTALLY hit that playlist if I was having problem writing Yuletide Greetings in late May!
- Cleaning out the garage or winter wear drawers. Now, I’ll admit, I don’t actually do this last one, but I’m sure for some of you people with organized lives, this will be a real help. Tell me all about it, yes?
So there you go—some suggestions for conjuring up Christmas (or Feast Day, or Yule, or Hanukah) in July. Or May. Or February. Or, you know, whenever you’re writing your winter solstice themed story when it’s not winter solstice time!
And as for those of us writing our hot and sweaty romances now? When cargo shorts, flip-flops and a tank shirt would damage some of the bits many romance writers and readers love best?
Well, there’s always shotgunning episodes of Hawaii 5-0, Lost, or Breaking Bad. (Not that Breaking Bad will actually put you in a romantic mood, but it did have “sweaty desert” down to a science.) If that fails, there’s cranking your heater up and lounging about in your summer wear, or visiting your gym and taking advantage of the sauna. There are some amazing calendars featuring beautiful and exotic summer lands—those could help too!
Or—and this is the best one, the one that should be used by all romance writers ever in order to convince their spouses of the perfect present—you could convince your spouse that a vacation in Hawaii or the Caribbean would be a perfect gift for you, especially because you’re writing something in that setting, and you could really use the research.
That’s right. Research.
So I think, this March, when I’ll be writing one of the first of my Christmas stories for next year, I will bake myself some fudge and make turkey and potatoes for dinner.
And tell my family that it’s research.
They’ll love research!