Award-winning author and Whoosh client Julie Hodgson has written for adults and children across a range of genres, including everyone’s favourite – the Christmas book! Yes, who doesn’t love a good tale of families coming together and mean-spirited humbugs learning the true meaning of Christmas, both of which are central to her hilarious book The Gift, in which long-suffering Joe is forced to team up with the mother-in-law from hell to pass tests set by Santa himself and save his wife in time for Christmas. I caught up with Julie for a quick chat about the inspiration behind the book, what goes into writing a seasonal novel and how she’ll be spending the holidays.
What inspired you to tackle a Christmas book?
Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I have already written a few Christmas stories for small children and love the subject.
What was your inspiration when writing The Gift?
Again, my love for the Christmas spirit and season. It always brings out the very best in most people. I like that.
Christmas books are often about families coming together. Tell us about the relationship between Joe and his awful, flame-haired monster-in-law.
Joe tries his best but always feels he is never good enough for Madge. She picks fault all the time without rhyme or reason. But Madge does have her ways and Joe tries to please her, just to keep the peace for Beth. Of course, when two people are thrown together it can go either way. With Joe and Madge, the results are both funny and heart warming.
Who/what inspired the terrible mother-in-law character?
We can all guess pretty well about who the mother-in-law character was based on. I think many wives or husbands have this issue with not being liked by the spouse’s mother! A son’s mother never really accepts the new woman in their son’s life … at least not every one of them! There are exceptions.
What is the most important ingredient of a Christmas book?
It’s great to have comedy, heart-warming situations and, of course, the family involved.
What advice would you give to other writers tackling Christmas books?
It’s important to have some strong characters in the book, a main one who the reader can follow. It’s essential to have lots going on, excitement, even sad situations. This will keep the reader following the story.
How important is a happy ending in seasonal writing?
To me at least, it’s very important … Although I do know it is not always the case. But Christmas is for having dreams and happy endings, especially in books.
How has creating a book with a limited window for sales affected your marketing strategy?
I never think of any one particular marketing strategy for the Christmas books, as people love them anyway … I use postcards, which are easy to give to people or leave in libraries and shops. Xmas fayres are a great way to spread the news about your Christmas saga. The cover is important, I feel, too. I always look for a wonderful cover when I’m buying a book. And now I own a book shop, but I don’t tell customers I’m an author; it’s a buzz when they pick up one of my books.
What is your favourite Christmas book?
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens!
How will you be spending Christmas this year?
As I am in Portugal this year, I am flying to Sweden to be with my grown-up children and to have a crazy family Christmas, with board games, good food and plenty of laughter. Whereas Madge has issues with Joe, I adore my son- and daughter-in-law.
Buy The Gift by Julie Hodgson on Amazon
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